A “Garden Suite” is a self-contained living accommodation located within an ancillary building, usually located in the rear yard, but not on a public lane, and is separate or detached from the primary dwelling on the lot.

The Garden Suites project was one of several studies that the City of Toronto is leading through its Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods (EHON) initiative.

On February 2, 2022, Toronto City Council adopted the Garden Suites Official Plan Amendment and Zoning by-law Amendment. Through the adoption of the Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments, Council has put policies in place to increase the supply and type of housing available in the City. The new policies and zoning requirements will allow garden suites to be permitted on properties in most residential zones across Toronto.

Does your site abut a public laneway? If so, please refer to Laneway Suites, as they have different zoning and access regulations than Garden Suites.

Interested in a building a garden suite? Before you apply for a building permit, you must consider the following:

Zoning By-law Permissions

What is your property zoned in the City-wide Zoning By-law 569-2013? Does it permit garden suites? 

Zoning By-law 569-2013 permits garden suites, subject to various performance standards, in the residential zone category, including:

  • “R” – Residential Zone;
  • “RD” – Residential Detached Zone;
  • “RS” – Residential Semi-detached Zone;
  • “RT” – Residential Townhouse Zone; and
  • “RM” – Residential Multiple Zone.

Refer to the Zoning By-law Interactive Map to find the zoning of your property.

Firefighter/Emergency Access

Does your property meet the Firefighter/Emergency Access requirements?

These requirements are not contained in the zoning by-law and are instead determined through a compliance review of the Ontario Building Code conducted by Toronto Building and Toronto Fire and Emergency Services. They cannot be varied by way of a Minor Variance application through the Committee of Adjustment.

You must maintain:

  1. a minimum of 1.0 metres wide by 2.1 metres high either on your own property or via a Limiting Distance Agreement with your neighbour. Hydro and gas meters and other similar localized protrusions are allowed to project into this required 1.0-metre-wide path of travel.
    1. In cases where it is not possible to provide the minimum 1.0-metre-wide path of travel for emergency access, it can be shared with a neighbouring property, provided both owners enter into a Limiting Distance Agreement with the City of Toronto. Further details on what a Limiting Distance Agreement is, what it entails, and how to begin the process can be found at the link below; and
  2. a maximum of 45 metres in length measured from the public street to the entry of the garden suite, and a fire hydrant must also be located within 45 metres of where a firefighting vehicle would park in front of the subject property or at the intersection of a flanking street.

For more information on providing emergency access to a garden suite, please visit Toronto Building.

To get a general sense of your site, the City of Toronto’s Maps can be a useful tool prior to engaging with a designer, planner or architect.

Zoning By-law Regulations

Does your proposed garden suite meet the zoning by-law regulations?

If your proposal meets the zoning by-law regulations for a garden suite, you can proceed to building permit. Chapter 150.7 of Zoning By-law 569-2013 outlines the requirements for a garden suite.

The City has also created a Summary of Rules and Regulations to assist in summarizing the zoning by-law regulations. The purpose of this summary is to assist and guide individuals in understanding the garden suite permissions and restrictions found in Zoning By-law 569-2013. It is not intended to be planning or legal advice, nor is this summary intended to be an exhaustive list of all situations which may arise in the permitting of a garden suite.

It is recommended you obtain a Zoning Applicable Law Certificate (“Zoning Review”) to confirm zoning and applicable law compliance, which allows for a complete application at the building permit stage. For more information on how to apply for a Zoning Review, please visit Toronto Building.

A Minor Variance application to the Committee of Adjustment is required in cases where the proposal seeks minor relief from zoning by-law regulations. A Minor Variance application is required prior to building permit. For more information on what a Minor Variance application is and the review process for this type of application, please visit Committee of Adjustment.

Tree Regulations

Will your proposed garden suite impact privately-owned or City-owned trees?

The implementation of garden suites is intended to maintain, and where possible, increase the amount of permeable space on a property, as well as support, preserve and protect the City’s tree canopy. Please consider the following before submitting an application for a garden suite:

  1. A garden suite should not result in the removal of a healthy by-law protected tree. A by-law protected tree is a tree on private property that is 30 centimetres in diameter or more, or any tree on City-owned streets.
  2. Applicants are responsible for ensuring their application complies with tree protection by-laws and Official Plan policy, as well as the applicable Municipal Codes. For projects where there is a potential for damage to privately-owned or City-owned trees, a Tree Declaration Form is required. A Tree Declaration Form is also required to be submitted to Toronto Building with every building permit application to construct or demolish, as well as with every application made to the Committee of Adjustment.
  3. Where a design of a garden suite necessitates the injury or removal of a tree, the General Manager of Parks, Forestry, and Recreation may refuse the tree permit, in accordance with Municipal Code Chapters 608, 658, and 813, and the Official Plan. Where damage to by-law protected trees is anticipated, you are advised to contact City Planning and Urban Forestry staff to discuss how to design the garden suite without impacting healthy trees.

Do I need a building permit to construct a garden suite?

Yes, you will need a building permit to construct a garden suite. To obtain a building permit, the proposed garden suite must be in compliance with all applicable zoning by-law provisions, the Ontario Building Code, and tree regulations. You will need a set of drawings and information as required, completed by a designer/architect. For more information on the building permit application requirements and process, please visit Toronto Building.

Where is height calculated from?

Height is measured from ‘average grade’, which is generally “the average elevation of the existing or finished ground surface, whichever is lower, around all sides of a building or structure, measured where the building or structure meets the ground surface”. Please refer to Zoning By-law 569-2013, Regulation, as defined for ancillary buildings.

Can my garden suite be two-storeys?

Yes – a garden suite could be two-storeys depending on your site, provided it complies with the height, setback, separation distance, and angular plane requirements as set out in Zoning By-law 569-2013.

Can my garden suite have a basement?

Yes – garden suites can have a basement.

What is included in the interior floor area calculation?

Interior floor area means the floor area of any part of a building, measured to the interior side of a main wall, the centreline of an interior wall or a line delineating the part being measured. The basement of a garden suite and any “open to below” space is included in this calculation.

Note that the basement floor for the primary dwelling can be excluded from the gross floor area in a residential zone. Regulation

What is included in the lot coverage calculation?

As per Zoning By-law 569-2013, Chapter 800.50.435, lot coverage “means the portion of the lot that is covered by any part of any building or structure on or above the surface of the lot.” This would mean the entire footprint of the existing primary dwelling, garden suite or any ancillary building on the site would be included, as well as any portion of a building that cantilevers, and decks/platforms that exceed more than 5% of the lot area.

Are severances permitted for properties with a garden suite?

No – severances (a division of land) which would result in a primary dwelling and a garden suite being on two separate lots, are not permitted.

Where should my utilities be connected to?

Utilities such as water supply and sanitary pipes are intended to connect from the primary dwelling.

Can I convert my existing garage/ancillary building into a garden suite?

Yes – existing garages/ancillary buildings can be converted into garden suites. However, not all existing garages/ancillary buildings can support a garden suite, depending on their size. Existing structures are given relief from setbacks to lot lines and separation distance to the primary dwelling, however, are still subject to other zoning by-law regulations, such as height, floor area, angular planes, soft landscaping, etc., so long as the structure was constructed with a building permit. If the existing structure was constructed without a building permit, it will be treated as a “new building” regardless of how long it has existed and will be subject to current zoning by-law regulations. For more information, please visit our summary of the rules and regulations.

Can I have more than one unit in my garden suite?

No – a single garden suite containing a single unit is permitted on a property, provided it meets all the applicable rules and regulations.

Are the emergency access requirements the same for garden suites and laneway suites?

No – access requirements differ between garden and laneway suites. Please see the above Firefighter/Emergency Access section of this page for access requirements for garden suites.

What do I do if my property is zoned under a former by-law?

By-law 101-2022, the zoning by-law amendment to permit garden suites under the current Zoning By-law 569-2013, does not apply to former zoning by-laws (i.e., Etobicoke Zoning Code, Former City of North York, etc.). If your property is zoned under a former zoning by-law as a residential zone, please contact Toronto Buildings at 416-397-5330.


Development Charges Exemption

Section 415-6(A)(2) of By-law 1137-2022 to amend City of Toronto Municipal Code 415 exempts second, third or fourth residential dwelling units constructed on a single residential parcel of land or within a single residential building, whether constructed as part of or ancillary to the primary residential dwelling on such parcel of land, provided that such exemption applies only to a development of no more than four units on such single parcel of land. For more information, please visit Bylaws, Rates & Study.

Parkland Dedication Exemption

Parkland Dedication is not required for the one-time creation of one additional dwelling unit in an existing residential building or the creation of one Laneway Suite on a lot, or the creation of one Garden Suite on a lot. Section 42 of the Planning Act allows the City of Toronto to require new development to contribute to the expansion and enhancement of the City’s parks and open space system. The amount of parkland required from any development proposal is governed by the City of Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 415, Article III and is determined by the type of development and the location of the development. Chapter 415 of the City of Toronto Municipal Code was amended to exempt the creation of one additional dwelling unit in an existing residential building or the creation of one Laneway Suite on a lot, or the creation of one Garden Suite on a lot, which exemption for greater clarity, shall be given once, for the creation of only one additional dwelling unit on a lot Section 415-30(A)(4). For more information, please visit Parkland Dedication.

Garden Suite Monitoring

The Garden Suite Monitoring Program was directed by City Council at its meeting on February 2, 2022, when the initial Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendments were adopted to permit garden suites. The objective of this program is to monitor and assess the success of the City’s Garden Suites Initiative, including the effectiveness of the Official Plan policies and By-law regulations that permit garden suites through Minor Variance and Building Permit applications. It will review items such as the location of the garden suite, lot sizes, unit sizes, number of bedrooms, tree protection, soft landscaping, permeable surfaces, and garden suite design (including height and massing). It will also identify remaining barriers and determine whether any changes to the Official Plan policies and/or By-law regulations are required to aid in the implementation of garden suites. The monitoring period will conclude following two years from the enactment of the Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments or following the issuance of the 200th building permit for a garden suite, whichever occurs first. Upon conclusion of the monitoring period, the City will prepare a report that discusses the conclusions of the monitoring program.