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Garden suites now legal in Toronto after appeal fails. But opponents still speaking out

From CBC News:

Lai Chung Liu and Diogo Pinto had their extended family in mind when they bought a much bigger property than they’d need last year.

“Units with in-law suites are really expensive and very desirable by investors so we instead looked for a big backyard,” Pinto said.

When Toronto city council passed a bylaw in February that would allow garden suites, that sounded like the perfect solution. A garden suite is “usually located in the backyard of an existing house, but separate and detached from the main house,” according to a definition released by the city.

“The garden suite offered an affordable alternative to add more space to the house where we can accommodate family members who want to move closer to us,” Liu said, noting both he and his partner are immigrants and reuniting with family is important to them.

Their excitement quickly dimmed when the bylaw was appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) by a group of Toronto residents’ associations. This week, the OLT dismissed the appeal, saying it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the application.

The group that launched the appeal says it’s disappointed. It cites environmental concerns and says developers could take advantage of the bylaw, making housing even less affordable. But the City of Toronto says allowing greater variety in the type and form of housing in its neighbourhoods is one solution to the housing crisis.

Pinto says he and his partner were relieved to hear about the dismissal. Within the next few years, they plan to design and build their dream garden suite, which they say will be environmentally friendly and have a smaller footprint than their main house.

“In the end, this is our property … We paid for it. I think we should be able to do what we like as long as we aren’t disturbing our neighbours,” Pinto said.

This ‘won’t be mom and pop building something’

William Roberts, the lawyer for the group who appealed the bylaw and, says the move will do more harm than good for first-time home buyers, noting investment companies are already buying up houses to convert into multiple units.

“Now they’ll be competing with an investment firm that can see immediately they can slap a garden suite in a backyard,” said Roberts, who is also the chair of the Confederation of Resident and Ratepayer Associations in Toronto.

He says investors could charge $4,000 to $5,000 a month for the suites.