ABCRA’s position on Laneway Suites

Laneways: Bring a neighbourhood perspective to Development

What follows below may seem long and technical – it is because much of the work ABCRA does with respect to development and policy requires effort over a period of time.

The Beginning

Bringing Laneway Suites to Toronto and East York District and Laneway Suites – A New Housing Typology for Toronto by Lanescape Evergreen was considered at the June 2017 Toronto and East York Community Council (TEYCC). ABCRA, as well as other Residents’ Associations, made written submissions and spoke. Concerns were expressed about the specifics of the proposal and scope of consultation. ABCRA had a particular concern regarding impact on neighbourhood character. As a result, TEYCC directed City Planning to “undertake an enhanced consultation plan, including specific outreach and consultation with local Residents’ Associations.”


Three consultations occurred from November 2017 to March 2018. ABCRA posted notices of public consultation meetings and encouraged attendance, participated in all meetings, and provided written feedback and comments to City Planning.

Key issues identified were:

  • The right to build without neighbour awareness or appeal
  • Neighbourhood character
  • Trees, green space, sunlight  
  • Privacy, noise, light
  • Traffic, parking
  • Safety (emergency & pedestrian)
  • Size & type of structures
  • Types of rentals

At the May meeting of TEYCC, the Staff Report and Recommendations were deferred to the June meeting to allow further consultation on specific issues raised by ABCRA. These issues included:

  1. Last minute changes not available in advance of the meeting, errors in detail, and substantive unresolved issues.
  2. Potential conflicts between any Site and Area Specific Policies (SASP) and/or Secondary Plan Polices and the proposed Official Plan Amendment 403 (which supports establishment of laneway suites and is a precursor to the by-laws). It was important to ABCRA as SASP 211, for our area, explicitly references neighbourhood character.


As a result of additional consultations between City Planning and representatives from several Residents’ Associations, improvements were made in a number of important areas:

  • Tree protectionsoft landscaping
  • Reduction in various types of encroachments:
    • canopies, awnings and decks reduced from 2.5m to 1.5m,  
    • bay window projections eliminated between main house and laneway suite
    • dormer reduction to 30% of vertical plane
  • Clearer and tighter language around Severance.
  • Clarified provisions that windows or openings are not permitted on a wall facing a lot line with a 0 metre setback and that a minimum setback of 1.5m is required for windows or openings to be permitted.
  • Recommendation to report on impact on street parking permits and front yard parking pad requests
  • Monitoring period reduced to 2 years OR the 100th building permit that occurs in Toronto and East York area.
  • Many of the language, clarity and inconsistencies we highlighted were addressed. Some were “housekeeping.”  Others were clarifications with potential substantive impact such as looking at lot coverage of ancillary laneway suites in the context of all ancillary structures, such as garage, garden shed, gazebo, etc.
  • Neighbourhoods in SASP 211, ABCRA area, removed from laneway suites by-laws which allow as-of-right construction. Looking at this new housing form will be incorporated into the overall SASP 211 update already directed by City Council on May 22, 2018.

Many concerns remain:

  • Fire safety regarding resident exit and access of fire and ambulance, particularly related to row houses.
  • Depriving neighbours of their rights:
    • 2 storeys as of right with an 8 x 10 metre footprint is more of a house than a suite going in the backyard next door.
    • It confers significant rights on one neighbour while depriving other neighbours of the right of notice, communication, and access to a defined resolution process.
  • Not encouraging modest homes that, while possibly not “affordable” due to market conditions, would be less expensive to build and still meet a broad range of needs, in particular the needs of seniors or a family member.
  • Continuing concern about privacy and overlook and blocking sunlight:
    • 2 storey suite as-of-right (size & height)
    • While windows/openings are only allowed on side lot lines with a 1.5m set back, there is no ability to limit or restrict the number or size.
  • Separation between a laneway suite and main house remains the same. We feel 5m is not adequate separation between two residential buildings even at one storey. It should be no less than 7 – 7.5m regardless of height.
  • No change in laneway:
    • Having a setback sufficient for narrow lanes to be brought up to standard later in addition to the 1.5m proposed landscaped setback
    • Recognition of the likelihood of more commercial traffic and its impact on narrow lanes.
  • We have not seen the Guidelines which need to align with the policy. We have seen inconsistencies between guidelines and policy and lack of clarity leads to problems in application.

At the June 6, 2018 meeting of TEYCC, Changing Lanes: The City of Toronto’s Review of Laneway Suites – City-Initiated Official Plan Amendment and Zoning Amendment – Final Report with the Official Plan Amendment 403 and By-Laws were adopted with amendments, and on June 26, 2018 it was approved by City Council without change.

OPA 418, the Second Units Official Plan Amendment, went through a separate process. It deals with second units either within primary or ancillary dwellings.

ABCRA actively participated both by attending consultation meetings and through written submissions and was successful in obtaining changes. Neighbourhood character is discussed in the report and now forms part of the OPA text and sidebar comments. “The proposed modifications to the draft Official Plan Amendment clarify the policy and improve the relationship between the recommended policy and other policies in the Official Plan that speak to respecting and reinforcing the existing physical character of neighbourhoods.” OPA 418 was approved by City Council on July 23, 2018.

Next steps

  1. The Review of SASP 211 was directed by City Council as part of the approval of the Downtown Secondary Plan (TOCore).  The new Downtown Secondary Plan focus is on development other than in neighbourhoods.  It incorporates many elements of the Bloor Yorkville/North Midtown Planning Framework, but there may be gaps between the two that need to be addressed in an updated SASP 211.  In addition, any updated SASP 211 needs to explicitly address new types of intensification development within neighbourhoods, such as laneway suites, coach houses, garden suites, etc. in the context of neighbourhood character.  Read more about this review HERE.
  2. Monitor laneway suite development experience with respect to outstanding issues mentioned above or any unanticipated positive or negative impacts.

Our thanks

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and Lorraine Hewitt, from the councillor’s office, have been extremely responsive, aware of our concerns, and have supported ABCRA throughout this process. Without their support, we would not have had as effective a voice in the process. Many thanks for helping us to be heard!

Also, thanks to other Residents’ Associations for their participation, sharing information, and working with their councillors. Without this collaboration, the important improvements to the proposal noted above would not have been realized.

laneway suite sketch.JPG
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