Part 2 of 4 – Tiny Toronto: Small and Simple Living in the Downtown Core



In PART 1 I discussed how tiny house living embodies many of the principles of the simple living philosophy: sustainability and conscious consumerism with an eye toward achieving financial independence. Beyond the pros and cons to this kind of living, the hallmark of tiny house living—the ability to customize a unique living space according to one’s needs at any price point—align with the goals of many Torontonians.      

This week we will explore how many of these specific characteristics of tiny house living apply to living in Toronto. Toronto square footage is some of the most expensive in Canada. City grows corresponds to an increased need for living space, resulting in often property and rental prices prohibitive for the average earner.

Out of this problem, smaller living spaces provide a solution for many individuals. In their quest to carve out their own individualized construction of living space, architects, city planners, students, and citizens repurpose space in innovative and creative ways that reflect simple living principles of the tiny home movement.

In this second of four series of articles, we will look at examples tiny living in Toronto and how these homeowners create their own unique living space. Our goal is to show a different and unique perspective to living, one that you might be able to identify in your own living practices, ones that perhaps you want in your life, and ones that you can identify in others’ living practices. Whatever living style you seek, Art House Realty, with our focus on curating homes, can help you to find your perfect fit!


(Images: onecravenroad.blogspot)

In the east end of Toronto, running from Queen street to the Danforth, Craven Road boasts one of the only tiny home communities in Toronto (aside from a couple of one-offs in the city). It also has the longest municipally-maintained fence in Toronto, influencing one local writer to dub Craven Road “the weirdest street in Toronto,” and CBC to produce a special report.

  The history of the fence coincides with the history of the small plots. “Tiny Town”—the largest collection of homes under 500 square meters—emerged from a land-dispute dating back to 1900, writes Amber Daugherty in Spacing. After Ashdale Avenue residents provided workers–others with materials to build on the back of their long lots, there was a property dispute over who owned the land. The city stepped in, annexed the plots and built a fence between Ashdale Avenue and the homes, calling the new road Eerie Terrace. 



Just as they fought for their property more than a hundred years ago, Craven Road residents are fiercely proud of their way of living, a pride that is embodied in their bespoke architecture. Many residents have since torn down the older structures, using the small space as a challenge to create the perfect home in the smallest space. These unique ways of living are represented in a street blog, and even a short documentary about the kinds of people who desire unique living. Among the condos and accessible to all the perks of core living, and themselves with extreme ranges in prices, this “The Tiny House Society” focusses on living according to one’s needs.


A developing phenomenon in many major cities, and one with an important history in Toronto, are laneway suites, a movement that shares some interesting similarities with the tiny house movement, both in terms of small space and zoning challenges.


Toronto has approximately 300 km of laneway space in the downtown area, spaces that lead many architects and planners to speculate, can be used as a resource to alleviate the financial burden on renters and buyers by creating more houses on the market.

Laneway housing is happening. In March 2017, a consultation report, “Laneway Suites: A New Housing Typology for Toronto” (prepared by Toronto planners Lanescape and non-profit Evergreen) was presented to Toronto’s Affordable Housing Office with the recommendation that the city undertake further consultation concerning laneway suites and develop a strategy for implementation by 2018. To help along the objectives of city planners, recent developments by the City of Toronto have taken steps to allow for these laneway homes to become legal.

These proposed “laneway suites” are houses that are either built in the space between existing houses or garages, or are garages that have been completely renovated as living places. Seen as a way to make efficient use of space for living, laneway homes are either completely self-sustainable (such as in this one), or is a secondary home reliant on a principle home. Either way, space is limited. As one builder notes, laneway living is always “a game of inches.”   

Moreover, since many of these laneway houses repurpose old garages, very similar to the tiny house movement, they are often architecturally unique, containing custom made design elements, for example, the Gradient House in Kensington Village.   

Keep in mind, this proposed laneway living differs from existing illegal laneway houses. As one sly renter discovered, renting out a renovated garage that is reliant on a principle residence breaks zoning by-laws and deprives renters of dwelling rights. 

ART HOUSE REALTY: Your source for self-designed living

Even if you do not live in a tiny house on Craven Street or own a laneway suite, many of your daily practices may correspond with the precepts of tiny living. New Toronto condos tend to be between 500 and 800 square feet. Whether you are one person or part of a couple or small family, space is going to be a consideration in these units. 

Here at Art House, we are tapped in to the unique living experiences Toronto has to offer. Whether you crave a downtown condo with a green focus or a laneway suite, we know the history of the city and the importance of unique living spaces for your quality of life. Our expertise allows us to source the essential elements you self-identify as important for your living space, according to our own range of prices and desires and living conditions. With our intelligent, smart approach to modern living, we can curate your living space!


Part 1: Living Simply In Toronto: Cultivating Space and Place

Part 2: Tiny Toronto: Small and Simple Living in the Downtown Core

Part 3: Going off-grid: How Canadians Live off the Land in Tiny Homes

Part 4: The World is your Oyster: Intelligent Living Around the World in Tiny Spaces

Until then, share with us what unique features of Toronto living you have witnessed. What do you love about individualized living in Toronto? How can we help you to incorporate these elements in your own home?