It’s possible that there will soon be more laneway suites in Toronto in the near future as the Planning and Housing Committee recently endorsed a plan to support this type of residential development across the city.
The plan calls for laneway suites to be allowed adjacent to public laneways zoned for low-rise housing. From our understanding, laneway suites are currently allowed in Toronto, but not North Toronto, Etobicoke, or Scarborough, where there are likely many residential properties that would qualify for the construction of a laneway suite.
A laneway suite is a secondary unit that is on the same lot as a primary dwelling. Laneway suites must have its own private access, kitchen, bathroom, running water, power, and it must be a rental, meaning the land the laneway suite occupies can not be severed and sold separately from the primary dwelling. So, the owner of the primary dwelling must be the owner of the secondary suite. There are also many other design parameters to follow, like height restrictions.
When the plan was endorsed at City Council, the Toronto Real Estate Board was quick to publicly support the motion. “Ensuring adequate, affordable, and appropriate housing supply is a priority for TREB and our Members,” says Michael Collins, TREB President. “This is why TREB supported City Council’s actions, last year, which allowed for laneway suites in the Toronto and East York District, and why we are supporting the current recommended changes to expand this to the whole City.”
“We strongly believe that inadequate housing supply is the single biggest factor affecting affordability for home buyers and renters,” adds Collins. “In this regard, we believe that one of the solutions to this challenge is for municipalities to reduce ‘red tape’ and allow for innovative housing options. The recommendations to allow for laneway suites are a very positive step in this direction.”
We think Joe Cressy, Councillor Spadina-Fort York, put it best when he tweeted that laneway suites are “not a silver bullet, but they are a piece of the housing puzzle.”
You’ll hear a lot of people talking about how laneway suites will barely put a dent in rental supply or how it’s actually quite expensive to build a laneway suite. It may also encourage more investors to buy low-rise homes on a laneway because it could allow them to rent out numerous units on one small lot.
Despite these concerns or possibilities, a variety of housing types is key to addressing supply and affordability challenges in Toronto.
“Laneway suites help address numerous issues,” says Collins. “As a form of mid-density low-rise housing, they help to fill the void of ‘missing middle’ housing types. Furthermore, as an ancillary suite to a primary dwelling, they are likely to help provide additional rental housing supply and can help foster home ownership, at the same time, by providing additional income for the owner of the primary dwelling. They are a win-win scenario.”