The idea of permitting laneway suites as a way to address the city’s affordable housing shortage appears to be gaining some steam.

According to Coun. Ana Bailão’s office, about 400 Toronto residents attended three public consultations held to gauge support for the idea with the majority of those in attendance expressing a generally positive outlook on amending the zoning code to permit the new housing type.

A report on the consultations reveals that most participants perceive laneways as “underutilized areas”,” however some also expressed concerns that the additional density produced by laneway housing would “contribute to parking shortages and traffic and noise issues.”

The report also states that some residents were worried about the potential loss of greenspace and privacy if laneway suites are permitted in Toronto. That said, other participants said that laneways should be lively places with a diversity of uses, including residential.

“While some participants mentioned the quiet, peacefulness and privacy of laneways as something they enjoy others discussed how laneways can be active and lively, used as social and gathering spaces for neighbours and friends,” the report states. “Laneway parties, kids’ play areas and friendly informal conversations with neighbours were all mentioned as positive aspects of the laneways. For some, the laneway was perceived as being an extension of their backyard.”

Laneway houses are small, detached residences that are typically located behind an existing home, adjacent to a laneway, and serviced through the primary residence instead of separately.

Though the dwellings have become increasingly common in cities like Vancouver, they are not currently allowed under Toronto’s existing bylaws and are only considered on a case-by-case basis.

According to the report, participants in the public consultations generally felt that laneway houses should be no taller than the main building that they are located behind and should have their main entrance placed in the laneway itself.

The report also said that for the “most part” participants were also supportive of a range of uses for laneway housing beyond just residential. Some of the ideas that were floated included using laneway housing for offices, coffee shops, daycares and restaurants.

"It has been exciting to see such a high level of engagement in our own communities and across Toronto,” Ward 32 Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon said in a press release announcing the results of the consultations. “The input that our team has received so far is an important part of developing community focused guidelines for laneway suites that reflect the needs and interest of Torontonians."

There are about 2,400 laneways in Toronto, which cover about 300 acres of total land.

According to the report, participants at the consultations identified a number of potential barriers to the proliferation of laneway housing including existing development guidelines requiring that homes have parking spaces and the costs associated with the issuing of construction permits.

The public consultations were held in Wards 18 and 32. A citywide consultation was also held at the Evergreen Brick Works in December.