Edmonton’s suburbs are defying density norms to embrace garden suites (also known as adult treehouses), as property developers entice homebuyers with the allure of extra rental income.
The affordable, self-contained suites constructed in the backyards of single detached homes contribute to a concept known as “gentle density,” writes CBC News. They effectively increase the number of dwellings in a neighbourhood, with minimum impact to current residents.
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The independent suites can also attract more amenities to the area, which may in turn appeal to buyers in the future.
Interest in garden suites is soaring across Edmonton, but there has been a sharp uptick in one- and two-storey versions outside the Anthony Henday Drive ring road, in areas generally considered suburban that has tended to be averse to density. In 2018, 59 garden suites were built in Edmonton, but only 10% of them were outside Henday Drive.
Last year, 125 garden suites were added, 26% of them outside the Henday.
Builder Cantiro Homes is constructing 24 garden suites, set in two rows of 12 behind new single-family homes, in the Rosenthal community of West Edmonton. Under the current zoning bylaw, residential properties in suburban areas can have either a basement suite or a garden suite, writes CBC, but thanks to a special permit from city hall, these homes will have both.
The potential doubling of rental income and substantial density increase “could become more common” if Edmonton goes through with its plans for a new zoning bylaw in 2024.
Cantiro general manager Gary Hoeft said the added density can only lead to better lives for everyone. “You’re going to have a greater sense of socialization amongst your neighbours,” he said, and it will also mean more voices to advocate for more amenities. “In subdivisions of old, that might not have come on as quick.”
The cost of a garden suite in Rosenthal adds about C$150,000 to the cost of the main house, CBC writes. Cantiro’s home+suite combos have all been bought by real estate investors so far, but Hoeft says homebuyers are also interested.
“Houses in mature neighbourhoods are expensive,” said John Wilson, vice president of Timber Haus Developments, pointing to a big barrier to buying a house and paying the mortgage.
Or rather, houses in general are expensive—even in suburban areas, he added. But garden suites bring options, since they’re easier to rent than a basement. “It’s a beautiful space that’s above ground,” he said. “It’s more like an adult treehouse.”
Real estate investor Linda Hayes, who owns a two-bedroom garden suite that earns her $1,900 per month, said new developments will have to embrace garden suites if the city “doesn’t want to keep spreading out.”
“Once you have a new neighbourhood,” she said, “why not get it right in the first place, is my viewpoint.”