Garden suites could be coming to Toronto. And soon.
Following in the footsteps of laneway housing, which had their breakthrough moment in Toronto in 2018, garden suites offer another way to bring much-needed housing options to already-dense parts of the city.
As part of the Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods (EHON) work program, the City has undertaken a formal review of garden suites which will "expand upon the findings of the Laneway Suites initiative to add as-of-right options for Garden Suite units within Neighbourhoods city-wide."
As defined by the City, a garden suite is:
A detached accessory dwelling unit generally located in the rear yard of a detached house, semi-detached house, townhouse, or other low-rise dwelling. It is generally smaller in scale than the main house on the lot and functions as a separate rental housing unit. Garden Suites are similar in form and function to Laneway Suites, which are currently permitted across the City in all low-rise residential zones in the Citywide Zoning By-law.
The introduction of as-of-right zoning by-laws for the suites would allow property owners to build them without having to seek approval through public hearings or dealings with the Committee of Adjustment. Rather, as long as the designs adhere to the by-laws, they would move directly to a building permit stage. As such, this will ensure a much smoother and faster building process.
The intention of the Garden Suites Review is to "develop Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments to permit Garden Suites within Neighbourhoods across the City of Toronto, subject to various criteria, with a focus on affordability, resilience, and equity."
Canadian municipalities the City of Toronto will look to when setting appropriate guidelines and regulations include Kitchener, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Whitehorse, Halifax, and more.
One of the key purposes of the EHON is to develop strategies for tackling Toronto's affordability crisis "by permitting additional housing in a variety of low-rise forms", something garden suites -- alongside laneway housing -- currently promise to do.
According to the City, public consultations will begin to take place as early as February, March, and April of next year with a goal of delivering a final report to the Planning and Housing Committee complete with recommendations by the end of Q2 2021.
While rental rates in Toronto have dropped drastically during COVID (as condos flooded the rental market), in September, the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) released a rental market report warning that Ontario is positioned to face a shortage of 200,000 rental units over the next decade.
Housing affordability continues to be an ongoing problem in Toronto, hopefully, the allowance of garden suites can offer a perennial answer.