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NEWS: Laneway suites taking hold (Mar. 2024)

April 7th, 2024 · No Comments

How residential properties are evolving 

By James Bullanoff

A recent influx of laneway suites has hit the Annex area as homeowners explore alternative housing options for their properties.

According to a map created using open-source data from the City of Toronto, there are 19 legal laneway suites in the Gleaner coverage area. The Gleaner reached out to the builder of a laneway suite just south of Bloor, along with their client. A tour inside revealed how it is possible to add new housing on land that is already occupied by a house.

The City of Toronto has not agreed on the type of language to use when describing this type of housing. Laneway suites are housing units built on the same piece of land as the original property, or a severed piece of land. They are defined as having a laneway that acts as its own separate access point. 

Some, like this example, are not actually on a piece of the property that has been legally severed, but the unit is a permissible separate dwelling. 

In addition, garden suites are self-contained units that lack their own access point and are on unsevered property. They are typically limited in size.

Igor Skoskiewicz, a retired electrical engineer and the homeowner, spoke to the Gleaner about his passion for building the laneway suite: “Always wanted to do it. When the right to build came out, we just jumped on it immediately.”

Originally, the property near Borden and Bloor streets featured a garage; however, Skoskiewicz decided to build a new house instead as he felt the property could be used better. 

The builder is also converting the main home basement into a separate unit. He mentioned the additional housing will be rented at first, but will eventually be for personal use. He did not mention the rental fee.

This laneway suite behind Borden is a two-storey, two-bedroom unit with one bathroom. It features a kitchen and living space on the main floor, with the bedrooms and the bathroom upstairs. While the concept for this type of housing is practical, building it still requires a ton of work.

“Essentially anywhere in the City of Toronto, you can build a house in your backyard, as long as your lot has the proper dimensions and setbacks,” said Kyle Springer, project manager of 2X2 Construction.

He started his family business in early 2019 and now specializes in laneway and garden suites but they “really have a passion for infill development projects.” The company has branded itself as “Toronto’s leading laneway and garden suite builder.” They broke ground on their first house back in 2020, during the start of the global pandemic. They realized that not many builders were in the market for this type of construction.

“We saw an opportunity in the market. We got in early and now we are one of…if not the top builder in Ontario for building these units.”

Laneway suites have been legal since June 28, 2018. Back in February 2022, the City of Toronto greenlit garden suites, properties that are built on the same lot within an enclosed space. These properties are typically smaller and more modest to fit within the scale of the area.  While the concept of getting more housing in Toronto sounds appealing, many have not been satisfied with how slow laneway and garden suites have caught on. Recent reports from CityNews have shown that the rise in these alternative housing options has been “lacklustre” leaving many to consider whether this type of housing will be a real solution to Toronto housing. 

According to Springer, the builds take, on average, around eight to nine months during the construction phase, and he is currently working on around eight projects. There is also the design aspect before the construction period. “I would say anywhere from one year to one and a half years for a project like this from the initial idea in the customer’s head to actually getting the keys and moving in,” said Springer. 2X2 Construction completed a few other projects in the area, including one near Harbord Street and Euclid Avenue, and one near Clinton and Bloor streets. Springer said they have completed 10 projects and have about four or five currently under construction.

“I think people will jump on it more and more. They’re not cheap. But if folks want to do it, they can do it now. Having two homes on your property, for some people, it might not be a good thing, but for us we like it,” said Skoskiewicz.


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