Reframing The Discussion Around Laneway Properties In Toronto

The discussion about laneway housing is by no means a new topic. There's no shortage of articles here on (find links to these stories at the bottom of this post) and elsewhere, that shows a variety of great projects employing this housing model and promoting its benefits.

Unfortunately, despite its many advantages as an option for incremental infill (or Vancouver's policy changes in 2009 that support Laneway housing), in Toronto - a city with a rapidly increasing population - the by-law changes necessary to support laneway suites have yet to be made.



Image courtesy



Last month Lanescape convened a discussion with Evergreen Cityworks and councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon and Ana Bailao (of Wards 18 and 32 respectively) looking at ways to change just that.

The Lanescape team, composed of Craig Race, Andrew Sorbara, and Alex Sharpe, brings together experience in architecture, planning, development, and entrepreneurship. They cite the following benefits to laneway suites:

- It increases the quality of affordable rental housing options in the city
- It intensifies existing neighbourhoods in a way that preserves the existing character, form, and scale of the built environment
- It utilises existing infrastructure and enables current resources to be used more effectively
- It affords the opportunity for increased animation and activity in laneways, enhancing pride of place

With that said, Lanescape acknowledges that "Toronto requires its own approach, customized for our unique built environment, and benefitted  by the lessons learned from our fellow Canadian cities on design, livability, and a responsible approvals process."

So how does their approach differ from what others have tried so far? Instead of attempting to devise laneway housing as separate parcels of land from the properties they're currently a part of - requiring their own utility hookups, garbage removal and other services - Lanescape posits the suites as a housing option that would exist as rental units only. Doing so would allow the laneway suites to be treated just like any basement apartment, but exist behind, rather than beneath the existing home.


Image courtesy


This tactic addresses affordability in a manner similar to lock-off suites - providing a unit that can provide rental income to offset the cost of home ownership while acknowledging that many people prefer dwelling spaces that aren't underground. Laneway suites of course also provide an added degree of privacy being entirely removed from the property's primary structure.

While this isn't a solution that will make the cost of properties decrease, it certainly seems like an option worth considering for increasing the stock of available housing in Toronto.

Whether you love the idea of laneway suites or hate it, you can have your say in the discussion by taking Lanescape's Survey.


Take a look at these following past stories for some great examples of laneway homes already in the city:


1) A Toronto Laneway Dwelling By Kohn Shnier Architects



2) Jones Avenue Laneway House by Sustainable.TO


3) The Courtyard House In Toronto By Studio Junction Inc.



This article was written and researched by Miranda Corcoran, a product designer based in Toronto who recently completed studies at OCAD University.

Posted In: Ontario

Post your comment