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A new rental trend may be emerging in Toronto. Laneway housing, also known as garden suites, are beginning to make an appearance in the neighbourhoods of Toronto. Since 2018, when Toronto went ahead and approved the by-laws for laneway housing, development began on new suites. A laneway house is defined as a detached accessory dwelling unit that is usually in the backyard of a detached, semi-detached or townhouse. Though they often function as a separate living suite, they can also be used as an entertainment space or working space for occupants of the main house. 

This isn’t a new trend in Canada although Toronto is a late starter in comparison to cities such as Vancouver and Ottawawho have allowed laneway housing for several years. In Vancouver, these houses are becoming a popular first home for many new and younger buyers. This, unfortunately won’t be the case for young and new buyers in Toronto as garden and laneway suites cannot be sold separately from the main lot. Unlike many cities such as Ottawa and Vancouver, in 2006, Toronto voted against adding laneway housing by-laws, a move criticised heavily at the time. Since then, Toronto’s housing crisis has continued to escalate with prices climbing for condominiums and houses. 

But with new regulations passed, Toronto is now on track to have almost 100 new laneway houses developed. The hope is that these new houses will increase rental options in the city as well as opportunities for many homeowners to build suites for relatives and friends. It can also be an option for homeowners to create their own separate office space, a highly desirable opportunity in the wake of COVID-19. Despite COVID’s effect on Toronto’s rental rates, Ontario is still set to face a shortage of 200,000 units in the coming decade based on a report by the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario. Garden and laneway suites may be an answer to alleviate this shortage in the future. 

Contrary to popular belief and misconceptions, laneways homes are not all tiny homes. They can vary in size from 500 square feet up to 2,500 square feet! Some are single bedroom units while others are two or three bedroom apartments targeted at families. There’s many opportunities for customisations and Lanescape, Inc, a developer of laneways suites in Toronto, stated that there have been many new builds, each unique in their own way this year. 

Lanescape has been working on a huge number of laneway projects across the city. From a 1,450 square foot 3 bedroom suite in Danforth Village to a 1 bedroom suite above a garage in Dovercourt Park, the designs and concepts are endless. Check out some more of their designs and concepts for laneway suites. 

Laneway suites are a great opportunity for many in the city of Toronto. Not only can they provide a new supply of housing for renters but they can also assist family and friends with an extra, separate living suite. Being in quiet residential areas with access to schools and parks without carrying the same price tag as a single family home is something that Toronto hasn’t had on offer before. For homeowners, the cost to build a laneway house can range from $300,000 to $500,000 depending on the area, design and scope of the proposed laneway suite. With 30,000 properties in Toronto that qualify for laneway suites, the possibilities for co-ownership and rental income are plentiful!

Though the laneway suites can’t be sold separately since they are connected to the main home’s utilities, they are still a viable option for co-ownership situations. It can be used as a separate living space and would alleviate renovations and customisations to existing homes for some potential co-buyers. Additionally for multigenerational families, having a garden suite could be more feasible than living in the same complex and would increase options when looking at detached, semi-detached and townhouse listings.  

Laneway suites are coming to Toronto with some already here. While this alone will not alleviate the burdens of housing in Toronto, they are a step in the right direction. In tandem with many other initiatives and changes that need to happen, these suites will give opportunities to renters and owners across the city. 

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