The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) is throwing its support behind a proposal made by the city last year to transform its laneway space into residential properties.

On June 26, 2018, City Council voted to allow laneway suites within the boundaries of the Toronto and East York District. This immediately opened up more than 300 kilometres of unused space homeowners and developers could use to build single family dwellings, known as laneway suites.

What are they?

A laneway suite, as defined by the city, is a self-contained residential unit, subordinate to a primary dwelling. It has to have both a kitchen and bathroom facility. It also has to be on a lot within an ancillary building that is adjacent to a public laneway.

Essentially, these suites would be built in place of where residents would normally have a garage that is accessible through a back laneway.

Toronto’s housing crisis

Whether it comes to supply or costs, Toronto’s real estate market has been getting tighter. Mostly driven by low interest rates, in the last 10 years home prices have seen double digit growth year-after-year.

Additionally, Toronto continues to be a landing place for people across the country and the world, looking for better job opportunities and career growth. The latest data from the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC), says Toronto has one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the country at 1.1%. The laneway home proposal is hoping to alleviate some of that housing stress.

TREB support

Now Canadas’s largest real estate board is throwing its support behind the initiative. They have been a vocal supporter of increasing the housing supply in Toronto and across the GTA.

In a July 2019 statement, TREB said they view this initiative as an important part of strategies to address housing supply issues in Toronto. TREB President Michael Collins said: “Ensuring adequate, affordable, and appropriate housing supply is a priority for TREB and our Members. This is why TREB supported City Council’s actions, last year, which allowed for laneway suites in the Toronto and East York District, and why we are supporting the current recommended changes to expand this to the whole City.”

TREB believes that laneway suites can help improve affordability, foster home ownership, and increase the supply of rental housing also.

Laneway suites slow to start

Despite the allowance for laneway homes being made a year ago and support from Canada’s largest real estate board, the idea has not seen much pick up.

The city says it has issued 12 permits and is reviewing 25 other applications. They add that at least 130 applications are in the early stages of the process. The city does believe that the idea will pick up popularity as it gets expanded to the whole of Toronto and as more units are built and residents start seeing the benefits of them.

In the meantime, the City of Toronto continues to encourage applications from those who own a home on a laneway to build a laneway home. It could be an excellent way to create an income suite while also helping alleviate the housing shortage in the city.

Rubina Ahmed-Haq

Rubina Ahmed-Haq is a financial journalist and personal finance expert with more than 15 years of experience. Her career spans three continents with appearances on TV, radio, print and online. She is the Finance Editor for HOMES Publishing. You can also read her columns in CondoLife and Active Life. Rubina runs the website www.AlwaysSaveMoney.ca. She has also contributed on personal finance matters at The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, National Post, CTV Newschannel, Mississauga Life Magazine, Masalamomma.ca, OurKidsMedia, CAA Magazine, South Asian Focus TV, ANOKHI Magazine, Bridal Fantasy Magazine, Canadian Running Magazine, FRESH JUICE magazine and NEWSTALK 1010.

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