Welcome to my blog on housing, culture, and design! I’m Steve Fudge and I’m celebrating my 31st year as a realtor and property consultant in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Housing supply has long been a challenge in Toronto, in particular missing middle housing which is a range of multi-family or clustered housing types that are more compatible in scale with single-family neighbourhoods (like the redevelopment of Davenport Village from brownfield to playing field over the past 15 years) than with high-density apartment or condominium towers. And because many City of Toronto politicians representing their constituent ratepayers in single-family neighbourhoods (which encompass 70% of the City’s built environment) have been resisting intensification and densification for decades, it’s made the creation of gentle density housing really challenging.
This is unfortunate, especially because much of the City’s existing housing stock in the neighbourhoods that ring Toronto’s central core dates from the 1900s to 1960s, which means a lot of it is approaching or has surpassed its utility and life span. Instead of replacing these obsolete dwellings with missing middle housing, for the past several decades they’re being demolished and – after following the process and protocol of applying for minor variances to secure Committee of Adjustment approvals to build at 1 times density – new significantly larger executive single-family residences are being built in their place. Many times, these bastions of urban infill are nicknamed ‘Monster Homes’ for their behemoth size and beastly price tags. At the end of the day replacing a modest bungalow with a McMansion doesn’t add to the housing supply, it just reduces the options for those who can’t afford it.
In times of challenge, there can be a shift in sentiment when a municipality and region have to re-think how to best use its land when the forecast is for the population to grow by 1.5 million people in 7 years. Accommodating more people without razing the existing urban residential fabric isn’t an easy feat but after Vancouver successfully led the way in allowing laneway homes as-of-right in 2010 the City of Toronto incorporated as-of-right Laneway Homes into its zoning bylaw in 2018, followed by as-of-right Garden Suites in 2022. Given neither of these housing types can be severed and sold separately from the Main Dwelling, in addition to creating more supply (for use by the property owner or as rental housing), supporting the sensibility of gentle density and providing property owners more options on creating the highest and best use of their own land, these two typologies invite more creative uses as well.
This Maclean Magazine article called “Are Garden Suites Part Of The Housing Crisis Solution?” shares how homeowners are reportedly using Garden Suites for outbuildings, as rental income properties, or as ways to shelter family or friends together – but separately. And living smaller is also better for the planet too, as this CBC article explores “Small Backyard Homes Could Offer Both Housing And Climate Relief“.
A Place For You & A Place For Me!
Fifteen years ago when I was in my early 40s, I suggested to one of my best friends we buy a multi-unit dwelling together to age in place when we grew old. And to his credit, he instantly saw the upside of a joint purchase. It would increase the budget and purchasing power, spread the time and energy required to manage a property located to one of shared responsibility, and mitigate financial risk should unforeseen circumstances impact our personal or professional lives. As our conversations progressed, the idea was we co-purchase a triplex so it offered us a range of flexibility in terms of income generation and personal use that could change over time. To begin, the 3 suites would be in the rental pool with a focus on reducing debt and building equity. Later, in our Golden Girl years, James and I could each occupy an apartment to Age In Place while the third apartment covered expenses. “Why Not?” I said, “We can grow old under the same roof and yell at clouds together!”
So we bit the bullet, and this is How We Came To Transform A Vintage Home In Charlottetown, PEI.
If Garden Suites were as-of-right back then, I suspect it would have been both an option and an opportunity we would have gravitated to. After all, how fantastic would it be to co-own a property with a best friend where one upgrades or rebuilds the original dwelling to suit, and the other constructs a Garden Suite to their specifications and taste? With a property having two detached dwellings on it, it would mean each co-owner could be ensconced in their own intelligent ‘just enough, but not too much space’ designed dwells, and it could be done at a much lower cost that each of them buying their own residences, like a Toronto condo.
I love that two co-owners could have their own private spaces but also the support of each other just steps away. Again, sharing in the journey, and the risk, is that much more enriching and comforting than navigating it alone. And it doesn’t have to be with a best friend. A Garden Suite would be a great place for an ageing parent, an adult child with their own kid, or even as an income supplement until you were ready to occupy it yourself one day.
We recently sold a property in East York where our title says it all –> Refurbish A Quaint Cottage + Add A Garden Suite – Or – Build To Suit On A 30.8′ x 102.5′ Foot Lot In Danforth Village. Knowing Garden Suites are as-of-right providing they meet the limiting criteria, we reached out to our friends at Lanescape who provided an overview of the possibility of constructing a Garden Suite on this property. Lanescape is a firm based in Toronto that helps its clients realize the maximum potential of their properties. This group of planning, design, and development professionals was at the forefront of the push to have the City Of Toronto allow the contraction of legal secondary suites. In their own words: “After 4 years of tireless effort consulting with communities, planning professionals, city staff, and municipal leaders, our dream became a reality when the City of Toronto approved and implemented as-of-right laneway housing by-laws in the summer of 2018. Over the course of our advocacy efforts, our expertise in design and construction was integral to our success.”
Lanescape’s modus operandi centres on thoughtful, positive and sustainable development, and they’ve become recognizable for their ongoing advocacy efforts, their creative approach to home design, and their reliability in delivering a product that demonstrates the highest and best use of a property.
In regards to our sold listing at 5 Holborne Avenue, they wrote that the criteria that must be met to be approved are as follows:
– it can have a footprint of up to 60 square metres (645sf) providing it does not exceed 40% of the rear yard
– if the Garden Suite has a second storey, it can be as large as 120 square metres (1291sf) with an optional basement (to total 1936sf)
– the height can be up to 6 metres (19.7feet) for a 2-storey build
– the dwelling must be 5 to 7.5 metres setback from the rear wall of the principal dwelling
– note side and rear setbacks and angular plane requirements exist for all sides
– the Garden Suite cannot be larger than the primary residence
It’s important to note that retaining the existing bungalow will dictate the potential size of a Garden Suite on this site and that if it’s torn down that, too, will dictate the size and massing of a new Garden Suite so the new buyer will consider this information as a guide rather than a promise.
If purchasing a property where a Garden Suite can be built as-of-right is an important consideration to you, give Steve a ring with your questions at 416-845-9905. It would be a pleasure to assist you.
*Title image courtesy of Lanescape, with thanks.
Seeking a realtor who knows how to determine the highest and best use of a property? Looking for a shelter expert who can synthesize all your wishes, wants and needs, and still accommodate your multi-generational family under one roof? Wanting a seasoned insightful knowledgeable credible friendly housing specialist who can gently guide you through the process of optimizing your investment property portfolio before you garner the highest return?
With a multi-disciplinary education in urban planning, urban design, and the psychology of housing and home, and over 3 decades of experience working in real estate sales, marketing and development, I am one of the few realtors who has not only operated in a real estate market that has consistently escalated in value for the past 25 years (outside of the provincial government’s 2017 intervention) but who navigated the 1989 real estate bubble, developed his negotiation skills during the first six years of the 90s as values continued to decline by up to 35%, and artfully launched the Innovative Space Marketplace specializing in loft conversions and unique urban homes the following four years while prices flatlined (also known as the lost decade of the 90s).
What’s happening in Toronto real estate since the Bank of Canada began increasing interest rates a year ago at a precedent-setting pace?
I’m Steve Fudge and I sell Toronto real estate.
If you enjoyed this blog, you may find these of interest too:
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