The Challenges of Constructing Laneway Houses in Toronto
"House behind a house."
I have often been approached by home buyers who want to construct laneway dwellings. However very few understands the complexity of the process and the hurdles they have to face. From the sellers of point of view, sometimes these unserviced infill lots or structures become unsellable due to Planning restrictions by the City. Before the purchaser can commit to buy the property, it's recommended that the buyer make the offer conditional on consulting various City Departments before proceeding with the purchase.
Toronto Public Works has often opposed the idea of constructing housing on existing, future or proposed laneway, with the exception that there is no privacy issues with adjacent neighbours and any engineering implications to service these laneways with hydro, gas watermains. The City has been looking into more practical ways of addressing issues such as sewage/water, garbage collection, fire access route, snow clearing, postal service deliveries, and any related city services.
The City's approval process of building on existing laneways is highly complex, as step-by-step consultation is necessarily with Planning, Transportaion, Water and Solid Waste Management, before plans can be approved and permit granted. Beyond these practical issues, most laneway lots involve a severance of a rear portion from an existing lot. This inevitably will affect issues of zoning, setbacks, landscaped space, and the overall physical character of the neighborhood.
Whether the City will be in support of the application of the construction of a laneway dwelling depends on the physical context. Neighbours may consider the addition of such a structure as out of character with the overall neighbourhood and does not conform to the official plan. Some may even consider it undesirable, and only undesirable individuals will choose to live in a laneway.
Historically speaking in Old Toronto, rear laneways are provided for the purpose of access to parking garages. Municipal infrastructure is generally not provided due to distance limitations from the narrow laneways to the main front street.
Aside from clearing City protocols, buyers should consult with their own team of professionals-architect, engineer, and contractor to find out what additional cost may be incurred for construction and delivering services to laneway dwellings.
If you are thinking about buying a lot or tear down to build your own home, feel free to contact me to discuss the first steps. I would love to help!