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Citizen-Z Cavan Young's 2004 film about the zamboni crisis





Laneway house notebook (10)

Feb.28, 2020, email to Chip Au,Housing Secretariat

Dear Mr. Au, I called 311 and then Toronto Buildings to find the answer to the question in my subject line. They referred me to you. I'm following up the phone message I just left for you.

I need to find out how many legal laneway houses and coach houses there were in Toronto/East York just prior to the new laneway houses bylaw. Those would be ones that were grandfathered or were approved by committee of adjustment or whoever people had to go through.

I assume that such a list must have been compiled in preparation for the new laneway bylaw. Please let me know where I can find such a list, or whether I need to go through FOI to get it.

I intend to post that information on my small charity's website, and possibly also to put it in a neighbourhood newsletter. Should I therefore be going through your media person? Thank you for any help you can give me.

March 2, 2020, response from Chip Au

I regret to inform you that I am unable to provide you with the answer as I am responsible for the administration and delivery of the new Affordable Laneway Suites Pilot Program.

You may wish to contact our City Planning colleagues who assisted in putting together the Laneway Suites Zoning By-law:


Chip Au, Manager

Housing Improvement Programs

Housing Secretariat

Tel: 416-392-0587 Fax: 416-397-9155

e-mail: Chip.Au@toronto.ca

March 2, 2020, email to Graig Uens <graig.uens@toronto.ca>, George Pantazis <george.pantazis@toronto.ca>

Hi there,I'm forwarding you the message I got from Chip Au (he is the manager that 311 said was the right person to find the answer I need). He wrote that he can't help and passed me on to you.My questions to 311 was how many legal laneway houses and coach houses were therein Toronto/East Yorkjust prior to the new laneway houses bylaw?Can you let me know if I need to go through FOI for this? Or if you have a link for this information, it would be very helpful, and appreciated.

March 2, 2020

We don't have that information available and it was not part of our study when we were creating a built form and process for laneway suites.

There are several laneway/coach homes that have been built throughout the years, some which predate the zoning by-law and are therefore legal non-conforming, and some which have obtained planning approval. We haven't got an inventory of these, though.

An FOI request won't yield you anything since we don't have the information.

Might I ask why you are inquiring?

March 2, 2020, response to George Pantazis

Interesting -- so the city actually doesn't even have that information. I note that Councillor Bailao said at a committee meeting that there are an estimated 70,000 illegal secondary suites in Toronto (one of the reasons, she said, for a push to enable legal ones). Your note says there are "several" legal laneway/coach houses in Toronto. Within just a few blocks of where I live (and that does not included Croft Street) there are more than a dozen houses-behind-houses, mostly on laneways. It's hard to believe they're all illegal -- but maybe they are. Does the city have an estimate for illegal laneway/coach houses?

Why I'm asking: our little research organization sees laneways as public spaces. So we've been following the story. And as you may remember from when I came to see you a little over a year ago, our house is one of the many that's ineligible under Toronto Building's current fire rules So that increases my own interest in the larger picture. John Lorinc's recent piece is apt.

Yesterday we had a second neighbourhood coffee conversation about the city's obstacles put in place against laneway houses despite the bylaw, and various approaches were discussed. There will be more. I'll continue to post what I find, and what others tell me about.

It's an interesting example of the difficulties that older homeowners in large cities face when they want to stay in their homes and their neighborhoods, and what people of all ages find when they try to keep their families (able/disabled/not rich) together for mutual support.

Thanks for the information about the lack of a legal list. If you can send me the city's best guess about an illegal stock of such housing, that will be another step.

March 2, 2020, respnse from George Pantazis, Planning

As part of the laneway suites study, Changing Lanes, we did not do an inventory of illegal laneway houses/coach houses across the City and therefore don't have that list. It simply was not part of our work program for that study.

March 2, 2020, to George Pantazis

....and I'm guessing that finding out about the popularity/usefulness/difficulties/fire safety issues of such existing legal or illegal laneway houses/coach houses/houses-behind-houses wasn't part of any other city division's work program either.

No need to answer unless my guess re no other city division having the info is wrong.

If I find out how to decode the fire data re garage fires, I'll send you any relevant info that I can turn up.

March 8, 2020, to Chip Au

Dear Chip, I found out the answer to how many laneway houses there were before the new bylaw (nobody at the city knows). Could you let me know how many "affordable laneway suites" have been approved by now?


March 23, 2020: Councillor Ana Bailao's upcoming motion about laneway house rules at the Planning and Housing Committee. read more


put the coffee on

Laneway houses were explicitly enabled by the Ontario Government in 2003. The City of Toronto passed a laneway suites bylaw in June 2018.


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Content last modified on October 17, 2020, at 06:08 PM EST