Little House on the Property: Ottawa’s Coach House Proposal

Ottawa’s Coach House Proposal

Are tiny houses about to start popping up in Ottawa backyards? If proposed new zoning bylaws gain solid footing, it will soon be legal to build and rent small separate dwellings, referred to as ‘coach houses’, under certain conditions.

These units may offer solutions to many dilemmas facing homeowners and buyers, such as the need to accommodate grown children, caregivers or parents, or to gain financial breathing room through rental income.

The coach house zoning amendments are the City of Ottawa’s response to direction from the province of Ontario to create more affordable housing, and as such, will be subject to a different set of permits, fees and requirements than principal standard housing.

For example, the city is proposing to exempt coach houses from development charges, with the exception of a public transit fee, as it is expected that those occupying these homes will be more likely to use public transportation. However, it also means that modifications to existing driveways won’t be permitted in association with most of these units.

The rules around coach houses are meant to ensure that they don’t cause problems for neighbours, or burden city services and infrastructure. The result is a set of parameters that will likely prevent coach houses from becoming the norm on Ottawa properties, though 60% of respondents to a city survey indicated interest in building one.

Here are some of the proposed criteria to consider in determining whether a coach house is a feasible addition to your property, or what kind of property could accommodate a coach house that would suit your needs.

  • Square footage less than 40% of the footprint of the primary building
  • Occupies less than 40% of the space of the yard it’s in
  • Proposed maximum permitted footprint of 95 square metres
  • Must be in the back lot in most circumstances
  • Limited to one storey unless it has/is a garage
  • Shorter than primary building
  • Doesn’t affect privacy of neighbours
  • Minimum 1 metre away from lot lines

Unlike tiny houses, coach houses require a permanent foundation, and must meet Ontario Building Code regulations. They must also be fully serviced through the primary home’s hydro, water and sewer, and this is where cost can get prohibitive. Because of Ottawa’s deep freezes, this means a dig of approximately 2.5 metres, and a cost of $5000-$30,000 just for this hookup alone. Building costs may be anywhere from $120 to $300 per square foot (try this building cost calculator), depending on finishes, and whether you build it yourself or hire a contractor. It is also important to keep in mind that these structures are not severable, and therefore can’t be sold separately at a later time.

More information on the status and details of the coach house proposal is available on the City of Ottawa website. If you are looking for a property that will accommodate your coach house vision, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to browse our Ottawa listings, or reach out to discuss your interests and needs.