Our recent laneway house project is in the news again. Laneway houses are becoming increasingly popular in Toronto – they can be a great income-generating space for homeowners, and they can even be used as an in-law or nanny suite.
There was a secret in the back lane: an old house, shingled and ramshackle but big enough to be home. It had been hiding out behind the proper Victorians on a downtown street for about a century. “There was something about the mystique of the secret house,” says its co-owner, Rochelle Rubinstein. “We wanted to explore what it could become.”
After an extensive renovation led by LGA Architectural Partners, it became a fine, bright and basically new home. But it’s also a sort of template for how Toronto could add a few new housing units, in its laneways.
This summer, the municipal government approved a policy change that allowed for housing units to go into back laneways in much of the oldest part of the city. The principle was simple: laneways are often underused and some garages could be converted into decent dwellings in walkable neighbourhoods. This comes after 30 years of advocacy by local architects and their allies. It’s a welcome change to the overly strict rules that govern building in Toronto.