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The first one was just to test the waters.
The second one was to sketch out the issues that need public discussion.
What was talked about:
- finding out what other Ontario cities allow re laneway houses, and how they interpret the building code
- clarifying the difference between section 3 of the building code (assembly occupancy, large commercial, institutional, industrial, and the like) and section 9 (small residential and commercial under 600 sq. metres), and how they are mixed up together in Toronto’s version of the laneway rules
- looking into the possibility of making the city’s approach a human rights complaint because of the blocks put up against creating greater access to affordable housing, including people with special needs and an aging population who are now effectively forced into larger extended care facilities
- thinking about the need for lawyers to help make the case in a way that’s taken seriously
- thinking about how to make a tight case that is politically attractive instead of politically threatening in case of a fire injury
- finding out more about costs, for lawyer fees, consultants, permits
- the need to untangle the different issues: distance from the fire hydrant, 1-metre-wide and 2.1 meter high gap between houses, the use of laneways for Fire vehicle access
- the possibility of collaborating with Toronto Fire management instead of arguing with them, e.g. by putting on a show-and-tell fire drill with firefighters, by getting Toronto Fire to buy more compact fire trucks, by enforcing existing parking rules on emergency fire routes and downtown narrow streets, by addressing laneway ploughing during snowfalls, where there are laneway houses, etc.
- connecting with people whose laneway house permits are disqualified or rejected by Toronto Buildings, and who have contacted architects or builders or neighbours – to build awareness (“I’m not the only one with this problem”), knowledge, and friendly mutual support
- connecting with the province about getting involved and fixing this situation (through MPPs, through the Building Code Commission, and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing)
- the possibility of using humour, social media, e.g. a video skit about the gap and the length of hose
- emphasizing this message for politicians and media: how the most important laneway house issue is that all ages and all levels of abilities in a family can afford housing on an existing lot instead of being forced to move and even, if facing challenges, being warehoused in institutions.
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