Laneway Suites: A Compact New Form of Housing in the City of Toronto

The City of Toronto is taking innovative steps to ameliorate its chronic shortage of low-rise, affordable and age-friendly housing options, by putting its 2,400 public laneways to good use.

Toronto’s extensive public laneways, which abut over 47,000 residential properties, present an opportunity to meet provincial land use planning objectives while increasing the City’s supply of ground oriented, affordable, rental housing.

The City defines a “Laneway Suite” as a secondary, self-contained, residential dwelling unit, typically located to the rear of a primary dwelling. Laneway Suites are now permitted on properties designated Neighbourhoods under the City’s Official Plan, zoned Residential under Zoning By-law 569-2013 and which abut a public laneway. Like basement apartments, another form of Secondary Suite common to Toronto, Laneway Suites rely on the same water, hydro, waste collection and sanitary services as the primary dwelling.

Laneway Suites are intended to be of modest height (no higher than two stories or six metres) and scale (maximum length of ten metres and maximum width of eight metres), to limit privacy and overlook onto existing adjacent properties and maintain the neighborhood’s character.

In June of 2018, after significant public consultation and a comprehensive, interdivisional analysis, City of Toronto Council adopted Official Plan Amendment 403 and passed Zoning By-law 810-2018 to permit Laneway Suites within the boundaries of the former municipalities of Toronto and East York. In July of 2019, these permissions were expanded across the City with the adoption of Official Plan Amendment 460 and the passing of Zoning By-law 1210-2019.

A complete set of Laneway Suites zoning standards can be found within Zoning By-laws 810-2018 and 1210-2019 which have been linked above.  The City does, however, acknowledge that some property owners may need Minor Variances from the Zoning By-law to permit Laneway Suites. Minor Variance applications will be reviewed against the intent of the Official Plan and Zoning By-law as well as the desirability and overall nature of the variance to determine if it is minor. The City is also offering a twenty-year Development Charge Deferral Program as well as an Affordable Laneway Suites Program providing forgivable loans of up to $50,000 for eligible property owners developing laneway suites. Click here for more information regarding both the Development Charge Deferral Program and the Affordable Laneway Suites Program.

City Staff are currently developing updated Guidelines and a “How-to Guide” specific to Laneway Suites to assist property owners, developers and consultants navigating this new and exciting development process. In the interim, an overview of the City’s Review of Laneway Suites can be found here.

If you have any questions about Laneway Suites please contact one of our municipal, planning and land development lawyers.