In 2018, the City of Toronto introduced a bylaw change to permit laneway suites in the city. Since then, more and more structures have been popping up across the city. These self-contained living quarters are intended to act as a separate living area on the same property as a primary residence. The purpose here is to increase housing availability across Toronto. These suites cannot be sold as separate residences. Are you considering Toronto laneway housing? This is everything you need to know about this growing trend.

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What is a Laneway Suite?

What is a laneway house? This is a self-contained dwelling separate from the primary unit on the property. This suite has all the amenities of a typical home including a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. Laneway housing is located in the rear of the yard, adjacent to a public laneway, and is legally defined as a secondary unit or suite.

Laneways were deemed under-utilized spaces in the City of Toronto. Increasing the amount of laneway housing is an excellent way to introduce more affordable rental options and increased economic opportunities throughout the city.

Where do you Build a Laneway House in Toronto?

Laneway suites must be constructed at the rear of the primary property, next to a laneway. Initially, laneway suites were only permitted for construction in the districts of East York and Toronto as these specific areas had the most laneways. However, in 2019, bylaws were amended to permit laneway suites across the entire city.

However, there are some areas around Toronto where laneway suites are not permitted. These include Avenue Road, Canadian Pacific rail corridor, Bloor Street East and West, Yonge Street, Sherbourne Street, and Rosedale Valley Road.

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Design Requirements for Laneway Suites

When it comes to designing a laneway suite, it’s important to adhere to all requirements surrounding setbacks from property lines and distance separation from the property’s principal residence. There are also rules around the height of the structure which are based on the size of the existing dwelling on site. And depending on the laneway suite’s proximity to the principal residential building, there could be shape and storey restrictions in place.

These laneway suites don’t require that you provide a parking space for a vehicle, however it is mandated that at least two bicycle parking stalls are in place. In fact, any lot that has a laneway suite isn’t required to have a parking space at all. So, if you need to construct on top of existing parking, this is perfectly acceptable.  

Laneway Suite Advantages

The benefits of laneway suites are immense. Not only does it provide additional options for Toronto’s rental housing supply, but there is also an increase in population density without changing the footprint of the existing neighbourhood.

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Respect character – a laneway suite is a great avenue to increase housing opportunities without encroaching on the character, look, and feel of the existing residential, low-rise communities.

Access to established neighbourhoods –  laneway suites provide additional rental housing options for existing and established neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods have pre-existing public transit options and other important amenities. And since it is the homeowner’s responsibility to supply the services to the laneway suites, there is no change to the existing infrastructure.

Increase income and viability of home ownership – it is a trend among first-time home buyers to seek additional income sources to cover increasing costs related to homeownership.

Cohabitation and multi-generational living – a laneway suite allows families to integrate a multi-generational household. Perhaps children are still living at home, or ageing loved ones are in need of living support. These secondary suites are a great way to provide privacy and comfort while keeping the entire family together. 

Safety – thanks to the additional lighting laneway suites provide, the laneways themselves are safer with increased activity and lighting. 

Slower pace of development – the speed in which these suites are constructed are generally far slower than a residential neighbourhood or high-rise development. As this is the case, change will occur at a slower pace and there will be no drastic changes to the landscape.

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Obstacles with Laneway Suites

Obstacles associated with laneway construction are the requirements when it comes to property lines, size, and height of the structure, bicycle parking, and of course, the simple hurdle that is the price tag. The cost to construct a laneway suite is dependent on access to the laneway, the location of the existing infrastructure on the property (this includes natural gas lines, plumbing, electrical, drainage, and sewage) and if the secondary suite can connect to the primary residence’s infrastructure, the proposed square feet of the laneway build, and of course materials used. That being said, typical laneway suites can run anywhere between $300,000 to $600,000.

Municipal Zoning Bylaws

The biggest municipal obstacles to navigate laneway homes are municipal zoning bylaws. As long as you aren’t trying to build a laneway suite in one of the forbidden zones, then there should be no issue. Either way, you will find out the legality of the build during the permit request process.

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Concerns about Laneway Suites

Some of the typical issues you will face with laneway suites include:

Parking – laneway suites in Toronto are required to have a minimum of two bicycle parking stalls.

Privacy – because these laneway suites will provide vantage points into neighbouring yards, it’s important to consider the size and where you’re installing windows.

Servicing – since neighbourhoods are not designed to have infrastructure service laneways, it’s necessary to be able to connect to the primary residence’s lines.

Waste and emergency – access routes are required for emergency service and waste collection vehicles.

 Fire – laneway suites are governed by Ontario’s building code. They must meet the requirements of non-combustible construction and possess safety systems like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

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Contact Us

Remember, when constructing any laneway suite you have to be aware of property lines, size and height regulations and have access to service lines. For more information or to get started on a laneway suite construction of your own, call the team of experts at Nicks Developments. Nicks Developments is a full-service design/build and construction firm in Toronto with decades of construction management experience. We’d be happy to help you with your next home renovation project.

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