Laneway Suites, Yay or Nay: What the Residents of Toronto Have to Say

Toronto is growing rapidly. It is in desperate need of space or housing. With more than 2,400 laneways in the greater Toronto area, developers look to these underutilised spaces as a solution. This, however, is not the first time the prospect of approving laneway suites has come under discussion as they were previously denied.

As one can expect, there are multiple key players in making laneway homes a solution to the housing crisis. Not only will they affect homeowners, but also those moving to Toronto and the environment. To this extent, the public was called upon to give their opinions on the matter.

In this post, we take a look at what the people of Toronto had to say in regards to the possibilities and shortcomings of laneway suites.

Concerns and Findings of Residents

The general views and attitudes of residents towards laneway suites are positive. They do, however, raise a couple of concerns.

1. Wouldn’t Parking become an Issue?

Laneway Houses would increase the number of residents in Toronto neighbourhoods. This raised the question of whether or not parking would become a problem. The majority of people in Toronto feel that including more parking bays or spaces would be unnecessary.

Something everyone agreed on was the fact that laneway suites could very well encourage people to make use of public transport or car pools. In effect, it would have a positive outcome on the environment.

2. Laneways are Underutilised

Toronto residents explained that laneways and garages are not fully utilised at the moment and that they are, in most cases, an eyesore. In a lot of cases, laneways and garages are only used for storage, parking, or garbage.

They agreed that these spaces could be properly utilised and have the potential to be more functional. Specific mentions of pathways, shops, and neighbourhood gathering spots were mentioned and piqued the interest of Toronto residents.

3. Laneway Suites Could be the Answer

The majority of Toronto residents are for incorporating laneway suites and homes into neighbourhoods. There are, however, a couple of concerns with regards to the implications of higher density neighbourhoods.

Some are concerned about noise levels and privacy. Others are concerned about the arduous process and cost of building. These are all important issues and have been addressed by the City of Toronto and developers.

4. Is Laneway Housing a Sustainable Option?

Toronto residents all agreed that the materials used to build laneway suites should be sustainable and not have a negative impact on the environment. The use of solar panels has been suggested in order to enforce this.

Construction and design were also addressed. Residents agreed that construction should be done with minimal impact to the surrounding neighbourhood while also using sustainable design methods.

Next, we take a look at the solutions that the City of Toronto proposes for their residents’ concerns.

Proposed Solutions

Here’s how developers and the City of Toronto envision some of the former issues being eradicated.

1. Parking Should Not be a Problem

As seen in other cities, parking should not be a problem. In recent years, we have experienced a decrease in motorists on the road. The City of Toronto does not require homeowners to have a second off-street parking space available for secondary suites on their property.

It is left up to the home-owner to decide whether or not a parking bay should be included in the plans or not. It will also depend on the space available on the property, and the probability of a renter owning a vehicle.

2. Protect Green Space

A big concern of residents is the probability of losing a lot of the city’s green space. Residents are worried that the construction of laneway homes will result in the removal of trees. This can be combated by incorporating a tree protection policy and reducing the footprint of laneway homes in general.

Developers and the City of Toronto can also require contractors and homeowners to build their laneway homes with green roofs and manage stormwater on the property.

3. Unobstructed Access for Emergencies

Residents were also concerned about how emergency vehicles would reach laneway houses. Related concerns include postage delivery as well as water and electrical services. The building requirements of these suites require a minimum unobstructed width of 0.9m, allowing emergency services access via the street.

It is also suggested that the main house supplies water and electricity and that the laneway home use the main address with an “R” prefix to distinguish it from the main house.

4. Screening and Other Solutions for Privacy

Another big concern for residents was privacy due to the sharing of one property. Smart designs can easily solve this. To ensure each home can enjoy the same privacy, strategic usage of screens and other design methods are suggested.

The transparency of windows and where they are placed can also be altered. The orientation, as well as the height and pitches of roofs, can be adjusted. Certain design choices can easily solve privacy concerns for building a laneway home.

We are happy to say that the City of Toronto approved and implemented the new by-law that allows homeowners to build laneway homes on their property. Yes, there are a couple of concerns and issues, but with great design and a can-do attitude, anything is possible.

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