Toronto Laneway Housing Procedure

As one of the most cosmopolitan and multicultural cities in the world, Toronto has become an ideal place to live. But as more and more people flock to this great city, an expected housing crisis has occurred, forcing lower income people out and changing the shape and feel of the city. Rent prices are exuberant, and people are looking for an alternative answer.

Here comes laneway housing. Finally, politicians have begun to remove the red tape surrounding this potential problem solver, allowing for more buildings that back onto these old lanes to build additional buildings or ‘granny flats. The move will allow for approximately 250km of laneways to be changed into viable housing options.

These laneways are rarely used pieces of road that most often lead on to garages. Previous laws restricted a ‘house behind another house’ situation, but houses built under these new consent conditions will deem that the laneway house be of legal ownership to the adjoining property and water and power be supplied by them. This is one move that frees up the chokehold that Toronto feels regarding its housing issues, but it certainly will not put an end to the issue.

The general procedure in building a laneway property is as follows:

The law that has recently been passed allows such laneway suites to be constructed under certain circumstances without requiring any changes with the committee of adjustment.

A laneway suite is a separate unit that can be used as a self-contained housing accommodation for either long- or short-term rental. Only one laneway suite is allowed per one lot, but if you have an existing additional property on your section, this will not have any bearing. Essentially, this unlocks a huge monetary value in your own backyard whilst assisting the city as it is in the throes of the worst housing crisis it has seen. If you are able to afford the upfront cost of building a laneway suite, then the returns can show for a very prosperous venture indeed.

The law is currently only applicable to certain areas of Toronto, so before you start planning your epic future build, you must look to see whether your house is within the enforceable area. Unfortunately, properties in Etobicoke, Scarborough, North Toronto and beyond, do not yet come under these laws just yet.

If your property is within the enforceable boundary, and adheres to a few more location restrictions such as side lot clearance and within maximum emergency services distances, then you are in luck and can proceed with your laneway suite dreams.

There are design requirements that you must adhere to, as is when designing your main residence, such as height and size restrictions and the need for certain spaces in order to call it a separate dwelling. You do not need to provide a space for a car in your laneway suite, but room for two bicycles is required. As you are potentially removing the parking space for your own vehicle, know that you will not automatically be provided with on-street parking privileges. If there is space for a parking lot in addition to the suite, the homeowner can of course incorporate a parking lot within the dwelling.

The approval process has been dramatically improved owing to the fact that if you follow these guidelines, you can build your laneway suite without requiring anything from the Committee of Adjustment. This can save you half a year in waiting for approval and is a huge hurdle that no longer needs to be contended with. These ‘As of Right’ guidelines however are not going to always perfectly fit with every homeowner and many of you may still need to seek variances from the Committee of Adjustment.

The city’s official plan has provided a checklist of circumstances in which you can seek variances under. They are as follows:

If you need to meet building standards

If you need to meet tier 2 of the Toronto Green Standards

If you want to accommodate a laneway suite within an existing dwelling or building

If you want to avoid removing or damaging a protected tree

If any of these cases are applicable to you and your laneway suite, then you will need to go through the procedure with the Committee of Adjustment, however you will only need to discuss the specific infringements to the by-law, not put your whole laneway suite proposal up for submission. This should still greatly reduce waiting times and allow for a smoother process.

Once you are all cleared from the zoning requirements, you move on to requesting a building permit as per any build. The procedure continues as if you are building any other residential building. This is a new by-law, and of course some snags will be met along the way.

I feel that the making of this by-law will not tackle the issue of housing, but rather simply allow many lucky Toronto and East York property owners to have the potential to dramatically increase the value of their home with an as-of-right allowance to build an additional property on their section. This property will be available for their own growing families or visitors that may stay. It can also become available for renters, long or short term, depending on the will and financial situation of the homeowner.

If you want to delve further into this prospect and need a more detailed insight into any of the points, we have breezed over in this article today, then look at the changing lanes website for guidelines.