There is only one critical reason why garden suites are important to our city – they will continue to put control of new housing in the hands of everyday homeowners.

For too long, homeowners have been victims of new housing projects, but garden suites, laneway suites, and other EHON (Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods) efforts are a landmark transfer of power that is enabling Toronto’s homeowners to be a grass-roots contributor to our housing issues. This blog provides more information on why garden suites are being proposed in the City of Toronto and how this can positively impact homeowners.

The primary concern with regards to garden suites is that they will further “commoditize” housing and lead to the commercialization of our neighbourhoods. For the last 2 years, the vast majority of our clients at Lanescape have been individual homeowners. Debt solutions and tax incentives are geared to support individuals in a way that institutions can not take advantage of.

Over the last 2 years, there have been applications for laneway suites on less than half-a-percent of laneway properties in Toronto. We are seeing a piecemeal, scattered approach to laneway suite projects, which is proving that homeowner-led development will exemplify gentle intensification. That is going to continue with garden suites, except it will affect a broader range of properties at an equally gentle pace. It is important to realize that that gentle pace is making a big impact. Laneway suites alone are accommodating about 2% of Toronto’s population growth every year. Garden suites will increase that impact and distribute it more evenly across the city.

The biggest concern with the new garden suites policy is that it doesn’t exist yet. Inaction is the concern Toronto should fear the most. Garden suites are another effort to empower our homeowners to take control of the growth of our city, and become its guiding force and leading beneficiary. Every day, our office helps existing and new homeowners; contribute to higher mortgages, accommodate loved ones, and create work-from-home opportunities. They are improving housing flexibility in an increasingly constrained housing landscape. The proposed garden suite policy is a logical next step for Toronto’s now proven model of sustainable, secondary housing. Torontonians will benefit from its virtues, and its limitations are adequate to protect the aspects of our neighbourhood we all love.

The attention seen from the Chief Planner and the EHON team ensures that this will be a living policy that continues to address the community’s evolving concerns into the future. We strongly recommend immediate support of this policy.

We anticipate this draft to be presented before council early in 2022, with the hope of having a final ratified bylaw by the Spring. In the meantime, be sure to follow our social media for ongoing updates on the policy’s final stages of development. For more information direct from the municipality, you can visit the official garden suites webpage here.

Craig is a co-owner of Lanescape and a passionate advocate for new housing solutions. He recently gave a deputation to the City of Toronto’s Housing and Planning Committee in support of garden suites.

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