Laneway suites could open up new Toronto housing possibilities: report

When Alex Sharpe decided to transform a garage into a coach house in The Pocket neighbourhood in 2011, all city planners saw was a second home on the same lot. The former “garage” had all services in place for years, like separate electrical and gas metres, but because it was not routed through Toronto’s planning process, it violated a bylaw, said Sharpe. And when he approached the city to convert it into the one-and-half story, 1,800 square foot residence he lives in today, the city’s reaction was as expected.“They didn’t support the application,” said Sharpe, co-founder of Lanescape, an urban design and planning organization. “They called it at the time ‘a house behind a house,’ so I was going into the Committee of Adjustment with a fight on my hands.”The struggle to circumvent a zoning bylaw can squelch most opportunities to construct a laneway home, even for those with the proper savvy. But Sharpe’s experience, along with a new report, could give properties of a similar class a needed boost: “laneway suites,” small rental units wired to principle residences.The report, which was released last month by Lanescape and Evergreen, a charity working to inject sustainable principles into urban planning, takes aim at roadblocks hindering the development of the laneway units, offering bolstered performance standards to streamline the city approval process.Article Continued BelowIt passed a Toronto and East York Community council meeting on June 13 and is onto the next phase before final approval. Councillors Ana Bailao and Mary-Margaret McMahon have thrown their support behind it. “City staff are to take the report that was done by the non-profits and go and do consultation with the public so they can give us some guidelines and criteria for how we can implement laneway housing,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, who was in attendance. “Our laneways are a tremendous untapped resource and they should and need to be activated. The question is what type of activation and on what laneway?”The report looks to other Canadian municipalities that have implemented laneway housing, like Vancouver and Ottawa. Hamilton is currently considering the concept, too, said Michelle German, senior manager of policy and partnerships at Evergreen.