Some in Toronto Cling to Promise of Back Alley Living

A decade ago, a landmark study proposed alley-side infill development, or laneway housing, as a way to provide Toronto with thousands of affordable units. Despite significant obstacles, some developers and architects remain committed to the idea.

Alex Nino Gheciu examines how what was once seen as a promising concept for elegantly adding density to existing neighborhoods in Toronto at an offordable price point has been stymied by "zoning restrictions, lack of infrastructure and narrow back alleys that were never designed for homes." Despite such obstacles, the attraction of the housing type, which has proven popular in other cities such as Vancouver, still has adherents in architecture and development circles.

"A landmark 2003 study by architects Terence Van Elslander and Jeffrey Stinson found that Toronto’s laneways could house around 6,150 new homes. What’s more, they said, those homes could be built on the cheap — $100,000 each — without altering the streetscape of neighbourhoods, as they could be built on existing infrastructure."

"Nowadays, Van Elslander is a lot more cynical. A stricter approval process has made building a laneway house in Toronto 'an impossibility,' he says. Years can be spent seeking consent for the projects from various municipal departments. Meanwhile, getting the alleys serviced can cost 'tens of thousands of dollars.'"

"While Van Elsander’s study championed tiny laneway houses as an unrealized source of affordable housing in Toronto, it’s often only those with the time and money to meet the technical requirements who wind up living in them."

Full Story: Can living in laneways fix Toronto’s density issues?

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