New Zoning Rules Allow Tiny Houses, Granny Flats Throughout Kitchener

  • 10/28/19
  • |          Kitchener

Changes being considered by council on Monday would allow up to three units on most residential lots across the city.

Tiny houses and granny flats could become more commonplace housing in Kitchener, under proposed changes to the city’s residential zoning.

Changes being considered by council on Monday would allow up to three units, including granny flats, tiny houses and basement apartments, on most residential lots across the city.

During public consultations on the new zoning bylaw, “The biggest issue we heard about was affordability,” said Tim Donegani, a senior planner with the city.

Zoning has a limited ability to affect the affordability of housing, but Kitchener is making some changes to make it easier to add units to existing properties, including small, more affordable units. The change will allow an expanded range and mix of housing throughout the city, Donegani said.

Downtown city Coun. Debbie Chapman says she fully supports the move to allow a wider variety of housing. “The idea of putting an apartment above a garage or a carport I think is a great idea,” she said. The boom in luxury condos downtown is displacing some lower-income people, she said, Having more low-cost housing options “would allow people to stay in the core that would otherwise be pushed out.”

Since 1994, Kitchener has allowed duplexing widely throughout the city. Now, it’s looking at allowing two more units on most residential lots. The units could be separate apartments within the main house, or a unit in a separate building on the lot, such as a tiny house, granny flat, coach house or laneway house.

The changes make more efficient use of city land, and allow more flexibility to create a range of housing of all types, he said.

The changes also set out rules for tiny houses. They will be permitted for no more than two people and must have a living space of at least 145 square feet, not including a bathroom. By comparison, the average house in Ontario is about 1,500 square feet.

Neighbourhoods with laneways, and areas with small wartime homes on larger lots, could be particularly suited for adding extra units in a coach house or granny flat, Donegani said.

“This will allow for intergenerational homes, where kids can look after their parents at one stage; at the other stage the parent can have a place for the kids to live as they get their feet in the housing market,” said Coun. Dave Schnider at a planning meeting on Oct 22.

“This is one part of the puzzle. On its own it’s not going to solve the housing problem, but it’s a good idea,” Chapman said.

Anyone wanting to add extra units would still need site plan approval to ensure the lot is big enough, extra units aren’t too close to neighbours, and that the new units provide adequate parking as well as water and sewer services. The city is requiring one parking spot for each unit on a lot.

While in theory extra units will be permitted in all low-rise residential zones, those rules mean “in all practicality, most semis and just about all townhouses won’t be able to accommodate them,” Donegani said.

The changes flow from provincial legislation passed in June, which requires all municipalities in Ontario to allow a second unit in the main building and a third unit in a smaller building such as a garage. Kitchener is going a step further, by allowing up to three units in the main house.

At the planning meeting, architect John MacDonald praised the change as a more compatible way to increase density in existing neighbourhoods than building highrises.

The zoning changes were approved at the city’s planning committee and go before council for approval on Monday. If approved, they will be applied to Kitchener’s 50,000 residential properties over the next year or so.

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