The Independent Small Business and Community Services Survey is now closed.

Small-scale retail, service and office uses support daily life in Neighbourhoods and encourage complete, connected communities, contributing to amenity, sustainability, equity, diversity and vitality.

As part of the Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods initiative, the City of Toronto is investigating ways to support the preservation and growth of these uses for existing and future residents of the City’s designated Neighbourhoods.

Small-Scale Retail, Service and Office Uses

Some examples of these commercial uses in Neighbourhoods include small grocery or convenience stores, dry cleaners, cafes, medical services such as physiotherapy, and personal services such as a barber or tailor, as well as home offices, private home daycares and community gathering spaces, including art galleries and social services.

In the former City of Toronto, these uses in Neighbourhoods are typically found in one to three storey buildings, often with residential uses in same building – above, beside or behind the commercial use. In Etobicoke, York, North York and Scarborough, they are often found in small plazas without residential permissions, as well as some standalone stores.

Throughout Toronto, some of these uses can also be found in home-based businesses, defined as “Home Occupations” in the Zoning By-law.

Study Area – Neighbourhoods

This project is focussed on the parts of the City designated as Neighbourhood in the City of Toronto Official Plan Land Use Maps. The Official Plan has eleven different land use designations. Neighbourhoods occupy approximately 35.4% of the City’s land area, the most of any land use designation.  The map below shows the areas designated as Neighbourhoods.

Major Streets and Neighbourhoods

While many Neighbourhood-designated properties are on smaller, local streets, there are also a significant number on the wider, more active streets described as Major Streets on Official Plan Map 3. The map below shows only the areas designated as Neighbourhoods which border on these major streets. These parcels may provide greater opportunities for small-scale retail, service and office uses.

This work, initiated in Fall 2021, is exploring potential Official Plan policy and Zoning updates related to retail services and other local amenities that would:

  • Address access to services and amenities for residents of diverse ages, abilities and backgrounds;
  • Provide choice and convenience for local area residents;
  • Support Neighbourhood growth and change as new housing options provide opportunities for existing and future residents; for example, facilitating retail options in low-rise buildings;
  • Reduce barriers for new businesses seeking to serve local residents in Neighbourhoods;
  • Contribute to the economic and cultural vitality and diversity of the City of Toronto by providing jobs and economic opportunities in Neighbourhoods; and
  • Complement Mixed-Use main streets and retail shopping centres

These types of local retail and services have declined over the past few decades.

Retail and Service Establishments in Neighbourhoods
1989 2019 Change % Change
2137 1406 -731 -34%

Phase 1 – 2022 – Complete

On July 19, 2022, City Council adopted a report and Official Plan Amendment (By-law 819-2022) expanding Neighbourhood Retail and Services Uses and a zoning by-law amendment (By-law 820-2022) expanding Home Occupation uses in low-rise Neighbourhoods across the city. The amendments are now in full force and effect.

Phase 2 – 2022 to 2024

Further research and consultations with businesses, community groups, residents and City divisions on the matters listed below to inform an additional report and recommendations in 2024:


  • Local retail and service uses: consider new permissions for these uses in residential zones, including appropriate locations, performance standards (size for example) in cooperation with other EHON study teams such as the Major Streets team.
  • Home Occupation: Potential benefits of permitting additional uses.
  • Commercial Local (“CL”) Zoned Plazas: Potential for limited residential permissions, and other tools for support.

Consultation with other City divisions

  • Economic Development and Culture, Corporate Finance:
    Explore economic and policy tools for supporting Neighbourhood retail and services.
  • Toronto Building, Municipal Licensing and Standards:
    Explore implications and potential changes regarding the Sign Bylaw, Business Licenses, and other processes.

As Neighbourhood Major Streets may support opportunities for neighbourhood retail and service uses, staff advancing this initiative are working collaboratively with staff engaged on the Major Streets Study.