An Update On Garden Suites In Toronto & Why It's Important For You As A Real Estate Investor!
Density in high rises has been trending up and density in low rises has been trending down, especially with an ageing population in houses. The latest initiative to even things out and gently increase density in neighbourhoods is the Garden Suites project.
Why Do Garden Suites Make Sense?
Instead of needing a laneway to build a house in your backyard, garden suites allow you to build a house as long as you have enough space in your backyard. These houses are intended to be just like laneway houses; they aren’t severable from the main house, and utilities are set up so they are connected to the main house.
Right now, it costs approximately $250 to $400 per square foot to build a 2-bedroom rental grade garden suite, plus design and permit fees. So after the project is done, you’re looking at an approximate out-of-pocket cost of $300,000 to $450,000.
You should be able to rent out the 2-bedroom garden suite for a similar price to a 2-bedroom condo, but the cost is significantly less. On top of this, the newly upgraded property should be worth at least how much you paid for it (and likely more because you put in the sweat equity), and then continue to appreciate from that point.
From a holding power standpoint, an accessory dwelling can significantly improve your cash flows. And if you’re looking to grow your real estate portfolio, adding a garden suite can help you qualify for bigger mortgages in the future.
Because the house is in the backyard, you’ll need to make sure it is fire-accessible and close enough to fire hydrants. In a garden suite, the entrance of your house needs to be a maximum of 45m from the main road, and then another 45m to the fire hydrant.
This is a stricter fire requirement compared to a laneway suite, where you can be 90m from the main road and then another 45m to the fire hydrant. You also need to make sure there’s enough room for the crews to get through between houses. In garden suites, you’re looking at a 1m distance from your neighbours, whereas laneway suites are slightly less at 0.9 m.
Although you don’t need any parking for the garden suite, you will need to maintain parking requirements for the main house. This is stricter than laneway houses, where there are no parking requirements.
The lack of trees is pretty important for building garden suites. A big tree over 30 cm in diameter in the middle of a backyard will be a dealbreaker.
When it comes to size, garden suite requirements are different, but not necessarily better or worse. If you have a lot that’s too narrow and too short, garden suites can be a no-go. Generally speaking, the maximum width of a garden suite is 80% of your frontage. This is different from laneway suites, where you can build all the way from end to end. So, with the same size frontage, lots with laneways could be workable, but lots without them might not be.
There are rear setback and distance to main house requirements, but laneway and garden suite requirements aren’t too different, so we’ll focus on where things get a bit more interesting.
With a laneway suite, you can build up to a maximum depth of 10 m and a width of 8 m. In a garden suite, the maximum footprint isn’t measured in length and width but rather a maximum area requirement of 645 square feet.
Laneway suites require 85% of the area between the houses to be soft landscaping, whereas garden suites are probably more forgiving, requiring 50% of the rear yard as soft landscaping.
What this means is that garden suites can end up being more flexible in terms of where you put them in the backyard, and you can definitely get more creative and come up with interesting building structures in long and narrow lots.
How We Can Help
We’ve summarized the key requirements for Garden Suites, but there may be other details pertaining to your specific property. If you’re looking to dive into the exact requirements for garden suites or laneway houses, we recommend that you review the City of Toronto by-laws and regulations.
If you’re looking to buy an investment property with garden suite potential, our real estate sales brokerage would be happy to chat. Just connect with us if you want to learn more about our services!
Want To Get Started With Real Estate Investing In Toronto?
We’d be happy to learn more about your situation and help you find the best investment opportunities for you.