Garden Suites - Raising the bar for laneway development

Garden suites can help to increase the vitality of mature neighbourhoods by preserving original and heritage homes and attracting new people. It is a sensitive way to add another layer to the fabric of existing neighbourhoods. But there's more to garden suites than just adding residential density and using existing land more wisely in a growing city. There are many positive benefits to this form of housing, such as; supporting flexible living options, providing affordable options for renters and helping homeowners offset mortgage costs. For those who wish to live near extended family, garden suites can be custom built for elderly with accessibility in mind while ensuring everyone has their own space. These smaller living spaces support social, economic and environmental diversity in mature neighbourhoods, with minimal impact on the existing streetscape or house. 

While garden suites can serve many city-building purposes, for them to truly be successful, and for people to actually want to call one home, they need to be coupled with well-built, clean and inviting streetscapes - or, in this case, alleyscapes. As I am sure you are aware, the majority of the alleys throughout the city are in disrepair and are by no means a place most would want to call home. However a strategy to address the condition of alleys throughout Edmonton was recently approved and will eventually see the complete reconstruction of Edmonton’s entire alley network.

Below are a few examples of what some of our alleys currently look like, and a few examples of what our alleys could potentially look like with reconstruction coupled with attractive and neighbourhood sensitive garden suites:


To ensure that garden suites built in mature neighbourhoods are more sensitive to the existing homes in the neighbourhood, and to help alleviate some concerns associated with the overall massing of garden suites, three options for regulating floor area and site coverage were discussed at this week’s Urban Planning Committee. All options explored assume an increase of 2 percent in total site coverage where living space is provided on the first storey. Eventually, Committee recommended option 2 (50 Square Metre Second Storey Floor Area and 18 Percent Site Coverage with total building size limitations) as it was most effective in addressing concerns related to building size and massing.  

Our infill policies reflect our effort to prepare the city for 2040 when we project 1.5 million people to live here. They also reflect the value and investments people have in the kinds of neighbourhoods they live in today. It is a tough line to walk sometimes but it’s a tension we must be steadfast in facing. Infill and densification are a big part of Edmonton’s future. How we do it is the uncomfortable part. But I feel the direction given this week moves us another step toward building the attractive and compact city we aspire to.