“Garden Suites – Understanding the Impact” – Recorded discussion, key notes, and follow-up Action required before Feb. 2, 2022

The following overview is based on information from the Long Branch Neighbourhood Association, of which I’m an affiliate member.

Brian speaks at early organizing meeting for Long Long Branch Neighbourhood Association

Brian Liberty speaks at early organizing meeting for Long Long Branch Neighbourhood Association, December 2015. Jaan Pill photo

I attended an informative Zoom-based community discussion, “Garden Suites – Understanding the Impact,” on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022.

At that meeting, Cathy Colebatch and Barbara Mackie, co-chairs of the Allandale Neighbourhood Association, discussed their experiences with Garden Suites in Barrie.

Screenshot from Zoom-based community discussion, “Garden Suites – Understanding the Impact,” on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022

In their comments, which I found of much interest, they outlined how Barrie has modified its By-laws in October 2021. [1]

What Long Branch residents can do; please attend to this today!

The LBNA notes that Garden Suites “plus lack of control on land speculation will risk changing neighbourhoods from being resident owner occupied to investor owned.”

Screenshot from Zoom-based community discussion, “Garden Suites – Understanding the Impact,” on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022

A recent LBNA message notes:

  1. a) What is being proposed in the City of Toronto is too big to be affordable; Backyard Houses can’t be built without losing thousands of trees City wide.
  2. b) The “as of right” permission gives no tree protection and no warning or information to neighbours a Garden Suite is coming. This can impact your privacy, your boundary trees and leave you with the financial burden of removing your tree because it was irreparably damaged by the construction of a Garden Suite next door. Any disputes are left to the residents to pursue in civil court at their own cost.
  3. c) We believe this By-law and Policy is not ready for approval and needs to go back for further consultation and changes.

This By-law and Policy is going to City Council Feb. 2, 2022 to vote for approval or deferred for changes. If you share our concerns, email your councillor and MPP ASAP.

Ward 3 Contacts

Councillor Mark Grimes – councillor_grimes@toronto.ca

MPP Christine Hogarth – christine.hogarth@pc.ola.org

Garden Suites – Understanding the Impact

Below is a link to the recording of a Jan. 25, 2022 online discussion regarding the impact of Garden Suites in Barrie. Please share this with your friends and neighbours in Toronto.

Garden Suites – Understanding the Impact (Video Recording of Discussion)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKYX__5m3To

Here is a link for further information regarding this item going to City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022:

http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2022.PH30.2

A recent message from the LBNA concludes:

Highlights from the Barrie Experience with Backyard Houses (otherwise known as Garden “Suites”)

  • Houses in backyards (Garden Suites By-laws) were initially approved in Barrie in November 2019 in response to Bill 108, More Homes, More Choices Act with a stated goal to create more affordable homes
  • No one in Barrie really understood the impact it would have and the implications of what had been approved until the excavators showed up and started digging
  • Information was not available other than going through Freedom of Information
  • The character of the neighbourhood was changed because of significant trees loss. Trees on adjacent properties have to be removed by the neighbours at costs totalling thousands.
  • Investors are dramatically out bidding families looking to purchase homes
  • Neighbourhoods are shifting from owner occupied to investor owned
  • Investors are seeing they can charge rent for 3 units on a property where there was only a single family home before
  • Affordable home ownership and affordable rentals was the objective but not the result
  • Long time renters are being evicted to facilitate renovations and cannot afford the increased rent in the new builds. Investor activity is driving rental prices up dramatically.
  • Barrie investigated the affordability issue and found that affordability for rental units has declined significantly over a short time:

o        In 2017, 90% of rental units were affordable

o        In 2020, only 25% of rental units were affordable

Barrie Changes to By-laws

In October 2021, Barrie had to change their Garden Suites By-laws to try to address these problems. Changes made were as follows:

o   The size was reduced to 800 square feet (vs. Toronto’s 1,938 square feet currently)

o   Increased the side and rear yard setbacks to a 3m “landscape buffer” on the side and 7m at the rear. This respects neighbour privacy and allows for tree planting and shrubs (vs. Toronto’s 0.6 – 1.5m on the side and rear)

o   Height limited to 4.5m to help with privacy and restrict them to 1 storey (vs. Toronto’s “as-of-right” 6.3m and 2 storeys tall)

o   Basements are no longer permitted, to help protect trees (vs. Toronto permits basements)

o   Eliminated the minimum size permitted as the only way to make them affordable is to reduce them in size

o   Now subject to scoped site plan control.  The applicant needs to now submit pictures of the trees on the property and City staff inspects for boundary trees that will be damaged.

o   Scoped site plan approval also requires a) Existing grading details, services, easements and fences, vegetation and tree locations with boundary trees clearly and accurately marked b) Proposed grading plan, Zoning compliance matrix, Parking plan, location of walkways, servicing drawing, lighting design so that lights on the outside of the backyard house cannot affect the neighbouring properties and landscape design (vs. Toronto does not require scoped site plan approval)

Christine Mercado

Chair

Long Branch Neighbourhood Association (LBNA)

https://www.lbna.ca/

1 reply
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Note 1

    The stated goal of the Garden Suites legislation was to increase housing affordability.

    The Jan. 25, 2022 Zoom discussion concludes, however, that Garden Suites in Barrie have most definitely not led to an increase in housing affordability.

    The YouTube recording is well worth watching; the discussion is highly informative.

    Reply

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