Coming to a laneway near you?

Most of us living within the greater Toronto area all have homes with a garage that either house our cars or is used to store boxes and old furniture. In many cases that’s all we saw our garages as…. storage space that was only visited every few years.

Well don’t be surprises that you will start seeing more and more of these garages converted into some type of living or workspaces. As Toronto’s population continues to grow, more and more space is needed and guess what, your garage may just be a livable space for someone and it may just get you a few extra shekels.

Even today as you drive through some downtown laneways, you will see some random conversations, and l must say they look amazing and it gentrifies these old laneways and gives them life.

The Toronto East York Community Council voted recently to allow housing suites in the city’s backyard laneways. The city took a significant step toward changing its housing policy after a local community council voted to allow housing suites in the city’s backyard laneways.

The Toronto East York Community Council voted unanimously to amend the city’s Official Plan and Zoning By-Law to allow laneway suites in Toronto and East York. The matter will now be considered by the full Toronto council for a full legalization of garage conversions.

Ana Bailao is one of the many councilors who is championing this very important and needed issue, she has been promoting this cause since 2015. Ana has been quoted as saying that “this clearly shows that we’re taking housing matters and issues seriously.”

These changes would streamline the approval process for homeowners across the city seeking to create a laneway suite – a small apartment or suite at the back of a residential lot that is separated from the main residential unit. Homeowners will be able to erect new two-storey structures or convert existing ones, such as garages, into spaces for living or renting.

Toronto has around 2,400 laneways spanning 300 kilometers across the city and most of these garages could be eligible for conversions.

If Toronto council approves the policy, Canada’s largest city will join Vancouver, which has railed heavily on laneway homes to increase supply in its hot housing market.

Vancouver has granted 3,000 permits to homeowners since first adopting a laneway housing program in 2009. Housing reports out of Vancouver are reporting 12 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s new housing stock came from laneway units in 2017.

If the City of Toronto goes the same route as Vancouver and l personally support this conversion for Toronto, it will increase the housing stock and more importantly, beautify these old ugly laneways. The timing is right for Toronto and making these changes to the official plan to allow residents to convert their garages is the right thing to do.

This conversion is also very popular south of the boarder and just in Los Angeles alone, about 400,000 single-family homes that had a two-car garage were allowed to convert into an apartment of living space. In 2017, California enacted a law that overrides local prohibition and allows any homeowner to convert their garage into an accessory dwelling unit.

Many of our neighborhoods here in Toronto have garages that can provide a new supply of small, well-located and quality units within walking distances of stores and public transit.

Converted garages can house students, new immigrants, guest and friends or work areas.

Garage units are a reality whether its for helping with our affordable housing shortage or housing that is affordable without public subsidies…. the time is right for our politicians to make this happen.

Kudos to Councilor Ana Bailao for her visions on this file.

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