Allison Evans | Feb 9, 2021

Two years after passing the Laneway Suite by-law into effect, the City of Toronto is again looking to the city’s backyard spaces to provide housing options. Garden Suites are similar to Laneway Suites: a living accommodation contained within a smaller detached accessory building typically located in the rear yard, providing a separate and self-contained unit exclusively for the occupant—but with Garden Suites, no laneway required! By summer 2021, backyards that satisfy the city’s Garden Suite zoning policies should have the option to build a tiny home – a crucial next step to unlocking Missing Middle housing options across the city’s ‘Yellowbelt’ of low-rise residential Neighbourhoods.

The Missing Middle of Toronto Housing: Image via City of Toronto
Toronto’s expansive Yellow Belt of low-rise residential: Image via City of Toronto

In addition to evaluating Garden Suite precedents from other cities, such as Ottawa, Kitchener, Windsor, and Peterborough here in Ontario, the city’s review will investigate several key issues and questions for the Toronto context: location, built form, green space, accessibility, neighbourhood character considerations, and affordability. Sustainable policies and by-law standards, a fundamental concern for us at TABC, are also key questions the review aims to address.

To ensure sustainable Garden Suites, the city aims to incorporate green technologies and building approaches into the policies. This includes exploring requirements for solar energy, green roofs, and Net-Zero Ready and Passive House standards from the upper tiers of the Toronto Green Standard. TABC aims to provide feedback early in the process through a project demonstrating low emission Garden Suites are affordable to design and construct. Stay tuned for updates about our project!

An example of a potential Backyard Bungalow: Image via TABC

The city’s review includes public engagement, beginning in February and continuing through March and into April. Activities include surveys, online community meetings, and questionnaires. TABC will keep you posted about upcoming events through our social media and we encourage our clients to speak up for sustainability during the review process.

Garden Suites are positioned at the intersection of two pressing crises: housing and climate. One the housing side, given Toronto’s growing population, rising house prices, and low vacancy rates, Garden Suites have a huge potential to provide access and affordability to a range of people by increasing the city’s rental stock. On the climate side, new buildings add to the city’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions, of which an estimated 55 percent are generated from homes and buildings, primarily through heating indoor spaces and water. Policies requiring energy efficiency mitigate increased emissions from the outset. Sustainable Garden Suites also align with the city’s TransformTO mandate to “get to net-zero by 2050, or sooner,” reduce energy performance retrofits in the future, while also creating a precedent for low emissions building standards across the city. The city should consider developing Garden Suite policies that combine housing affordability with increased sustainability to shape a more socially and environmentally just future for Toronto.

Sources: city-initiatives/transformto/transformto-climate-action-strategy/

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