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From back of house to front of house

Daniel Foch, Daniel Clark, and Adam Darvay recently stopped by Mackay Laneway House to film a last-minute video tour before the new tenants move in. They had quite the rig setup (see above). There was also a drone flying around that is not pictured here. The full house tour should be available in about two weeks and I’ll be sure to share here on the blog.

One of the things we talked about during the tour was the future of laneway housing in Toronto. Will we see strong adoption going forward and, if yes, what does that mean for Toronto’s laneways? I think we will continue to see a steady increase in the number of laneway suites that get built in Toronto each year. And so eventually this form of living will become a ubiquitous part of the urban landscape. It’s happening fast.

Now consider what this could mean for Toronto’s laneways. As garages and parking spaces get slowly replaced by new housing, it will mean that our laneways could at some point flip from being vehicle first to pedestrian first. Mackay Laneway House does not have any vehicular parking. The front door is off the laneway. You enter on foot. That’s how you experience the lane. And Gabriel and I thought it should be celebrated.

If or when this tipping point occurs, it will trigger a perception change. Slowly but surely we will start to think of our lanes not as back of house, but as front of house. And when that happens, it’ll almost certainly force us to rethink how we design them. Forget utilitarian. Our laneways have the potential to become some of the most pedestrian-friendly streets in the city, especially with a few streetscape and landscape improvements.

Pushing this idea even further, could you imagine a world where our laneways not only become more front of house, but where the laneway side becomes the more desirable side of the property? If we gave people the option, how many would prefer to build their main house on what is today considered to be the backside? (Remember how things once flipped in Paris?)

But for the fact that we have an entrenched built form that could make this “inversion” challenging, I think there are people who would prefer to have their front door on the quieter and more pedestrian-friendly side of their property. Either way, I continue to believe that we are in the early stages of an ADU/laneway housing revolution. And things are just getting started.


  1. andrewguido

    I like your vision Brandon and you clearly put your money where your mouth is to boot. Our laneway road system can be arteries, just like rivers feeding the ocean, and in themselves become a haven for life with their own heart beat. Bold move on eliminating the garage. Curious if it effected the marketability/rental of your unit?

    Liked by 1 person

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