Are Garden Suites Part of the Solution to the Housing Crisis? –

After Toronto joined the list of Canadian cities allowing secondary structures, many are wondering how, and if, suites can help address housing affordability.

Garden suites, stand-alone backyard homes that link to the main residence’s services and utilities, were given the green light earlier this month after the Ontario Land Court dismissed an appeal by a Toronto residents’ association that challenged a statute that allowed the construction of these small structures.

In a statement, the city said the garden suites would help address housing concerns in the city by “allowing greater variety in the type and form of housing that can be built in the city’s neighborhoods.” But questions remain regarding the affordability of backyard suites, which have already been approved in cities across Canada, along with other barriers to being lauded as a solution to the nation’s housing crisis.

Maclean’s spoke with Garden Suites Toronto Garden Suite Specialist and Project Manager Kyle Springer about the potential of suites to increase housing options, how he came to build them and what the future of affordable housing in the US could look like. Canadian cities. This conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Kyle Springer is a project manager and garden suite specialist.

Kyle Springer is a project manager and garden suite specialist.

Garden suites have only been legal in Toronto for about three weeks. Are people interested in building them?

On the day the appeal was dismissed, about 15 people contacted us. In the last two weeks, we have received probably 60 inquiries. So there is definitely interest. We are drawing and designing three garden suites at this time and hope to begin construction next spring. My guess is that between 300,000 and 600,000 properties in the city will be eligible for garden suite construction, so there is a chance that interest will grow substantially.

Tell us how you got involved with the Garden Suites.

We start with the alley suites in 2020, which are similar to the garden suites but have to abut an alley. Garden suites no. Since then, we have built two laneway suites and are currently building five more.

On top of that, I am very passionate about building and construction. He was in Lego as a kid and grew from there. I think with garden suites, it’s a really cool concept that you can build a house in your backyard, especially in a city like Toronto where we’re dealing with an affordable housing crisis.

A rendering of a laneway suite, which is similar in concept to a garden suite.

A rendering of a laneway suite, which is similar in concept to a garden suite.

Are the garden suites the solution?

Garden suites are not going to solve the crisis completely, no. But they’re definitely going to help because they add density to the city, and that’s the direction housing development is headed right now. The theory is that over time, whether it’s an alley suite, a garden suite, or even an addition, adding more of this infill development in low-rise residential neighborhoods will help with prices.

With HST and drawings, a garden suite can average around $500 per square foot. A similar-sized condo in Toronto starts at around $1,000. Much of the value comes from the land itself, and with a garden suite, you or someone you know already owns the land, you’re just building on top of it. It’s a bonus.

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I am 28 years old and I still live at home. Is a garden suite my ticket out?

It depends. If you’re partnering with a family member who has primary ownership, you might be able to strike a deal. Maybe cover construction costs or do something like rent to own. You couldn’t own the land because you can’t separate a garden suite from the main property, but technically the suite could be yours.

I’m 30 years old and if my parents had property in Toronto, I would convince them to build one and do exactly that. I know there are plenty of parents helping our generation with mortgage payments and home purchases, but this is a good middle ground.

What are people most interested in using garden suites for?

I’d say half use them for rent and the other half for the family, either for a parent or a child. In fact, we are building a suite for a retired couple right now and the suite is for them. They are having their children take over the main house. I think we’ll see more of this, especially for people who don’t want to send their parents to a retirement home. Garden suites are a good option because your parents don’t exactly live with you, but they’re still close enough for you to keep an eye on them and help with any health issues.

Another alley suite rendering, giving an idea of ​​what a similarly sized garden suite might look like.

Another alley suite rendering, giving an idea of ​​what a similarly sized garden suite might look like.

Let’s talk about challenges. How hard is it going to be to build one of these?

Unless there is another association trying to appeal again, I don’t see any big challenges. Once we get through the permitting process, it’s all pretty easy from there.

But it’s worth considering that with lane suites, you generally have good access to the construction site because the lanes are usually large enough to pass concrete trucks and forklifts. Garden suites, especially if they’re downtown, may only have a three-foot-wide driveway between the two houses for you to bring all your supplies and equipment. Therefore, you may need to carry each item of construction to the site by hand, piece by piece.

That’s a lot of labor. And time.

And logistical effort, especially in Toronto where the cars change sides every two weeks. If it’s not the two weeks where you’re on the right side of the road, you’ll have to walk across the street and block or dodge traffic.

What’s next after the garden suites?

I read a couple of weeks ago that the city is considering allowing people who live on low-rise residentially zoned main streets, like Lawrence Avenue, to build up to six-story apartment buildings. If he tried to do that now, he would have to go to the Committee of Adjustment and would have to do a rezoning, which could take years to complete. With entitlement zoning, all you would have to do is follow the city regulations and then apply for a building permit, similar to a garden suite.

One of the stipulations is that the ground floor would have to be something like a commercial unit, but that way you get a mix of commercial and residential in one area. We really have no choice but to find creative ways like this to add density to the city.

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