A few weeks ago, we took a tour of laneway and infill homes in Toronto with BILD’s RenoMark renovators and custom homebuilders, and a number of journalists.
People are enthusiastic about the possibilities of laneway housing and eager to learn about the technicalities of building it. With laneway dwellings allowed to be built “as of right” in Toronto and East York only last summer, we are in exciting new territory.
A laneway home is typically a second, smaller dwelling built at the back of a lot, facing onto a public lane and sharing utilities with the main house. Laneway housing has many advantages: For the homeowner, a laneway home can be a source of rental income or 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 more efficient use of infrastructure. As well, and perhaps most importantly, laneway homes can contribute some much-needed rental housing in Toronto.
That will certainly will be the case with the first project on our tour, a laneway home that just broke ground in the Junction. The owners plan to rent out the spacious two-storey, 1,400-sq.-ft., three-bedroom house when it’s completed later this year. The owners report their neighbours are excited and some are interested in building on their own lots.
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The second laneway home on the tour — a two-storey, two-bedroom Leslieville home currently rented out to a young family — was converted from an existing garage.
Next on the tour was an infill project in Leslieville. Infill homes — dwellings built or renovated in established neighbourhoods — add gentle density in our communities. The infill home we visited was created after an unusually shaped lot was severed 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.
The City of Toronto is now considering allowing laneway housing across the city. Two programs are offered to encourage the development of laneway suites in Toronto and East York: the first allows for a deferral of development charges for 20 years, while the other provides a forgivable loan for property owners who agree to rent out their laneway suite at an affordable rate for 15 years.
Are you thinking of adding a laneway home, or building or renovating an infill home? Laneway and infill building projects have 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. Visit renomark.ca.
Making sure we have enough housing for the 9.7 million people who will call the GTA home by 2041 demands innovative solutions the challenge.
Correction: The city of Tokyo has a population density of 6,158 people per square kilometre. In the June 22 column, a reference to Tokyo’s approach to housing needs mistakenly cited this figure as the population density of the Greater Tokyo Area. As well, 4,457 is the population density of the city of Toronto, not the GTA.
David Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) and a contributor for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @bildgta