In an effort to increase the supply of
affordable housing, Toronto City Council
passed a by-law last year that legalized second
suites, also known as accessory apartments.
Several members of the public appealed this
decision to the Ontario Municipal Board
(OMB), and as a result the by-law could not
take effect until the OMB issued a decision on
In April 2000, the OMB approved the
new by-law, but refused to allow it to take
effect until changes were made to address public
concerns regarding the exterior appearance
of homes with second suites, and the provision
of parking. City of Toronto staff have made the
necessary changes to the by-law, and the OMB
has now issued its final order allowing the bylaw
to take effect. As a result, second suites are
now legal in the City of Toronto in all single
family and semi-detached homes, providing
they meet certain criteria, including fire and
building codes (see below for details).
Following is a list of frequently asked
questions regarding the legalization of existing
second suites and the creation of new second
suites in the City of Toronto. This background
information was adapted from information provided
by City of Toronto planning staff. For
legal and zoning information on second suites
in other Greater Toronto Area municipalities,
please contact your local planning department.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is a second suite?
A second suite is a self-contained unit (rental or
rent-free) in a single-detached or semi-detached
house. Most second suites are basement apartments.
They have also been called granny flats,
in-law suites and accessory apartments.
Are second suites new?
No! In the past, second suites were
permitted in some areas of the City (York, East
York, and parts of former Etobicoke, North York
and Toronto). Some parts of the City have had a
long experience with this form of housing. As
well, provincial legislation, in force between
July 1994 and November 1995, allowed for the
creation of second suites in all areas of the
Why has it taken a year
for the City's second
suites by-law to come into
In July 1999, City Council
adopted the second suites
by-law. This by-law was
appealed to the Ontario
Municipal Board (OMB) by
a number of residents'
groups and individuals. The
OMB held a hearing on the
appeals in February 2000. The OMB issued a
decision in April approving the City's by-law but
directed that two amendments be made. The
amendments dealt with: (1) parking provisions
in some neighbourhoods in the former Toronto,
and (2) building alterations.
The final by-law was approved by Order of
the OMB on July 6, 2000. As a result of the
Order, the second suites by-law (including the
amendments) is now in effect.
Where are second suites permitted
in the City?
The new by-law permits second suites in all
single-detached and semi-detached homes throughout the new City of Toronto – with
What are some of the conditions that apply
to second suites?
Some of the conditions include:
- the second suite must be self-contained
with its own kitchen and bathroom.
• the house, including any additions, must
be at least 5 years old;
• the floor area of the second suite must be
smaller than the remaining unit;
- in most cases, homes with a
second suite must have at least 2 parking
spaces and parking can be in tandem (one
behind the other). There is an exception
for parts of the former City of Toronto (R2,
R3 and R4 districts) where only 1 parking
space is required for a house with a second
suite. Please contact the City of
Toronto's Urban Planning and
Development Services Department to
determine if a property is located in a R2,
R3, or R4 district.
- Before planning any changes to
the outside appearance of a dwelling the
homeowner should contact the City of
Toronto's Urban Planning and
Development Services Department; and
- all new second suites must
comply with the Ontario Building Code
and require a building
permit. Existing second suites must comply
with the Fire Code as well as zoning
and property standards.
How can I find out if an existing second
suite complies with the regulations?
The unit will have to be inspected by Fire
Department staff. There is a fee for the inspection
and you may be required to upgrade the
suite to meet the code requirements and other
standards. Contact the City's Urban Planning
and Development Services Department for more
information (see phone numbers below).
Does the City provide grants or loans to
encourage the creation of second suites?
There is currently no grant or loan program for
second suites. The City is discussing the potential
for a program with senior levels of government.
TREB's Government Relations staff is
monitoring this initiative and will inform
members if the City implements a program.
Will a second suite impact property taxes?
In most cases, there will be little impact on
property taxes. A major exception would be
where the second suite is created by constructing
an addition, thereby significantly
adding to the value of a house.
If you have comments or questions on this
issue please contact TREB's Government
Relations Department: Manager, Mauro Ritacca
at (416) 443-8100 ext. 8043, via e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org or fax at (416) 443-