Approval Of Laneway Homes Will Help Housing Supply
Laneway Homes Have Been Approved
That day, the Toronto and East York Community Council approved regulations that would allow homeowners whose properties back onto a laneway to build a small house at the back of their lot to use as a rental unit or granny suite. The important part of this, if you think encouraging such housing will be a good thing, is that the regulations lay out the conditions on the size, the design, the angle of the roof and setback from the lane and so on. Projects meeting those conditions need no further approvals beyond a simple building permit. They will be allowed “as of right.”
It’s important to note that this is unlikely to solve — or even significantly address — the housing affordability situation in Toronto. The expense of building these rental units means few are likely to be available as housing to low-income tenants (though the motion does include a $1 million affordable laneway suites pilot program). But the rental crisis in Toronto is such that even a bit of new supply for middle-income tenants — or even upper-income tenants, as a condo alternative — will be a small help in the market as a whole. And in that this will allow new rental units to be developed in otherwise single-family-home dominated neighbourhoods in the city, ones with generally good access to services, infrastructure such as parks and transit, and less car-dependent layouts, is a good thing for both the neighbourhoods and the people who may now have an option to live in them even if they can’t afford to buy.
But one of the most encouraging things about the motion — which still has to be passed by city council to become official — is that it opens up the door for allowing new forms of housing, even in older, established neighbourhoods. The city needs, and healthy neighbourhoods need, different kinds of housing for different kinds of residents.
As Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said during the discussion of the item at city hall June 6, the city needs to follow this up by working on as-of-right guidelines for “duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, fiveplexes, sixplexes, secondary suites and so forth, and of course rooming houses across the city. And of course we’re not there yet.”
Watching the live video feed of the meeting, I wanted to stand and applaud when she spoke.
Hating on tall condo proposals is a sport in some circles of the city — and despite thinking we need them in some places, and that they are often great additions to the neighbourhoods they are built in, I get it. They are noticeable and you can see them from all over the ’hood, they sometimes replace quirky old historical buildings, they are often very boringly designed walls of glass and on the main floor more often than not they introduce ruinous big-box wastelands to the streetscape.
But the alternative — or addition — is what is called “gentle density.” Which means townhouses, or duplexes, or low- or midrise walk-up apartment buildings. You go to parts of Riverdale or Forest Hill or Church-Wellesley Village or Chinatown and you can see how historically these great neighbourhoods mix up all those different kinds of housing, creating spaces for students, seniors, big families, single people, homeowners, renters. And allowing for enough of them to create a thriving neighbourhood even without a lot of tall buildings.
Now, if you go to community meetings to see how angrily some neighbours react to the proposal to build some townhouses (or any of these types of buildings) in established neighbourhoods, and how difficult the approval process makes it to do so, you’ll understand why those kinds of buildings have become endangered species.
The city’s needs are great when it comes to housing, and especially to rental housing. No one proposal is going to solve all the problems. But encouraging more rental housing in all kinds of forms in all kinds of places is a big part of how that mountain can be scaled.
Approving a process to create laneway rental units is, however modest, a potentially important step that sets the city on the right upward path.
Source: Edward Keenan With The Star