Tag Archives: Laneway Housing

Toronto tour of laneway housing

Tour of Toronto’s laneway housing

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Tour of Toronto’s laneway housing

Photography: Craig Race Architecture Inc.

A few weeks ago, we took BILD’s RenoMark renovators and custom homebuilders, as well as a number of journalists, on a tour of laneway and infill homes in Toronto. We were delighted by the level of interest in this event and happy to add an extra bus to accommodate everyone. We were not surprised to see that people are enthusiastic about the possibilities of laneway housing and eager to learn about the technicalities of building them. With laneway dwellings allowed to be built “as of right” in Toronto and East York as of only last summer – and with city council expected to make a decision in the near future on expanding this to Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke – we are all entering exciting new territory.

The adjunct advantage

A laneway home is typically a second, smaller dwelling built at the back of a lot, facing onto a public lane that shares utilities with the main house. Laneway housing has many advantages, both for homeowners and for neighbourhoods. For the homeowner, a laneway home can be a source of rental income or provide extra living space for extended family. For neighbourhoods, having homes facing onto laneways can improve safety and inject beauty and vibrancy. Laneway housing increases density in a non-intrusive way, enabling a more efficient use of infrastructure such as: transit, schools and community centres. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, laneway homes will contribute some much-needed rental housing in the city of Toronto.

Style meets function in The Junction

The Junction

That will certainly be the case with the first project on our tour – a laneway home that just broke ground in The Junction. The homeowners, who graciously answered questions from our tour participants, are planning to rent out the two-storey, three-bedroom house when it’s completed later this year. With more than 1,400 sq. ft. of living space, this home will do away with notions that laneway homes are cramped sheds in backyards. The best part? The homeowners report that the neighbours are excited, and some are even interested in building on their own lots.

The second laneway home on the tour also offered a feeling of spaciousness, both in the open-concept living area on the ground floor and in the courtyard behind the house. This two-storey, two-bedroom Leslieville home, currently rented out to a young family, was converted from an existing garage.

Sustainable supplement


Next on the tour was an infill project in Leslieville. Infill construction means building and renovating homes in established neighbourhoods. Infill homes, like laneway homes, add gentle density in our communities. The infill home we visited was created after an architect severed an unusually shaped lot into two separate properties. The home is filled with light and its high-performance building envelope helps conserve energy. A basement apartment provides extra rental income.

Laneway building incentives

The City of Toronto is offering two programs to encourage homeowners to develop laneway suites. The first allows for a deferral of development charges for 20 years, while the second provides a forgivable loan for property owners who agree to rent out their laneway suites at an affordable rate for 15 years.

Are you thinking of adding a laneway home on your property, or building or renovating an infill home? Laneway and infill building projects come with their own unique challenges when it comes to zoning requirements, design considerations and construction techniques. Your best bet is to work with a professional RenoMark renovator or custom homebuilder who can guide you through the process. To find one in your area, visit renomark.ca.

Making sure we have enough housing for the 9.7 million people who will call the GTA home by 2041 is a generational challenge. We need innovative solutions — laneway and infill homes among them — to meet it.

David Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA.

For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, Facebook, BILD’s official blog.


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Toronto Fall Home Show

The 2019 Toronto Fall Home Show

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The 2019 Toronto Fall Home Show

As fall brings changes to the weather, it also inspires us to make improvements in our homes. Whether you’re looking to do a big kitchen renovation, a small bathroom revamp or convert your laneway into a livable space, the 2019 Toronto Fall Home Show will help make this a reality.

With more than three decades of experience helping homeowners, condo dwellers and renters restructure, reorganize and restyle their spaces, this year’s show is set to once again bring the best experts to the GTA.

The 2019 Toronto Fall Home Show is a source for consumers to connect with the right people and find the right solutions for their living space (even ones to help you get rid of ghosts).

Here’s a peek at what will be featured:

Tiny Village

With rising real estate prices, there’s a tiny movement happening in Toronto. Small space living is becoming more of a reality for most people, with an increase in small condos, container homes and even laneway/infill housing. There are 47,000 lots on laneways that exist today, which can provide homeowners ample opportunities to supplement their income. Still, small space living doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. The Tiny Village brings together the best of small space design, with units from True North Tiny Home and Eva Lanes.

Bad reno or paranormal activity?

For the first year ever, the Toronto Fall Home Show is bringing its very own paranormal activity expert, so you can figure out if the creaks in your floorboards are just your pipes… or if they’re ghosts! Chat with paranormal investigator Glenn Laycock for tips on what to do if you have an unwanted guest from beyond in your home, or take a Ghost Walk through the haunted Horse Palace.

Designer Pumpkin Patch

Ditch your plastic Halloween decor for chic and stylish pumpkins to give curb appeal a whole new meaning, with tips from the exquisite Designer Pumpkin Patch. Let designer Nicholas Rosaci inspire your own posh pumpkin design, make one yourself or purchase a pre-styled option, with all proceeds going to the SickKids Foundation.

Kitchen stage

The kitchen is the focal point of a home, and the 2019 Toronto Fall Home Show will be no different. Sit back and enjoy some of the city’s top chefs cooking up a storm on the kitchen stage and pick up tips from several expert speakers, including Ramsin Khachi, Marie Kondo Way expert Effy Nicopoulos, Rebecca Hay, Emmanuel Belliveau and Chef Christopher Woods.

Home Hardware Here’s How Centre

If you’re getting ready for a DIY project and want to learn a few skills or just don’t know where to start, stop by the Home Hardware Here’s How Centre. Here, you’ll get hands-on advice and practical tips from fan favourites such as Canada’s Handyman Shawn Monteith, Jordan Spear and, new at this year’s show, Mark Rason.

Project Jump Starter

Presented by RenoMark, this show feature will give you a one-on-one professional consultation, guiding you on where to start with your renovation and give you all the tools you need for success. Check out more than 100 award-winning, quality projects to get inspired for your next renovation.

The Toronto Fall Home Show runs from Oct. 4 to 6 at The Enercare Centre. For more information visit the website.


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Design/Build Expert: Laneway housing

Stay in your lane, pal: Laneways, now are for more than just vehicles and vermin

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Stay in your lane, pal: Laneways, now are for more than just vehicles and vermin

Toronto has a housing problem; some call it a crisis. One of the levers Council is pulling at to increase more urban housing options (a pilot project) is to construct laneway houses in rear yards that abut public lanes.

Photo courtesy of R-Haux
Photo courtesy of R-Haux

Beyond the basement

There are 2,433 lanes in the city of Toronto and since June 2018, residents have been able to plan for and build these secondary suites, in a (somewhat) detached fashion from the main dwelling. Essentially, it shifts the previously permitted basement apartment to move up and behind the principal dwelling, so long as the services are provided from the main building, and the lot is not severed. It’s a practice that has been allowed in many other metropolitan centres for some time. Cities such as Vancouver, Los Angeles and even Ottawa have had similar bylaws and a plethora of interesting solutions already successfully resided in. Over the past year, however, the Building Department reports there have only been 78 permits applied for and six permissions issued. The goal of the bylaw was to allow for quicker and easier action by Torontonians, but given its connection to the city’s more complex makeup of other governing bylaws, 15 other applications are awaiting Committee of Adjustment hearings for minor relief to the rules. That alone can add more than six months to the approval process, so seeing this put into any significant practice will take some time.

Livable lanes

So, who benefits from this pilot project, you ask? Potentially, anyone and everyone. Adding laneway housing brings eyeballs to the lanes, which increases safety of persons living in or passing through them. The city benefits from an increased tax base and the (hopefully) good news story about gentle density, increased housing choices and improved stock – therefore improved affordability.

Photo courtesy of Lanescape
Photo courtesy of Lanescape

How to make it happen

There are many options available to any current homeowner who has property abutting a lane inside the pilot area. One company that was a part of the laneway bylaw development is Tony Cunha and his team at Lanescape.ca. They hold regular public information sessions for designers, builders and homeowners looking to learn more about the intricate process and rules governing these initiatives. They also provide design and construction services, which range in cost due to factors including finished vs. unfinished areas, site-specific servicing, plus consulting fees. Tony emphasizes that this is not the ‘Tiny House’ movement gripping social media. “These units,” he attests, “can be up to 1,700 sq.ft. in size, with a 10mx8m footprint.” Lanescape has done a great job at creating illustrations of how to fit a laneway house onto a lot, and the zoning restrictions that govern it. Setbacks from the lane, the main dwelling, as well as height and angular plane restrictions ensures this is a true secondary suite, and not just another house behind a house. While every lot is unique, if you understand the basic rules, there is an as-of-right condition to fit something onto virtually every lane abutting lot. Stickhandling the rules, with guidance from professionals, can shorten the approval process and build the laneway home faster.

Bylaw-friendly design

Another group focused on designing solutions that fit the bylaws, is Leith Moore and his team at R-Hauz. They are taking the approach of full bylaw conformity, and have designed a number of products that fit the as-of-right-bylaw, based upon the typical Toronto lot sizes aiming at range from 15 to 30 ft. with stops at 20 and 25 ft. Their goal is to reduce the time required to erect the dwelling through a level of pre-fabrication and repetition of product and process. With roots in larger tract-style development, they are focused on the speed and scalability of the build, for the benefit of the customer and their neighbours, who also share daily access in and out of the shared lanes. With a more contemporary square, yet curvilinear design and standardized options for systems and finishes, these houses have been designed with a “best square foot, rather than most square foot” mantra to maximize storage and comfort and flow for the occupants. With a design already hatched, zoning approvals as-of-right and a repeatable product with modularized components, these may be the most prevalent solutions we start to see around our lanes.

Photo courtesy of Lanescape
Photo courtesy of Lanescape

Urban revival

We at Eurodale Design + Build, coupled with a handful of architecture offices and custom builders throughout the city, have also dipped our toes in the collective waters, but on a per lot, per client, custom type solution. Many of these projects become lumped in with improvements to the original, aged dwelling that exists on the lot to begin with, as part of a more holistic gentrification of the site. Given the services for the new laneway must be tied to the original home, work will be required at the basement level for connecting electricity, water, sewer and gas anyway. Damages done will want to be repaired, and there is an economy of scale to do improvements to the principal dwelling when crews are on-site for the laneway project. These will create a whole host of unique designs and construction projects of varying style and quality levels, spearheading a tapestry of urban revival of sorts, while solving some housing challenges Torontonians are collectively feeling as we mature and grow.

Do you have any ideas as to how a laneway house could benefit your own life? Give one of the aforementioned professionals a call to see how this exciting initiative could become a benefit to you and your family. As always, I recommend you start your search at RenoMark.ca to find a professional builder to help undertake your project for you.

Who is laneway housing good for? Potentially anyone and everyone. Here is a quick list of who may find it a solution to their needs.

• ADULT KIDS – a great launching pad to help teach these birds to fly.

• AGING PARENTS – retaining independence of space, but safety and security of proximity to loved ones.

• FIRST-TIME OR MOVE-UP BUYERS – help qualify for and pay down the mortgage with a tenant in the main dwelling or the lane house.

• REAL ESTATE SIDE HUSTLERS AND SMALL DEVELOPERS – a way to maximize the value of a lot with some extra construction.

• CAREGIVERS OR PERSONAL SERVICE WORKERS – live-in-style care with a live-out feeling.

• RETIREES DOWNSIZING OR IN SEARCH OF RESIDUAL INCOME STREAM – convert an existing property into an income source without affecting the main house.

• DIVORCEES: better than the proverbial doghouse, this could allow families to stay close together, albeit not under the same roof.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.


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by Paul Gallop
Photography: bigstock.com

Men at Work Design-Build president, Paul Gallop, takes a look at the ever-growing housing issues in Toronto and possible building solutions to keep people in the city.

Since many RENO & DECOR readers live in old homes in the core of Toronto, we’re bringing a bit more of a local perspective from our team who spend their days working in the trenches facing the challenges of planning and renovating our fragile, densely-packed, older neighbourhood houses.

We’re so fortunate to be living in a thriving, internationally-envied urban centre, but let’s face it, some of our old Hogtown homes are in serious need of improvement, inside and out. Our properties are small and expensive, and it’s confusing trying to understand what’s technically and legally possible, and what will actually add real value and comfort for you and your family. What’s worth saving, and what is too far gone? How do you balance the architectural, structural, and interior finishing details while considering energy efficiency, zoning and building-code regulations? Which of those inspirational style ideas you’re seeing in the pages of magazines like RENO & DECOR will actually work in your old-Toronto home?


In upcoming issues we’ll explore questions like these with help from our award-winning team of designers, engineers, project managers and trade professionals, whose focus is exclusively on renovating old-Toronto houses.

One issue that may be of particular interest to Toronto homeowners is the City of Toronto’s proposed Changing Lanes—Laneway Suites project. With a network of approximately 311 kms of laneways weaving throughout many older parts of the city, there is untapped potential to introduce a new form of housing accessible from these lanes. Allowing the construction of secondary suites or small houses at the rear of residential properties served by laneways could increase the supply of desperately needed rental units. It would also provide a source of potential income for homeowners who are struggling with the high cost of property ownership in the city.


A previous initiative to explore laneway housing was rejected by the city due to the complexities and challenges of severing properties and servicing the new buildings through the restricted laneway spaces. The proposal currently under review is based on the idea of allowing the construction of an accessory building that would form part of an existing residential property, and would still be owned as part of the main property. The building would be serviced from the existing house on the property. It would not contemplate land severances or independent utility services. The thinking is this would be more like having a basement apartment, only instead of the apartment being in your basement, it’s in a detached little building in your backyard facing the lane.


There are numerous factors that the city must consider in determining the viability of this concept, including zoning, building code, fire and emergency services access, demands on public services and the concerns of neighbours and community groups. The city has undertaken an extensive review of the idea and has developed a set of draft guidelines for implementing a program in the districts of the former City of Toronto and East York. The proposal is presently going through various community hearings, with what so far seems to be generally enthusiastic support. Like all things bureaucratic, it’s a slow process and impossible to know if or when it may come to pass, but the signs are encouraging. Other municipalities in Canada and the U.S. have either adopted or are seriously exploring similar laneway housing programs, including Vancouver, Ottawa, Regina and Edmonton.

For more information, the city has a webpage devoted to the program.

Specializing in home additions and major home renovations in old-Toronto neighbourhoods, Men At Work Design-Build provides integrated engineering, design and professional construction services to help solve home space problems for Toronto families.

Paul Gallop is the founder/president of the award-winning design-build firm, also a two-time winner of the BILD Renovator of the Year award.


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Home Realty : The Missing Middle

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Home Realty : The Missing Middle

Creative concepts could do a lot help housing affordability

It’s the one thing everyone in the GTA seems to be talking about these days: the soaring price of real estate. It’s a sticky wicket to be sure, and it’s left many wondering if they’ll ever be able to find a place to call home in this bustling metropolis. Here are three creative concepts that could do much to alter the affordability equation.


The City of Toronto has more than 2,400 laneways and publicly owned corridors covering 250 linear kilometres. Laneway houses are small homes built above garages that face these laneways. Development of such secondary suites — which are serviced from the main house like a basement apartment — could inject considerably more affordable homes into the Toronto rental market. And advocacy groups, like Lanescape and Evergreen, are partnering with the city to look at ways to clear the bureaucratic path toward the development of laneway housing.

This kind of gentle intensification can add value to existing properties for owners, and, in providing a much needed infusion of supply into the rental market, provide more people access to affordable housing.



They’re known in Paris as “parasite homes,” and they would be an ingenious solution to the affordability problem here in the GTA. These apartments are perched upon the roofs of existing buildings. The prefabricated units are built offsite then bolted to the structure with steel supports, a construction process that takes under a year. And these units are priced 40 per cent cheaper than comparable properties.

Paris is calling for 70,000 new dwellings to be built each year, and parasite homes are a good way to squeeze all those new homes into the densely populated French capital. Parasite homes are an innovative idea and one that could help Toronto to provide more people with housing options they can afford. And building owners would also stand to make a good return for thinking a bit outside the box.


Don’t let the name fool you. In-law suites — secondary dwellings within a home — can be rented out to anybody you choose. And they’re growing in popularity as more and more people in the GTA face affordability challenges.

In-law suites are cheaper to rent than standalone apartments and they provide an effective and relatively easy way for homeowners to pay off their mortgages or pad their retirement incomes. Of course, these suites can be used to house aging in-laws (but it’s probably not cool to charge granny rent). Or, perhaps more common in today’s economy, it could be the cash-strapped younger generations remaining at home, but wanting an independent living situation.

Secondary flats typically include sleeping and living areas, a basic kitchen and a separate entrance. They can be created via a garage conversion or basement reno. A unit could be a bump-out or addition on the home. Or it might be a separate cottage or a back house on the property.

Owners could also create an in-law apartment by combining rooms in the existing house without changing the original footprint.

The governing bodies of the GTA have to be more creative and open minded in dealing with the shortage and affordability issues in our housing market.

Debbie Cosic, CEO and founder of In2ition Realty, has worked in all facets of the real estate industry for over 25 years. She has sold and overseen the sale of over $15 billion worth of real estate and, with Debbie at the helm, In2ition has become one of the fastest-growing and most innovative new home and condo sales companies. In2ition has received numerous awards from the Building Industry and Land Development Association and the National Association of Home Builders.


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Home Realty – Affordable Alternatives: In a hot housing market

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Home Realty – Affordable Alternatives: In a hot housing market

Micro suites, laneway housing, container homes and live/work units all provide relief from sky-high prices.

As the cost of housing skyrockets across the GTA, it’s spurring a shift toward smaller, more affordable living solutions. Let’s explore some of the options.


Soaring land prices and development costs have pushed builders to look at creating micro-condo units in an effort to maintain affordability.

There are thousands of micro condos currently under construction across Toronto, according to Urbanation, and that number keeps growing in response to strong demand.

Micro condos can be as small as 289 square feet and are designed to maximize a minimized space. Kitchens feature retractable secondary countertops, islands that double as dining tables, combined convection oven-microwaves, dishwasher drawers and stoves with two burners versus the traditional four. There is also an all-in one washer-dryer.


The City of Toronto is exploring laneway housing as a potential solution to its affordable housing shortage and as a more palatable alternative for people who don’t want to live in a highrise tower.

In turning to laneway housing, Toronto would be following Vancouver’s lead — that city has issued more than 800 permits for laneway housing, with 500 homes built, according to the Victoria Times-Colonist. Regina and Ottawa have also approved the development of laneway homes.

Toronto has some 2,400 publicly owned laneways, covering more than 250 linear kilometres of public space, according to Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, who has said that unlocking these assets — via a loosening of existing bylaws — would be a “key part of creating safe, accessible spaces for residents to enjoy.”

Laneway housing — created for rent, not sale — would be smaller, secondary suites that are detached from the primary residence and built on top of garages or parking pads at the rear of a residential property, adjacent to a laneway.


Live/work units are emerging as a popular and cost-effective option for artists and freelancers who are attracted to the idea of setting up shop in the same place they sleep. Certain parts of Toronto, such as Liberty Village and South Riverdale, are becoming known as hubs for live/work housing. At In2ition, we’ve designed and sold these in Chesnut Hill Developments’ The Address on Bloor Street West and we currently have them coming up at SF3 Townhomes by Chesnut Hill in Pickering. These spaces not only benefit their inhabitants, they’re also a boon to the surrounding neighbourhoods, whose vibrancy and cultural appeal are enhanced by the presence of artists and small businesses.


Shipping containers are being repurposed as housing in cities across Canada, offering yet another alternative for cash-strapped homebuyers.

In Vancouver — years ahead of Toronto in dealing with affordability issues and urban intensification — Atira Women’s Resource Society in 2013 opened Canada’s first-ever social housing development built from recycled shipping containers. The organization has another planned for the city’s troubled Downtown East Side. Each container, made from high-grade steel, is fitted for plumbing and wiring and is insulated and drywalled. And more than one can be fused together to create multi-bedroom suites.

The idea has arrived in Toronto, with Storstac launching this city’s first shipping container project at Queen Street West and Bathurst Street, dubbed the Harlem Underground Shipping Container House, as it will expand the current living quarters that are part of the same building in which the Harlem Underground Restaurant is located. The house will consist of three, 20-foothigh shipping containers sitting on top of a solid concrete foundation. The company says it’s available to work with clients to design and build “the shipping container house of your dreams.”

Imagine the possibilities.

Debbie Cosic is CEO and founder of In2ition Realty (in2ition.ca), an award-winning brokerage that focuses on sales, marketing and merchandising of new home & condominium developments throughout North America. Cosic has been recognized multiple times as the Marketing Person of the Year by both BILD and NAHB.


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