Toronto could soon allow garden suites as a new affordable housing option
As the affordable housing crisis continues to intensify amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is looking into a new option for small, affordable units that could be placed throughout Toronto: garden suites.
These types of structures, which are also commonly referred to as
"coach houses," "tiny homes," or "granny flats," are typically detached units located on the property of another low-rise dwelling, and the city is currently working on a plan to cut red tape surrounding the creation of these homes through the Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods (EHON) program.
Following a formal review of garden suites, if all goes well, the city could eventually introduce an official plan, zoning bylaw, and other necessary regulatory amendments to allow residents to build garden suites on their property as long as they follow set criteria — without having to first go through the hassle of public hearings and the committee of adjustment.
In a report submitted to the planning and housing committee by the chief planner and executive director of city planning, a garden suite is described as being "generally smaller in scale than the main house on the lot and functions as a separate rental housing unit."
These homes also function similarly to laneway suites, which are permitted city-wide with the exception of the residential zones in the Ramsden Park, Asquith-Collier, and Yorkville neighbourhoods.
"The review will expand upon the findings of the Laneway Suites initiative to identify key issues, examples from other jurisdictions, barriers to implementation, and will take into consideration the variety of lot and residential building types in the City and the challenges that this form of housing may present," reads the report.
Currently, garden suites are permitted in other Canadian cities including Kitchener, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Whitehorse, Halifax, Victoria, Maple Ridge, Saanich, Windsor, and Peterborough, and city staff will look to these other examples to help develop standards and regulations for Toronto.
The city will also examine a number of questions throughout the formal review process, including how garden suites can help Toronto's housing affordability crisis, how to ensure they're sustainable, and how heritage issues will be addressed.
"One of the primary overall objectives of the Expanding Housing Opportunities Neighbourhoods Work Plan is to help address the City's Affordability crisis," reads the report, "both by permitting additional housing in a variety of low-rise forms, in this case Garden Suites, and by exploring and building in programs and other measures to ensure affordability within the City's housing stock."
In terms of next steps, the city says an public engagement process with will begin early in 2021, and staff will aim to present a final report before the planning and housing committee by the end of Q2 in 2021.
"As part of Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods (EHON)," wrote city staff, "Garden Suites can contribute to increasing the supply of rental housing and serve the City's broad, evolving, housing and land use objectives by providing additional housing options for households at different ages and life stages."
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