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 Landscaping Trends
No one can really predict the future, and landscaping is so diverse as everyone’s backyard has different characteristics that need to be accommodated for. One backyard may get a whole lot of sun, whilst another enjoys the evening sun only, which would mean different priorities for both of those spaces. But general trends can be seen rising and falling from year to year and some new left-wing ideas come out of the blue that blow potential landscaping homeowners away.
When it comes to landscaping your property, you need to consider what you use your outside area for. It is very big and brave right now to remove your lawn. It is not only a massive plus in conserving water, but lawns require so much maintenance and plenty of chemicals in order for it to look respectful. Join the revolution and replace your green space with something more interesting such as a mix of cacti, succulents and grasses amongst rocks and walkways or simply try to encourage wild flowers and herbs onto the ground.

Furthermore, emerging trends are pulling towards utilizing your outside space, creating a private outdoor space, rather than preserving it as a lawn with a border of flowers or vegetables. Outdoor entertainment is now on the top of many homeowner’s renovation list with interesting shelter from both rain and sun, large patio spaces that feel like an extension of both the home and of the yard. The amalgamation of both indoor and outdoor really completes the feel of the entire home and brings with it a genuine flow.

Here below is a list of some of the key points on the hottest trends in landscaping designs this year.

Concrete steps.

Concrete has always made for a bold statement, and emerging trends seem to be putting the concrete steps with a modern twist right back up there. ‘Floating’ steps have been seen more and more in the landscaping world, a concept you should see for yourself. You will certainly take a double take when looking at these steps. The beauty in them is that you are not stuck with a solid line of concrete up to your door or through a pathway, but the flow of concrete is broken, allowing for greenery to make its way back in. Truly a great use of the versatile concrete and a trend that is certainly right now.

Patio stones.

One way to minimize the lawn mowing without entirely removing the front yard is the introduction of patio stones. They break up an otherwise monotonous field of green and the sky is really your limit when it comes to design, shape and size. On trend this year seems to be more is best. The use of stone is naturally attractive and draws the eye. Warmer colors are in, giving an earthy feel to perhaps an otherwise cold space.

Also trending this year for your driveway or patio are permeable pavers. These stones allow water to pass through and re-enter the ground-water as well as help you to manage storm water more efficiently. They are nothing new, but now come in a vast array of funky and unique designs.

Heated driveways.

Heated driveways have a single purpose and one you should certainly all know about – snow removal. This one little addition to your landscaping design could save you years of work every winter. They work by a series of tubes that pump heated water and antifreeze through them once temperatures drop.  They can be installed under concrete, pavers or permeable pavers, asphalt and various other materials.

The cost ranges between $12-$35 per square foot and you can decide for yourself whether the time it takes each year to shovel snow is worth it for you or not. There seems to be little need for repair which is great news, but don’t forget it is an automated system and costs arise as you use it. They are easy to customize and of course you can place it wherever you like, not only the driveway.

Cantilevered step.

There are many modern and sleek cantilevered step designs available, including the floating staircase that we spoke about earlier as a concrete step trend.

Cantilevered steps do not only need to be floating with minimal material used, you can also make a bold statement by designing an outdoor staircase that is bold in its cantilever form. 

Landscape lighting.

Here is where you can really make the most of your space and everything within it. Enjoy your natural space during the evening as well as in the day with these trendy ideas for landscape lighting.
Rope LEDs are used accent garden walls or to divide up spaces in your back yard. Using rose LEDs to define a walkway is the more modern approach to those solar lights planted every few feet guiding you through the garden.
Using a spot light to highlight the branches and leaves of large or small feature trees on your property adds character and value to your home. It draws people into the beauty of the tree that they never quite saw during the day. Enjoy for yourself nature’s own statement piece.

Outdoor fireplaces and braziers that couple as pieces of art are also trending. Have a look for yourself for hanging fireplaces and heated walls in your patio that set a tone of elegance meets warmth meets originality.
When it comes to landscaping designs, you need to look at the space you have available and work with what you have. Consult a specialist for ideas and to see whether your dreams can become reality. The trends we are seeing are bold yet respectful of the space.

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.