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New Garden Suites Proposal

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

Garden Suites Rendering. Image from

Recently, the Chief Planner and Executive Director from Toronto’s City Planning Department proposed an updated draft for Garden Suite regulations based on collected public input and background research.

The report was put together over the course of six months by six staff members from City Planning. The proposal is to provide recommended guidelines to Councillors at the Planning & Housing Committee, which the staff could use as the foundation for various public consultations throughout the Summer. The proposed guidelines can only be followed if all council members approve the recommendations at their meeting on July 14th.

We will provide a summarized version of the report and have attached the full document here.

Garden Suites

Garden Suites are a new movement within the City of Toronto that offers an alternative solution for housing. A Garden Suite is a detached building unit, often situated in the back of the yard, and is separate from the main house. They are often smaller in size compared to the main house on the property, and their purpose is to operate as a rental housing unit or to offer additional housing opportunities.

Additionally, the Garden Suites are meant to be “non-severable”, meaning they cannot be converted into a separate property from the main house, and they remain under the same ownership as the main house.

Currently, a key difference from Laneway Suites, is that the Garden Suite initiative does not require public access to a laneway.

The Official Plan

The present policies and guidelines allow the construction of Garden Suites in Neighbourhoods where it can be illustrated that the garden suite will respect and reinforce the pre-existing physical character of the neighbourhood. The recommended regulations would enable Garden Suites within Neighbourhoods across the city, to be subject to a range of criteria. As well as the Official Plan’s Built Form policies, the draft regulations consider the tests of scale, form, fit and mitigation of impacts within the policies for the development of the Neighbourhoods.

According to the Official Plan, it is stated that a successful Toronto is characterized by a city where housing opportunities are available for all people within their communities at all phases of their lives:

  • where no person pays more than they can afford for shelter

  • where the elderly can live comfortably and securely

  • where individuals and communities actively participate in decisions affecting them

  • where we meet the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.


Permitted Uses

Garden Suites may be used for living accommodations and home occupations. Short-term rentals are permitted only in line with the Short-Term Rental By-law.

Number of Residential Suites

The space accommodates a person’s living as a separate household unit, where food preparation and sanitary facilities are provided for their exclusive use.

The draft definition indicates that a Garden Suite accounts for a single suite of living accommodations.

Location on the Lot

The draft regulations propose a limitation on the location of a Garden Suite to the rear yard, behind the rear main wall of the residential building, to steer clear from the appearance of two dwellings located side-by-side on a singular lot.

Lot Coverage

Lot coverage provisions are one method used to avoid overbuilding on a property lot, and to ensure that rear yards keep functional open space, soft landscaped area, and outdoor amenities.

The draft proposes limits on both the coverage of a lot by a Garden Suite, as well as the coverage of the lot for all ancillary buildings and structures:

- Maximum 25% of the lot for all ancillary buildings on the lot

- Maximum 40% of the rear yard for the Garden Suite, up to a maximum of 60 square metres

Building Footprint

The maximum building footprint is the maximum surface area that a Garden Suite can cover and is related to the maximum lot coverage.

At their biggest, ancillary buildings may allow a floor area of up to 60 square metres. If parking is included within the suite footprint, the vehicular parking area would be included toward the total footprint of the suite.


Basements may be permitted in Garden Suites. No height exemption is considered to assist with the introduction of the basement; thus, a basement may not lead to an increased building height above the maximum permitted height. This is consistent with the existing zoning permissions for Laneway Suites.

Height and Separation Distances

Garden Suites can be 4 metres high where the unit is at least 5 metres away from the main house, and up to 6 metres in height, where the unit is at least 7.5 metres away from the main house.


A setback alludes to the distance from a building wall to a lot line and is meant to create necessary space between buildings and structures, and also recognize the amenity of adjoining yards. In terms of Garden Suites, rear yard and side yard setbacks are intended to tackle privacy issues and to provide sufficient space for soft landscaping, maintenance and repairs, drainage, and grading.

  • Rear Yard Setback

  • For Garden Suites, there should be a minimum of 1.5 metres. On lots with a depth greater than 45 metres, the minimum setback is greater than half the height of the Garden Suite and 1.5 metres.

  • On through lots, where the rear property line abuts a street, the minimum rear yard setback is the average setback of adjacent houses that face the street. If there are no adjacent houses the setback is 6.0 metres.

  • Side Yard Setbacks

  • The minimum required side yard setback is greater of either 0.6 metres or 10% of the lot frontage, and up to a maximum of 3.0 metres.

  • Where openings such as windows or doors are designed, the minimum side yard setback is 1.5 metres.

  • On a side lot line that abuts a street, the minimum setback is the same as the minimum required side yard setback for the existing house.

Angular Planes

Angular planes are a design method that can help limit the impact of building mass as height increases by designing it away from property lines. The proposed guidelines are:

  • Front: 45 degrees starting at a height of 4.0m, 7.5m from the rear main wall of the main house

  • Rear: 45 degrees starting at a height of 2.0m, from the rear lot line

  • Side: 45 degrees starting at a height of 4.0m from the required side setback

  • Where lot line abuts a street: None

Rear Yard Landscaping and Greenery

Garden Suites are meant to act the dual role of offering additional forms of low-density housing, whilst also respecting the critical importance of green open spaces on the well-being of the natural environment and the city's residents.

It is highly advised to maintain and where possible enhance the natural environment, as well as protect existing trees and greenery.

A minimum of 50% of a rear yard area, including the area covered by a Garden Suite, must be soft landscaping. Lots with a frontage of less than 6.0 metres will require a minimum of 25% soft landscaping.

The above soft landscaping requirement may be reduced by 0.5 square metres for every 1.0 square metre of green roof provided on a Garden Suite.

Resident and Emergency Services

To guarantee adequate access to a Garden Suite in the case of an emergency, Toronto Fire Services and Emergency Services recommend that a maximum 45-metre travel distance, with a minimum width of 1 metre and a vertical clearance of 2.1 metres, from a public street to the entrance of a Garden Suite, would be required.

Other appropriate alternative solutions are being researched where the 45-metre travel distance or minimum rear yard access requirements are not feasible.


The proposed draft requires no vehicle parking space for a Garden Suite and maintains the required parking rates for the main house on the lot.

A total of 2 bicycle parking spaces are suggested to be required inside all-new Garden Suites or within the required setbacks. There is no vehicle parking space required for Garden Suites.

Lawfully Existing Ancillary Buildings and Structures

Included under the Ontario Building Code requirements, conversion of a lawfully existing structure to a Garden Suite may be allowed if it follows the maximum footprint (60 square

metres), incorporated setbacks where openings are proposed and meet the minimum required soft landscaped area.

What’s Next?

Until its possible approval on July 14th, companies and homeowners cannot move further with their Garden Suites projects. Turnkey strives to keep you updated as we receive more information.

If you have any further questions, please send us an email or book a meeting.

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