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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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The Humber Condos

At The Humber Condos friends become neighbours

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At The Humber Condos friends become neighbours

Sometimes a conversation over drinks can be life-altering, be it kindling for a relationship or the spark for a business idea. For high school friends Cassie MacKenzie and Shannon McCauley, a casual chat over beers led to them both becoming homeowners – and future neighbours.

Transplants from Guelph, the women, both 32, had been living in and working in Toronto for years, Cassie at a financial institution and Shannon in the non-profit sector. They also had pretty much given up on the idea of purchasing a home in the city. Shannon had been looking outside of the GTA because she didn’t know if she could afford to stay in Toronto given the prices of rental, and Cassie had “stopped even thinking about buying because it just got so insane.” Instead, she was holding on dearly to her affordable apartment, a veritable unicorn in the city’s rental landscape.

One day, a colleague mentioned to Shannon that she should consider buying. “I laughed at them because it was totally out of reach – or so I thought,” she says. That colleague lives in an Options for Homes building, and she explained that the non-profit developer helps make homeownership more attainable by offering purchasers a down payment loan of up to 15 per cent of a home’s purchase price.

For first-time buyers, the support could be as much as 24 per cent. Shannon had enough saved for the required five per cent downpayment and decided to take the plunge and purchased a one-bedroom at The Humber, Options’ upcoming development at Lawrence Ave. W. and Weston Rd. Then came the beers.

Childhood friends Shannon MacCauley and Cassie MacKenzie have reached a significant milestone together at The Humber: homeownership.
Childhood friends Shannon MacCauley and Cassie MacKenzie have reached a significant milestone together at The Humber: homeownership.

Cassie, with her manageable rental, caught a glimpse of how unreasonable rent could be when she and her boyfriend looked for a larger place. “The thought of paying that amount of money in rent just sort of hit me in a way that it hadn’t before,” she says. “When Shannon told me about buying with Options and I saw that the price would be like rent but in a mortgage, and the five per cent was something that I had, it felt possible. I had no idea it was something I could do.

Both women marvel that they were able to purchase a home on their own, without help from parents or partners. “I have a lot of pride about being able to own a home. It’s really exciting,” Cassie says.

For Shannon, she was surprised by the wave of emotion that hit her when she signed her purchase agreement. “I never thought the idea of owning something would matter that much to me. But it felt so powerful. After I signed, I was quite moved. I asked, ‘Do people cry at these things?’ and my realtor was like, ‘Why do you think this box of tissues is here?'”

Shannon and Cassie are looking forward to their new home with a new pace of life Weston Village. “I’m getting a little tired of the core of Toronto but I didn’t want the commuter lifestyle,” says Cassie. For Shannon, who’s lived in The Junction for the last 10 years says she’s eager to be a part of the renewal of Weston. “I moved into The Junction when it was up and coming so I like that feel of the community building.”

They’re also keen to become neighbours and sharing this life milestone together. Though they were careful not to get too cosy. “We’re two floors apart, so we’re close,” says Shannon. “But not too close!”

For further information, visit the presentation centre, located at 1984 Weston Rd.



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Stockyards District Residences

Stockyards District Residences

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Stockyards District Residences

This new community from Marlin Spring adds to the Excitement, Energy and Urbanity of The Junction

Soon to come to one of the most livable community neighbourhoods in Toronto is Stockyards District Residences by Marlin Spring Developments. This will be quality, imaginative and affordable condominium living, perfectly located just steps from The Junction on St. Clair West near Keele Street.

This ten-storey condominium will feature 236 impressive suites, including two and three-bedroom designs. These are ideal for young families or first-timers who are seeking to enter the housing market. The development is also perfect for those wishing to downsize and stay in this desired location surrounded by engaging retail, High Park (amongst several parks in the area), many walking trails and bike paths, while being close to transit and downtown.

The vibrant Stockyards District Residences continues Marlin Spring’s real estate acumen of identifying neighbourhoods where people wish to live, work and play. The company has a proven track record of success, as evidenced by WestBeach in the Beach and Canvas on The Danforth, possessing an innate sense of being on the cusp of emerging neighbourhoods poised for growth. Building residential developments in these neighbourhoods creates value for purchasers as smart real estate investments while at the same time being a place to call home.

The Stockyards District Residences will be at the centre of a neighbourhood of chic restaurants, fashion boutiques, galleries and shopping. This is a charming collection of independent retailers that give The Stockyards a vibe of community pride, liveliness and spirit that is palpable and one of the most unique in the city.

With an excellent walking score to the area’s many amenities, the location also has abundant transit options available on St. Clair West, Dundas Street West and Keele Street for easy access to downtown. For drivers, Stockyards District Residences’ adjacency with Keele Street provides direct access to the Gardiner Expressway as well as the 400-Series highways for commuting elsewhere in the GTA.

As with all of Marlin Spring developments, Stockyards District Residences is a visually appealing home, fitting perfectly into this eclectic neighbourhood. The building’s brick exterior by Graziani + Corazzo Architects is contemporary in design, yet compliments the area’s historical surroundings with such architectural features as black window mullions and many additional brick features.

Interiors by U31 continue the exterior thematic with earthy materials and textures in industrial-inspired colours. The expansive lobby area and ground floor retail are reminiscent of New York and Chicago style lofts and reflective of exciting urban living. Exposed brick walls, high ceilings, oversized windows and contemporary lighting fixtures provide an elegant marriage of modern and rustic styles.

Amenity spaces within Stockyards District Residences are designed to promote an active and engaged social lifestyle. A ground-floor patio features a prep kitchen and barbecue station, multiple covered lounge and dining nooks for relaxing retreats or open-air entertaining. The positioning and features of these amenities allows the outdoors to become an extension of personal living spaces. The development also contains a fully-equipped fitness and yoga room, party room with floor-to-ceiling double-sided fireplace and dining area, a kid’s play room, kid’s playground area as well as an outdoor dog run.

A trademark of Marlin Spring’s residential developments has been the care and craftsmanship put into the quality of the residential suites, all custom designed by U31. Thoughtful and innovative suite layouts maximize livable space with nine-foot ceilings, energy-efficient kitchen appliances and the finest quality features and finishings. Kitchens and baths feature stunning black matte faucets and kitchens comes with quartz slab countertops in clean and sleek lines that result in appealing interior designs of both style and sophistication.

Priced from the low $400,000s, Stockyards District Residences will add excitement and energy to this much-desired midtown neighbourhood with affordable and stylish urban living.

To register now to be included on the preview list for Stockyards District Residences, visit the website.



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