The GTA is one of the fastest growing areas in North America. Individuals are flocking to the Toronto area for many reasons, including immigration. While this is excellent for the region’s economy, it puts a strain on housing development. The city is actively searching for ways to welcome and accommodate this new demand.
According to a 2018 Fraser Institute study, Toronto has room to grow and its overall popular density — which is 4,457 individuals per square kilometer — is significantly lower than cities such as New York City and Vancouver. Changes must be in place to help accommodate the growth and increase the housing supply in the Toronto and East York District. One of these changes is the new Laneway Suites Bylaw.
What is the New Laneway Suites Bylaw?
In June of 2018, the city of Toronto passed a bylaw permitting the building and use of laneway suites. According to the bylaw, a laneway suite is defined as:
“A self-contained living accommodation for a person or persons living together as a separate single housekeeping unit, in which both food preparation and sanitary facilities are provided for the exclusive use of the occupants of the suite and is in an ancillary building abutting a lane.”
This laneway suite will receive all of its services and resources such as gas, electricity, water, etc., from the front street, not the laneway. It can be used for the family to live in or as a short-term rental.
Why is this Bylaw Important?
One of the greatest benefits of permitting laneway suites throughout Toronto and the East York District is because it provides a significant increase to the housing development. It allows individuals to live and enjoy spaces throughout the city that were not being utilized to their full potential and that are essentially wasted space.
Additionally, it helps beautify these regions. What were once laneways filled with garbage, graffiti, and more will now turn into living areas. Old garages and sheds are transformed into gorgeous living spaces individuals can be proud to call home and visit each night.
It also helps open up and expand various neighborhoods. More individuals can live in neighborhoods close to schools, their jobs, and specific amenities than ever before. It is creating valuable living opportunities for residents in Toronto and the East York District that were once not available.
Furthermore, for owners of these laneways suites, this is an additional source of income if they plan to rent the properties. For those who have sick or aging family members such as in-laws or parents who need a place to live, it provides close proximity, yet gives both households their own space and privacy.
What are the Permitted Uses of Laneway Suites?
If individuals are interested in building a laneway suite on their property, there are specific regulations they must follow. These include:
- An ancillary building — which is a type of shed, garage, or any other type of enclosure on the property — can be used to create a living space or a laneway suite.
- The laneway suite may contain both a kitchen and a bathroom area.
- Residents can occupy a laneway suite, and it can be deemed the principal residence.
- The laneway suite can also be used as a short-term rental if it is occupied as the renters’ principal residence.
- Only one ancillary building that contains a laneway suite is allowed on a property owner’s lot.
However, not every lot will meet the requirements for a laneway suite. There are specific requirements for the lot and the landscaping on the property that must be met. A few of these requirements include:
- The lot must have a rear lot line and a side lot line abutting a lane for at least 3.5 metres.
- If the lot’s frontage is 6.0 metres or less, 60% of the area between the rear main wall and the front main wall of the ancillary building must be for soft landscaping. For a lot frontage greater than 6.0 metres, this percentage increases to 85%.
What Are the Drawbacks to Laneway Suites?
While laneway suites certainly offer a plethora of benefits, there are drawbacks and concerns that many residents and homeowners have expressed. A few common concerns include:
Privacy: This is one of the biggest concerns as many homeowners are worried that their privacy will be hindered as these dwellings will be able to overlook neighboring yards, into windows of other homes, and more.
Parking: Parking is another concern for many individuals. With the addition of residents living in the laneways, there is a concern for where homeowners and renters will park. Parking will be limited and access must be available for homeowners and emergency personnel. However, the parking issue was addressed in the bylaw itself. It states that “no parking space is required for a laneway suite.” Although, it also states that a laneway suite “must have two bicycle parking spaces within the laneway suite or within any required yard setback.”
Receiving Services and Resources: A laneway suite does not receive its utilities from the lane, rather it comes from the main front street. This means that during the construction stage of the laneway suite, all servicing must be thoroughly examined and determined. Additionally, those living in laneway suites may feel inconvenienced as city employees such as waste collection will not drive down the laneway to collect garbage, but it must all be brought to the main front street.
What If I’m Interested in Building a Laneway Suite?
If you are interested in building a laneway suite, it is important to work with a contractor who understands the specific building regulations, codes, and requirements to legally build the property. These requirements are listed in the bylaw itself but a few include:
- There can be no less than 5.0 metres between a residential building and the ancillary building if the ancillary building is smaller than 4.0 metres.
- There can be no less than 7.4 metres from a residential building and the ancillary building if the ancillary building is taller than 4 metres.
- The maximum length for an ancillary building with a laneway suit is 10.0 metres.
- The maximum width of an ancillary building with a laneway suite is 8.0 metres and is measured perpendicular to the lot centerline.
- An ancillary building that contains a laneway suite can have a maximum of two stories.
In addition to the building regulations, there are also several guidelines for structures placed on the exterior of the dwelling. For example, satellite dishes and weather vanes all have specific regulations that must be adhered to if placed on the exterior of the dwelling. You can find more information about these structures and regulations in the bylaw itself. There are also specifications on the roof, equipment such as vents, pipes, etc., , as well as awnings or canopies.
If you are in the market to create the perfect home for your in-laws or family members, or you want to supplement your income with rental property, a laneway suite may be worth your consideration. Do your research and determine if you live within the boundaries that permit this type of dwelling.
Also, speak with builders about the process, time, and money to create this type of structure. With the right team, you can easily create a beautiful dwelling that will provide the space and the living accommodations that many families need. However, you need to carefully ensure that the lot and the ancillary building meets all guidelines and requirements before proceeding.
If you are ready to transform your home with a beautiful addition, a bathroom renovation or even a kitchen remodel, contact a team member at The Renovators of Canada today. They will work closely with you to ensure that your dream living space becomes a beautiful reality.