Garden Suites - The Trend Cultivating Across Ontario

What’s in your garden? While many continue to elect for the traditional spread of vegetables and perennials, there’s a new trend cultivating in gardens across Canada – the garden suite.

While the concept sounds like a structure that would be erected in the gardens at Windsor Castle, a garden suite – simply put – is a small-scale accessory home constructed in the backyard space of an existing residential property.

Similar in concept to a ‘‘laneway home’ a garden suite is a permanent detached structure that’s roughly 400-800 sqft in size. Unlike a laneway home, garden suites do not require a laneway, and instead allow homeowners to make use of rear yard space. Suites are typically 1-2 storeys, and must yield their own kitchen, bathroom and living space with utilities tethered to the main house, as if a stand-alone basement apartment.

While some garden suites can be constructed in a similar fashion to modular homes, depending on the current landscape of your space, suites can also be developed using existing structures, for example; an unused detached garage.

What are garden suites used for?

The trend, already seen popping up in other countries, and currently permitted in some Canadian cities, is largely a response to the need for more affordable flex housing in densely populated areas. It is a specific call to action on the province to act on the EHON work program, otherwise known as the Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods. The primary goal is to provide low-rise or ‘middle’ housing options in residential neighbourhoods, to better meet the needs of the community. Garden suites can provide a partial solution to rapid urbanization, the need for affordable housing, and can allow for multi-generational families to reside on the same property. Suites are also a practical option for investors looking to generate rental income or for someone who is looking for viable sources to offset their own housings costs.

What are the planning requirements?

Currently under formal review by City Planning Divisions throughout the GTA, by-laws and development standards pertaining to the construction of garden suites in Toronto and surrounding areas should be expected later this year. Although it is for certain that structures will be required to adhere to strict building codes, with emphasis placed on;

  • Lot size
  • Zoning
  • Maximum unit size
  • Minimum setbacks
  • Parking requirements
  • Utility connections.

An overview of the current review can be found on the city of Toronto’s website, here.

Thinking of utilizing your backyard space by building a garden suite?

Before you rush to your local hardware store, there are some essential steps to consider before swinging your hammer. As mentioned, the proposed by-laws and development standards are still under review by local Planning Committees in Toronto and the GTA, meaning it could be sometime before development plans can commence. It is also important to note that rules will vary between municipalities, so it is important to do your due diligence.

Costs are also a critical aspect to consider. Despite saving on land, building costs can add up quickly. As with the construction of most homes, building costs will vary, but can be upwards of $350,000 per suite – albeit less than the price of the average condo. From an ROI perspective, the concept is still too new to provide a well rounded analysis, although market history suggests that houses with income potential are always of value, to the right buyer.

Overall, garden suites are an extremely viable option to provide budding communities with more flexible housing alternatives, and if we want to see these suites sprout up in our areas, your input is needed. We recommend reaching out to your local municipalities to express your interests and support.

If you are in the market for a new home and have questions about how these proposed developments can work in your favour, our team is happy to help – as a qualified, and dedicated real estate team we can help guide you in the right direction. Contact us at [email protected] today to arrange a confidential call to discuss your needs in detail.