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Debate over laneway suites continues after council defers decision until June

Last Updated May 6, 2018 at 7:54 am EDT

Toronto could soon see laneway suites, secondary units that act as an addition to the homeowners existing garage if city council can address some lingering concerns.

This past week council voted to defer the “Changing Lanes” proposal despite having nearly 200 letters and 14 speakers in support of the idea.

Only four of the 13 councillors belonging to the Toronto and East York Community Council voted to pass the proposal.

“Let’s be very clear, all the councillors that I’ve spoken to at Toronto and East York are for laneway housing, they do not have an opposition to it,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc.

“I would interpret the deferral as councillors wanting to get this right, the devil is in the details.”

Details over privacy, sunlight, parking, trees and affordability are a few of the concerns that have been mentioned.

Councillor Mihevc says he wants to re-consider the following components of the Laneway Suites Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-law Amendment:

  • Requiring the 1.5m lot setback to be soft landscaping as part of the as-of-right requirements;
  • Additional measures to increase soft landscaping, tree protection and greening;
  • Any requests to change the as-of-right zoning permissions be considered through a Zoning By-law Amendment, and not through a Minor Variance application;
  • Considerations for placement of mechanical equipment associated with laneway suites

“Having lived here, I’m just as concerned of people looking into my house as they would be of me looking into their yard, it’s all about intelligent design,” explained Alex Sharpe, one of the co-founders of Lanescape, the developers pushing for laneway suites across the city.

Sharpe built his own laneway suite in 2011 and lived in it for four years. He, and the other founders of Lanescape, now want to see similar units across the city as part of a strategy to combat the housing crisis and create affordable housing.

“Cost depends on what kind of finish you want to have, but it can range anywhere from $250-$500 a square foot,” says Sharpe.

“It’s important to note that this is not about saving cost, it’s about creating supply.”

While some councillors also want to see this develop into a strengthened affordability strategy, Ward 32 Coucillor Mary-Margaret McMahon believes this is can be another rental option for the city.

“We have so many cities across Canada and North America that have laneway housing so why not us. We are lagging behind,” says McMahon.

“Vancouver gets a fifth of its rental stock from laneway housing. It would be great for Toronto too.”

The Toronto and East York Community Council have adjourned the item to June 6 when some councillors hope to get more clarity and address the remaining concerns.

“We are at a tipping point where pricing is getting increasingly out of control,” says Sharpe.

“These work.”