May 2, 2018
By Arianne Robinson
After running his own business for 27 years, Chris Wallace has a dream to build a laneway house in the back of his midtown home.
“I have a cottage up north and I built a boathouse. I sleep in the boat house, I live in the boathouse. This is the closest I could to come to realizing that same experience but in the city.”
He calls it chance for him to get his “design and architectural hands dirty doing something that will be fun.”
Wallace has been following the issue for the last two years and imagines his future laneway house would function as a guest house, or as a space for his twenty-something kids to live in (who currently occupy his basement and attic).
“It’s not going to be a modern version of laneway suite because I’m going to try and match it up to the architecture of the house we’re in right now, which is a hundred-year-old Victorian home. But it’s not going to be too cute either. Gingerbread.”
Unfortunately, residents like Wallace need to wait a little bit longer to see if city council supports the zoning amendments to allow laneway suites. On Wednesday afternoon, councillors on the Toronto and East York Community Council sent the item back to staff for more consultation work with communities.
Councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon and Ana Bailao, champions of the issue, were found dismayed after the vote.
“We are a bit disappointed because I think that there’s enough time from now to council, like we do with so many other issues,” Bailao said to Signal Toronto.
“Other cities have had this for so long. I think that people wanted us to have the courage to approve something like this.”
But residents and councillors raised concerns over the zoning amendment including how it would affect the preservation of healthy or mature trees and how building laneway housing will affect the state of affordable housing in the city. They also discussed the size and angles of new units, backyard landscaping issues, and potential economic impact on the value of properties in neighbourhoods.
Councillor Janet Davis was in support of deferring the decision. “[The new zoning] means neighbours will not get any notice [that a laneway house is being built]; neighbours will not have any right to comment. It means that that particular new house behind a house is going to go in, without any process that neighbours can engage in.”
Councillor Paula Fletcher also supported deferring the item for further consultation to “get this right.”
Fletcher also spoke about the affordability of both the building and renting future laneway suites.
“How do we make sure that people that are of modest income, middle-class families, (or) those who want to have this for their kids, for their families and others at… (get) a decent rent, that we can try to guarantee that? That we’re not setting up developers, in neighbourhoods, … coming in and someone renting that out with no social good for adding this into our laneways?
“I believe we can make it better.”
Councillor Gord Perks did not support deferring the item. In response to the concern that the new permit doesn’t have to do with affordable housing, he said, “[Laneway suites] will be either mid-rent or luxury units. I mean, my god, a separate detached dwelling…
“I doubt I can afford one. This has nothing to do with affordability.”
From March 29, 2018. Signal Toronto video story about the Toronto laneway housing public consultation meeting. WATCH on Vimeo.