We’ve been waiting to see what form the new rules on Garden Suites will likely take. To be clear, what follows is just a first DRAFT policy from City Planning. You can download their full 52 page report to the Planning & Housing Ctte here.  We’ve summarized their recommendations below….

So, what happens next?

This report was accepted by the Planning & Housing Committee at their June 28th meeting and will now go to the full Council for endorsement on July 14th. The purpose of this meeting is NOT to review nor enact the proposed rules but just to approve a public consultation process which will unfold over the summer. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more. In the meantime, here are the best answers we have so far to some common questions on Garden Suites in Toronto.

When can I build a Garden Suite?

The earliest that the new rules will be in place is January 2022. However, once the final version goes to Council in the Fall, we can help you get your plans ready to go.

So, how do you have your say?

Stay tuned – assuming Council approves the public consultation process, there will be plenty of opportunities to have your say over the summer.  We’ll do our best to keep you posted as we learn about the dates and venues.

What’s in the Draft rules for Garden Suites in Toronto?

We’ll provide a more fulsome summary later, but the short form of the proposed rules published this week include:


Although the report mentions the City’s goals of sustainability, there are no concrete recommendations to help achieve them. The City is limited in the tools at their disposal as the Ontario Building Code sets the minimum standards for energy efficiency and makes no mention whatsoever about the really important thing – the amount of carbon it takes to make any particular building. We’ll have more to share on this soon based an in-depth research study we just completed for the City on exactly this subject. Spoiler alert – Net Zero Energy ready homes are the way to go to fight climate change!

  • WHAT is a Garden Suite in Toronto?
    • The proposed definition of a Garden Suite is as follows:

Garden Suite means a self-contained living accommodation for a person or persons living together as a separate single housekeeping unit, in which both food preparation and sanitary facilities are provided for the exclusive use of the occupants of the suite and is in an ancillary building not abutting a lane.

  • Can I have 2 apartments in a Garden Suite?
    • No, only 1 dwelling unit will be permitted in a stand-alone garden suite building.
  • WHERE can I build a Garden Suite?
    • All forms of Residential zoning in all Wards, but NOT all properties will meet the various rules
    • The regulations recognize that not all lots may be able to support a Garden Suite and acknowledge that where larger lots may accommodate a larger suite, setbacks and step backs should increase proportionately to adequately limit impacts on adjacent properties. In practice, the proposed standards intend that the size and setbacks of a Garden Suite are relative to the lot on which it is located.
    • Only in the rear yard, not in the side or front yards
      • So far there is no mention of corner lots
    • At least 5m away from your main house
      • 7.5m apart for 2 storey garden suites
    • Minimum 1.5m from the rear lot line
    • Minimum 0.6m from the side lot lines (and possibly further away on larger lots)
      • Min. 1.5m from side lot lines if you have windows or doors in the side wall
  • HOW BIG can a Garden Suite be?
    • Up to 60m2 [645 sq.ft.] footprint
    • Maximum lot coverage of 40% of the rear yard, and
    • Maximum 25% lot coverage for all ancillary buildings combined
    • All 3 limits apply
  • HOW HIGH can a Garden Suite be?
    • Up to 6m [19′-8″] tall and 2 storeys high (subject to angular plane restrictions – see below)
  • Are BASEMENTS allowed in a Garden Suite?
    • Yes, you can build a basement,
    • BUT – basements can be costly if your site conditions will require shoring.
    • These pesky, imaginary lines limit how tall the building can be when it is close to a lot line. If you build further back from the lot lines, then you may be allowed to build straight up to the maximum height.
    • Front wall: 45 degrees starting at a height of 4.0m, 7.5m from the rear main wall of the main house. This is the same as the rules for laneway suites.
    • Rear wall: 45 degrees starting at a height of 2.0m, from the rear lot line
    • Side walls: 45 degrees starting at a height of 4.0m from the required side setback
  • LANDSCAPING & Garden Suites
    • The requirements for soft landscaping have bedeviled many laneway suite proposals. The proposed rules for Garden Suites seem a little easier to comply with:
    • A minimum of 50% of a rear yard area, including the area covered by a Garden Suite, must be soft landscaping. Lots with a frontage of less than 6.0 metres will require a minimum of 25% soft landscaping.
  • GREEN ROOFS on Garden Suites as ‘Soft Landscaping’
    • The proposed rules recognize that a Green Roof can provide many of the same benefits as soft landscaping at grade.
    • As a result, the above soft landscaping requirement may be reduced by 0.5 square metres for every 1.0 square metres of green roof provided on a Garden Suite.
  • PARKING requirements for Garden Suites
    • The proposed draft Garden Suites regulations do not require any vehicle parking space for a Garden Suite and maintain the required parking rates for the main house on the lot.
    • Watch out for the need to have clear access for fire-fighters that cannot pass through a parking space such as up a narrow driveway.
  • What about EXISTING buildings?
    • In order to facilitate the conversion of existing ancillary structures to provide living space, the conversion of a lawfully existing building to a Garden Suite, such as a garage or shed, is proposed to be permitted if it complies with the maximum footprint (60 m2), setbacks where openings are proposed, and meets the minimum required soft landscaped area.
  • What about EMERGENCY ACCESS?
    • Similar to the rules for Laneway Suites, Toronto Fire Services will have a policy that the Building Department can use to determine if a proposed Garden Suite will meet their standards for access in an emergency.
    • The draft rules require a maximum 45m path of travel from the street to the door of the Garden Suite. That path must be free of obstructions for the full length at 1.0m wide and 2.1m high.
    • We expect that similar to Laneway Suites, this access may be able to be shared with a neighbour subject to a Limiting Distance Agreement.
    • We expect that Council will follow the path they blazed with Laneway Suites and encourage Urban Forestry to refuse applications to remove healthy mature trees for the sake of building a Garden Suite.

Pre-Approved Designs for Garden Suites

This is really exciting! City staff are taking a serious look at the example of cities like Seattle and Santa Clara who have held design competitions to have a series of pre-approved designs for Garden Suites available through a City website. We fully support this idea to make building a beautiful Garden Suite easier provided that all such designs be Net Zero Energy and low carbon design.

Of course, you don’t need to wait for the City to figure this out – we’ll have some beautiful ready-to-build Garden Suite designs ready for when the bylaws come into effect in 2022

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