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  • Lindy Architect

Toronto City Council Approves Garden Suites

Today, Toronto City Council expanded permissions to allow residents to build garden suites on residential properties in the city.

A garden suite is a housing unit, usually located in the backyard of an existing house, but separate and detached from the main house. Garden suites, like laneway suites, are generally smaller than the main house on the lot. Garden Suites are often a way to create homes for family members – parents, grandparents or adult children – or can be used as rental housing units.

Through the adoption of the Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw amendments, Council has put the policies in place to increase the supply and type of housing available in the city. The new policies and zoning requirements will allow garden suites to be permitted on properties in most residential zones across Toronto.

The report adopted today also adds the term “Garden Suites” to the definition of “infill housing”, in Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 519 (Infill Construction, Public Notice).

With this amendment, people submitting a building permit application to build a Garden Suite will be required to post a public notice on the property. This move also facilitates the collection of data and monitoring of garden suites by the Toronto Building and City Planning divisions, similar to laneway suite construction.

The report also outlines the rationale for the proposed separation distance between the main house and garden suite and its relationship to maximum permitted height. It also includes a description of the monitoring process for garden suites and the requirement for reporting back to the committee after either the 200th permit for a garden suite has been issued or after two years, whichever comes first.

As part of the City’s adopted regulations for garden suites, issues related to privacy, shadowing, parking requirements, and protecting trees and green spaces are also addressed. City staff gathered input from the public and industry stakeholders about how to best allow the construction of garden suites in Toronto while considering these important matters.

Subsections 16(3) and Section 35.1 of the Planning Act require cities in Ontario to include Official Plan policies and Zoning Bylaw requirements to allow detached accessory housing units, such as garden suites and laneway suites, on properties with detached, semi-detached, and townhouse buildings.

Prior to Council’s adoption of this report, secondary suites were permitted city-wide within a detached house, semi-detached house, or rowhouse. However, only properties next to a public lane allowed an additional residential unit within an ancillary building, known as a laneway suite.

The Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw amendments for garden suites allow for the construction of an additional residential unit on residential properties that are not located on a public lane, in accordance with the requirements of the Planning Act.

The introduction of garden suites across the city adds a new form of housing to the range of housing permitted across Toronto’s neighbourhoods, increasing both the variety and type of housing available in these areas for residents. Increasing the number and variety of housing in the city is critical to addressing Toronto’s housing needs, providing more housing options for people at different ages, household structures, and incomes, for people to move within their current neighbourhood to support generational housing turnover, and for new residents to find a home.

While many lots in the city may accommodate a garden suite, not every property is suitable for one. Various factors will influence whether a property can accommodate a garden suite, such as lot width or depth, location and depth of the main house, adequate emergency access, and the location of protected trees. The regulations have been designed so that the size and setbacks of a garden suite are relative to the scale of the property and the size and location of the main house.

The Garden Suites project is one of several initiatives led by the City through its Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods (EHON) initiative. The EHON initiative is working to facilitate more low-rise housing in residential neighbourhoods to meet the needs of our growing city. The City continues to expand housing forms in Toronto, ranging from laneway and garden suites to duplexes, triplexes, and low-rise walk-up apartments. The initiative is one solution among a range of City initiatives necessary to increase housing choice and access, and create a more equitable, sustainable city.

Read the Garden Suites report, adopted by City Council.

Information about other studies currently under review as part of the City’s Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods initiative is also available on the City’s website.


“The Garden Suites regulations approved today represent a ‘Made In Toronto’ solution with sensible regulations to protect neighbours, trees/greenspace and create options for multigenerational housing through ‘gentle density.’ This is one of the ways we can get more housing options built and part of the City’s Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods plan. We want to help people grow more housing options in neighbourhoods across Toronto. That’s why we introduced a sensible plan to permit Garden Suites to help people build this type of new housing on their property. I believe this will help grow innovative housing options and cut unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy.”

–Mayor John Tory

“Garden suites and other initiatives to expand housing options in neighbourhoods are important steps towards accelerating the creation of a diverse range and mix of housing options to accommodate people at all stages of life, and to accommodate the needs of all household sizes and incomes. Allowing for more people to live in our low-rise neighbourhoods broadens access to parks, schools, local institutions and our local restaurants and shops and creates more vibrant and equitable neighbourhoods.”

– Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, (Davenport), Chair, Planning and Housing Committee

Toronto is home to more than 2.9 million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses.

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