Today was a special day for Toronto. City Council voted 19-5 to approve the new Garden Suites by-law. This policy will allow homeowners to construct detached housing in back yards across the entire city.
Our city has been mired by NIMBYism for as long as I have been a professional architect. It was depressing. But today, city council literally said YES IN MY BACK YARD to something.
The idea of laneway suites in Toronto came entirely from the private sector. I know because I was there. Its most recent iteration was introduced by our office in 2015, and back then most of city council and staff were completely unaware of the typology. My, how the tides have turned.
Since the laneway suite policy was enacted in 2018, Councilors Bailao and Bradford have initiated a slew of housing policies that are unlocking our low-rise neighbourhoods in new and innovative ways. They lead the charge on garden suites along with a very talented group of planning staff from inside the walls of city hall.
Today, most councilors gave impassioned speeches about how important this is going to be in curbing our housing inequities and empowering our current and future homeowners to be the change we need in our city. They were advocating for something new and different. That is shocking! Especially considering this is related to housing in neighbourhoods – the most sacred totem of voters and activists.
The garden suites initiative has been the exemplification of civic leadership. It was imagined by politicians and created by staff, and it is truly impressive.
This feels like a paradigm shift. Toronto is catching up to the rest of the world, and soon we will be far ahead. YES IN MY BACK YARD!
– Craig Race, Co-founder and Architect