Planning policies featuring low-density, single-family housing in many Canadian cities have resulted in an increased demand for housing. While recent high-density development has spurred condominium growth, land dedicated to single-family housing remains inefficient in its use of space, with little foreseeable increase to middle- or high-density permitted in the future. Given the significant increase in housing prices, restricted growth, long commute times, as well as changing family and work needs, there is now a need to moderately increase density in low-rise single-family residential zones.
To address this missing middle, various Canadian municipalities like Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal, Halifax, Calgary, Vancouver, and Victoria, to name a few, have granted homeowners the option to construct a second as-of-right (as per by-law) dwelling in their backyard. Depending on the city, this dwelling can be called a secondary/ancillary/accessory dwelling unit (ADU), a laneway house/suite, or a garden suite. The rules for these dwellings vary by city, as outlined below.
Currently, Toronto's zoning by-laws allow for the construction of an as-of-right secondary dwelling unit in the rear yard of properties along a lane. Properties with rear or side yard access to lanes are permitted to have these units, referred to as laneway suites, or colloquially as laneway houses.
Toronto’s 2018 as-of-right housing by-law (810-2018) and subsequent 2019 amendment allow Torontonians to build as-of-right laneway housing in the city, which must abide by certain zoning criteria (below). The City encourages the development of laneway suites, as they help people live close to where they work, and keep lanes “green, liveable, and safe.” The City defines a laneway suite as a “self-contained residential unit, subordinate to a primary dwelling, in which both kitchen and bathroom facilities are provided and located on a lot within an ancillary building, adjacent to a public laneway. Laneway suites provide an additional form of contextually appropriate low-rise housing within the City’s neighbourhoods and are part of complete communities.” Interested homeowners are encouraged to explore the City of Toronto’s laneway suites website (here) to acquaint themselves with official guidelines. A detailed explanation of Toronto's laneway suite zoning parameters follows below.