Look out, Toronto! Garden suites are popping up in neighbourhoods near you! Garden suites are small additional homes on a property. And right now, they’re really popular alternative homes in Canada.
As of February 2022, building a garden suite in Toronto is now legal. But of course, nothing is that easy. Your property has to meet certain requirements to be eligible to build a garden suite.
Thankfully, we’re here to guide you through building a garden suite in Toronto and what this means if you are eligible. Keep reading to learn more about garden suites in Toronto!
What Is A Garden Suite?
A garden suite is a detached secondary dwelling in the rear lot of a property. But unlike other secondary dwellings like sheds or garages, garden suites are complete homes with all necessary rooms and utilities.
What Garden Suites Are Mainly Used For
Garden suites are mainly used for multi-generational living and guest housing. Not just for financial reasons, but practical reasons as well. Because of the current housing market, young people are living at home for longer. Sometimes, long enough to add a new generation to the family.
Garden suites offer new parents their own space without having to get a mortgage they can’t afford. Similarly, they are a valuable solution for seniors that want to live independently but need the support of their families.
Other Names For Garden Suites
Garden suites are officially known as detached accessory residential units or accessory dwelling units (ADUs). But, since those are both a bit of a mouthful, we’re going to refer to them as garden suites.
Some other names for garden suites include:
- Garden Homes/Garden Houses
- Granny Suites/Granny Flats/Granny Pods
- Coach Houses/Carriage Houses/Bunkhouses
- In-Law Suites/Mother-In-Law Suites.
How Torontonians Can Benefit From Building A Garden Suite
There are a plethora of benefits to building a garden suite. And not just for property owners. Garden suites have a much broader impact. They affect entire families, neighborhoods, and communities
Creating A Better Sense of Community
Garden suites can also benefit entire communities through multigenerational living. Closely-knit families coming together give neighbourhoods the potential to create a better sense of community.
Plus, when more people move into neighbourhoods, this means more community programs, funding, and involvement, further bringing communities together.
Improved Use of City Infrastructure
Garden suites will improve how the whole city’s infrastructure is used. In many cases, this will call for much-needed improvements and management.
With more residences, city services like water, power, and waste management will be used to their intended capacities. All this use of the city’s infrastructure means better management and sometimes, improvements, which means more jobs for Torontonians.
More Affordable Housing In Toronto’s Market
Let’s face it. The current housing market in Toronto isn’t buyer or renter-friendly. Real estate and rental prices have been on the rise for years. This increase put a lot of people, mainly students, young families, and seniors, in difficult positions.
Being smaller, garden suites offer affordable housing to those demographics, without the development and required space for normal housing. This helps to stabilize the market.
We previously talked about Garden Suites being predominantly used for multigenerational living, specifically for young people and seniors.
Yes, garden suites are extremely important for those demographics. But, they also benefit whole families, not just the new parents or grandparents. One property with a multi-level house and garden suite could potentially host 3-4 generations of a family.
A Place For Guests
A guest house may seem like something too fancy or out of reach, but they’re not. If you decide to leave your garden suite vacant, it makes a great place for guests to stay when your house is already full.
Garden suites offer all the comforts of home and privacy for everyone. This is especially useful during the holidays or when short-term guests turn into long-term guests.
The potential income a garden suite can make is the most obvious benefit of building one. Long-term garden suite rentals can generate up to $4,500 a month, depending on your neighbourhood and included amenities.
That’s potentially $54,000 a year. So, as you can see, it’s definitely something that will eventually pay itself off. Short-term rentals are allowed as well but require a different form.
Raised Property Value
Building a garden suite on your property will raise its value by tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars. Over time, should you decide to sell your home, you will definitely get larger offers.
This is another piece of evidence to make the case that Toronto garden suites are investments that will pay themselves back, and potentially even bring in a profit.
Is Building A Garden Suite Legal In Toronto?
In February of this year, the Toronto City Council passed a bylaw allowing certain properties in residential areas to build a garden suite. This is the result of many initiatives that have been in the works for years.
When Did Building A Garden Suite Become Legal In Toronto?
The garden suite journey first started in 2019, when the Ontario Government passed the More Housing More Choice Act. After initiatives were put into place, garden suites officially became legal in Toronto on February 02, 2022.
The EHON Program
The Expanding Housing Options In Neighborhoods Program played a big part in bringing garden suites to Toronto. This program is part of a greater plan to help the housing crisis and create closer neighborhood networks.
Who Can Build A Garden Suite in Toronto?
All wards in Toronto are technically allowed to build a garden suite. However, that doesn’t mean anybody can start building. Let’s talk about who can build Toronto garden suites.
Areas That Qualify To Build Garden Suites
Only residential areas are qualified to that qualify to build Toronto garden suites, as this bylaw is only applicable to neighborhoods and not industrial areas.
Most residential areas in the City of Toronto fit the zoning bylaws to build a garden suite.
It’s not just Toronto either. Other areas outside of the GTA are also hopping on the garden suite train, like:
What To Think About Before Building Your Garden Suite
Building a garden suite takes a lot of time and planning/ And that’s before construction even begins. Here are a few things you need to think about before building a garden suite.
There are no set property size requirements for building garden suites. There are different-sized properties all over the GTA.
However, there are space and prospective lot-size requirements that must be followed to make them eligible to build a garden suite.
Lot Size & Space:
Plan your design according to these size and spacing requirements for Toronto garden suites.
Lot Size Requirements:
- The lot size of a potential garden suite should be no larger than 60 m2 (645 ft2).
- Your garden suite and any other secondary dwellings must only take up 20% of your property’s space in total.
- A garden suite’s lot size must not exceed 40% of your backyard.
- A Toronto garden suite must be a minimum of 1.5m (5ft) away from the rear property line and 0.6m (2ft) away from the side property lines.
- All garden suites must be 5m (16.4ft) away from the primary residence.
Garden suites are intended to have everything a regular home has and be self-sufficient. This means having a bedroom, living room, bathroom, and kitchen.
This also means having the appropriate utilities like electricity, power, sewage, and water. Make sure that when you survey the prospective lot for access to these necessary utilities.
Most importantly, you need to think about your budget for this whole project. Garden suites aren’t cheap, so plan to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars at the very least.
Here are some additional things your property might need that might affect your original budget.
- Unsavory Site Conditions
- Site Sloping
- Tree Removal
- Upgrading Sewer & Water
- Relocating Gas Connection
Garden Suite Rules and Regulations For Toronto Garden Suites
Now that the property requirements are out of the way, here are some of the rules and regulations for Toronto garden suites.
A garden suite’s lot size must not exceed 60m2 (645ft2) in size. Heightwise, your garden suite should be no more than 5m (16.4ft) tall or 7.5m (24.6ft) for two-story houses.
Garden suites can only be located in a property’s backyard. They can’t be built in laneways, side lots, or front yards. Not much is known yet about the rules surrounding corner lots or dead-end properties.
Garden suites are meant to be used for residential purposes only. The only business that is exempt from this rule is home rental, particularly long-term. Short-term rentals have different bylaws and require specific permits.
Number Of Units:
Toronto garden suites can only have 1 unit. Basements and second stories can be built to create more space for your garden suites, but these cannot be made into separate apartments.
Parking spaces aren’t necessarily required for garden suites, but they’re something you should consider especially if your street is already sore for parking.
Preserving Healthy Trees:
When you’re designing your garden suite, make sure that construction won’t involve cutting down any young, healthy trees, especially ones that are protected or owned by the city. You can learn more about that here.
Emergency Access Requirements:
Like the rest of the buildings in your neighborhood, garden suites have to be built with certain emergency access requirements like the ones below.
- Emergency access passage to your Garden Suite must be a minimum of 0.9m (3ft) wide and 2.1m (7ft) high.
- Your Garden suite entrance should be no further than 45m from your street.
How To Submit Your Building Permit:
- Site Plan
- Lot Grading Plan
- Floor Plans
- Roof Plans
- Construction Notes
Here are some of the other forms you need to submit with your permit.
- Energy Efficiency Design Form
- Performance Compliance Methods Form
- Infill Public Notice Declaration Form
- Municipal Road Damage Form
- Designer Information Form
- Tree Declaration Form
Prefab Vs Custom Garden Suites
During the planning phase, you’ll also have to think about whether you want a prefabricated or custom-built garden suite. Let’s talk about some of the differences between the two options.
Prefab garden suites are made in a factory and then assembled on your property. This is popular for time-sensitive projects. Construction takes much less time and the process is generally more seamless.
- Size: A prefabricated garden suite is usually 37-65m2 (400-700ft2). Two-story prefab suites are rare, but can reach up to 93m2 (1000ft2).
- Quality: Prefab design quality is just as good as custom builds. However, this is all dependent on the manufacturer.
- Cost: Prices range due to size and designs, but the average is $150,000-$200,000.
When you custom-build a garden suite, you can pay attention to everything being done, and get the exact design you’re envisioning.
- Size: Custom builds can be as small or large as your budget, lot size, and bylaw requirements will allow. The average size is 46-125m2 (500-1500ft2).
- Quality: Quality is very important to custom builders. With custom builds, you have a say in everything, even materials.
- Cost: Custom builds clearly cost more because there are so many extra things being done. The average price range for custom garden suites is $425,000-550,000.
How Much Does It Cost To Build Toronto Garden Suites?
As mentioned, building garden suites in Toronto isn’t cheap. Building a garden suite can cost upwards of 30,000, depending on size, design, and other factors.
Here is a breakdown of the costs of building a garden suite in Toronto. Please note that these are rough industry-average prices and not a firm quote on our services.
|Surveyor for Garden Suite Site
|$2,000 – $2,500
|$20,000 – $25,000
|$7,500 – $10,000
|Permits, Form Fees
|$1,500 – $2,000
|HVAC Site Design
|$1,500 – $2,500
|$40,000 – $60,000
|Garden Suite Build
|$425 – $550 sqft
|$5,000 – $10,000
|$10,000 – $20,000
|$3,500 – $7,500
If you’re scared of how much it costs to build a garden suite, there are plenty of funding programs and grants that can help you out if you’re eligible.
- The Affordable Laneway And Garden Suite Program provides funding for up to $50,000 for applicable property owners. This allows loans to be forgiven after 15 years of tenancy.
- The Development Changes Deferral Program For Ancillary Secondary Dwelling Units gives eligible homeowners the option to defer on building loans.
- The Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) offers applicable First Nations homeowners up to $60,000 to build a garden suite for a senior or disabled family member.
- The Building Permit Rebate allows certain homeowners to apply for a rebate on their property taxes for new builds like garden suites.
Do Garden Suites Affect Home Insurance & Property Taxes?
Any changes to your home or property, like building a garden suite, will result in a rise in property taxes and your insurance premium.
Since the bylaw has only just passed a few months, we still need a little bit of time to find out how much it will affect property taxes. However, it likely won’t be enough to be a huge issue. The tax will likely be similar to other secondary dwelling units like detached garages.
Insuring your garden suite is no different than any other structure on your property. Garden suites don’t have separate policies. Instead, they often fall under Detached Private Structure or Outbuilding policies.
If they’re being rented out, garden suites can also fall under Homeowner-Tenant Policies. Either way, your policy will need to be updated once you’ve built your garden suite. And if your current policy doesn’t cover garden suites or secondary dwellings, you may need to have your property reevaluated.
What To Look For In Garden Suite Builders
We’ve covered all of the things that your property and garden suite needs. Now, we’re going to talk about what you should be looking for in a garden suite builder.
Garden suites are not DIY projects, so you’re going to want to find a builder that has these three things: proper licensing, knowledge/experience in building garden suites, and good reviews.
The first thing that a garden suite builder should have is the license to do this type of work. Make sure that you choose a builder who is properly licensed, bonded, and insured to build your garden suite.
Because garden suites are new To Toronto, there aren’t many builders with portfolios stuffed with garden suite projects. However, the builder you choose should at least have home or secondary unit building experience.
Reviews are social proof of a builder’s reputation. Look for good reviews from customers and some pictures so you can see the company’s work for yourself.
Many garden home designs follow two design themes. They either match the house in front of them or they feature a modern design.
But when you build your garden suite, it can be whatever you want. You can create your own masterpiece with the help of a good architect, building company, and designer.
You can count on Garden Suites Toronto to guide you through the garden suite building process and to create the most beautiful garden suite on your block. Be the envy of your neighbours, and call us today