At its meeting on February 2, 2022, Toronto City Council expanded permissions to allow residents to build garden suites on residential properties in the City. Garden suites, like laneway suites, are generally smaller than the main house on the lot. The By-law is currently under appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal and not yet in force.

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.

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

Please be advised that the By-law is currently under appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal and is not yet in force.

Summary of Rules and Regulations

The purpose of this summary is to provide assistance and guidance to individuals in the understanding of the general garden suite provisions of Zoning By-law 569-2013, and 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.

Garden Suite Programs

As part of the laneway and garden suite initiatives, the City launched two programs to encourage eligible property owners to develop secondary/ancillary dwelling units: the Development Charges (DC) Deferral Program for Ancillary Secondary Dwelling Units and the Affordable Laneway and Garden Suite Program.

The DC Deferral Program for Ancillary Secondary Dwelling Units allows for a DC deferral for eligible property owners developing a secondary dwelling unit at the rear of a property.

The Affordable Laneway and Garden Suite Program provides funding in form of a forgivable loan of up to $50,000 for eligible property owners developing a laneway or garden suite. The loan will be forgiven in 15 years from the date when the first tenant occupies the laneway suite. The rent being charged cannot exceed the City of Toronto Average Market Rent, by bedroom type at any time during the 15 year affordability period.

More information about Garden Suite programs is available.

Apply for a Building Permit to Construct a Garden Suite

Ready to apply for a building permit? More information about the building permit process and what documentation is required to file your building permit application is available.

Interested in a building a garden suite? The City of Toronto allows the construction of garden suites across the City on residential properties, behind the rear main wall of the main dwelling. Before you apply to build a garden suite you must consider the following:

Lot Size

While the zoning requirements associated with garden suites does not require a minimum lot size, not all properties will be able to accommodate a garden suite. Various factors such as the location and size of a suite, lot width and/or depth, the size of the main dwelling, adequate emergency access, and the location of mature trees will influence whether or not a property can accommodate a garden suite.

Ontario Building Code & Emergency Access

In order for the Chief Building Official to issue a building permit for a garden suite, a proposed garden suite must comply with the relevant Ontario Building Code regulations and the Zoning By-law. The provision of appropriate access and travel distance for emergency services, minimum building area and room sizes, as well as minimum required floor heights, are components of the Ontario Building Code review.

To ensure access to a garden suite in the case of an emergency, Toronto Fire Services, Emergency Services and the Building Code require a firefighting access with:

  • a maximum 45-metre travel distance measured from a public street to the entrance of the garden suite; and
  • a minimum width of 1.0 metre and a 2.1 metre vertical clearance from the fronting public street. The 1.0 metre minimum width must be unobstructed with the exception of hydro and gas meters.

The access and travel distance requirements are not contained in the Zoning By-law provisions and are rather determined through a compliance review of the Ontario Building Code by Toronto Building and Toronto Fire and Emergency Services. These requirements cannot be altered by way of a Minor Variance application to the Committee of Adjustment, and are applicable law for the purposes of obtaining a building permit.

Existing Trees On and Adjacent to Your Property

In order to support the preservation of existing trees, garden suites, should not result in the removal of a healthy by-law protected tree. An important part of the City’s work to increase options for housing in Neighbourhoods is the development regulatory approaches to protect and enhance the City’s tree canopy for all types of residential construction, including garden suites.

Where a garden suite design 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 there is a potential for damage to private trees due to the proposal of a garden suite, you are advised to contact City Planning and Urban Forestry staff to discuss how the design of the suite can be accomplished to protect the healthy tree(s) in question.

The implementation of garden suites is intended to maintain, and where possible, increase the amount of permeable space on a property. The zoning standards are intended to protect the contiguous permeable growing space available within rear yards necessary for sustaining mature tree growth.

When planning your garden suite project, refer to the following resources to ensure your project considers the protection of trees:

  • For projects where there is a potential for damage to private or City trees, a Tree Declaration Form is required.
  • Applicants are also responsible to comply with other tree protection by-laws. More information on how to apply for Permits to Injure or Remove Trees is available.
  • Trees work hard. They absorb water, clean the air, provide shade, reduce erosion, flooding and wind tunnels, and decrease heating and cooling costs. Learn more about trees in Toronto.
  • Learn how to protect and grow the City’s urban forest and apply for permits to perform work involving trees and how to report unauthorized tree removals and injuries.

Development Charges

The Government of Ontario’s More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019, exempted new secondary dwelling units in an ancillary structure from development charges, subject to certain criteria. As a result of the legislation, the City’s Development Charge Deferral program is no longer necessary for many garden suites. However, where a garden suite is one of a number of secondary units, or is the largest unit on a property (often in the case where a garden suite is constructed in the rear of a multi-unit building such as a triplex), the City’s Development Charge Deferral program is still available. More information related to Development Charges is available.

Parkland Dedication

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 residential unit on the property, either as a new unit within the building or as a laneway or garden suite, from parkland dedication and parks levy fee requirements. More information related to parkland dedication is available.

Garden Suite Monitoring

The garden suite monitoring program will review the planning and building process, the overall policy and regulatory framework, and impacts to trees, soft landscaping and permeable surfaces. The review will help with understanding and responding to details of garden suites such as their location, lot sizes, unit size and number of bedrooms, tree protection, soft landscaping, permeable surfaces, and garden suite design (including height and massing).

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.