Given the severity of our region’s housing challenge, even small solutions are important ones. We must demonstrate that we are able to take an idea into implementation.
Published in the Toronto Star
Mon., May 7, 2018
By Paul Bedford
Laneway suites have captured the imagination of Torontonians. Over the last 18 months the City of Toronto has been doing its homework to understand how best to deliver tiny homes in a way that meets the needs of our growing city.
With leadership from Deputy Mayor Ana Bailao and Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, laneway suites has gone from an interesting idea to a set of guidelines that are being considered by council in June.
Our housing crisis in the GTA affects everyone in some way — either an issue of affordability, access to amenities, our ability to age in place or grow our families. It is clear Torontonians across the income spectrum are having a challenge finding a home that fits their needs.
On a more optimistic note, the conversation on laneway housing has been productive. Over the last three years Evergreen’s Housing Action Lab has produced compelling research that supports the idea of laneway suites. In fall 2016, Evergreen, Lanescape and Crazy Dames engaged thousands of people across the city in a discussion of how laneway suites could fit in their neighbourhoods.
Consultations with nearly 4,000 people showed many residents view laneways as an important part of their community, with opportunities to be improved by creating housing, green spaces, gathering areas and investing in safety. While concerns of noise, shadow, privacy, parking, and servicing were raised, participants were eager to develop strategies to address these issues.
Instead of the usual gridlock, there seemed to be a positive tone.
Laneway suites are not a silver bullet to our housing needs. Should council support the guidelines, they are likely to only offer a few thousand small units, initial estimates of 100 per year, that will likely come online at market rent. It’s important we keep this reality in mind as we work through the details and requirements on homeowners seeking to build them.
Given the severity of our region’s housing challenge, even small solutions are important ones. We must demonstrate that we are able to take an idea into implementation. We will need many more solutions to be implemented quickly and a more robust ecosystem of housing options, which includes more and better supportive housing, subsidized housing, portable housing benefits, increased rental supply housing, increased density where appropriate and so on.
In order to get the best results, it is necessary that the public and private sectors are able to work together, have productive dialogues and co-design the solutions that will work for everyone.
Laneway suites will be considered again by the Toronto and East York Community Council on June 6. Reach out to your city councillors and let them know what you think. Adoption of the planning framework with any future refinements made by the Toronto and East York Community Council will provide a solid basis for moving forward.