We’ve previously blogged about how the City of Guelph, due to its outdated zoning regulations, effectively prohibits accessory apartments (i.e. basement apartments, second units, granny flats, in-law suites) in semi-detached homes in the city.
Accessory apartments are an excellent and cost-effective way to immediately address the housing crisis in Ontario, yet many municipalities find ways to impose barriers to their implementation. These barriers result in an undersupply of affordable housing options and residential units that are created illegally — which means they may lack proper permits and fire safety requirements, putting tenants at risk.
In Guelph, the city requires just one parking space for a single or semi-detached dwelling but requires an additional two spaces (for a total of 3) if you want to convert part of your home to an accessory apartment.
This requirement for three spaces is not in keeping with the provincial direction to promote more opportunities for affordable housing. For semi-detached dwellings specifically, the combination of the three parking space requirement, and the driveway width limitations, imposes a practical ban on accessory apartments.
While SV Law has recently been successful at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) in fighting the city on these outdated requirements, LPAT cases don’t have precedential value for other properties. So despite the criticism of Guelph’s outdated zoning regulations by the LPAT, other owners of semi-detached properties would have to similarly fight the city at their own expense to establish the right to build an accessory apartment.
Accessory Residential Unit Changes
However, everything changed on September 3, 2019. The province issued Ontario Regulation 299/19, which sets limits on what municipalities can regulate when it comes to additional residential units. This regulation was initially proposed by the Liberal government in 2017, but was not acted upon before the last election. The current government has revived this regulation (largely unchanged from the previous proposal) to coincide with Bill 108: The More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019, which is aimed at fast-tracking more housing options.
Effective immediately, there is a Province-wide cap of just one parking space for each additional residential unit, and this regulation overrides municipal by-laws. This means that for every single-detached and semi-detached dwelling in the City of Guelph, the required parking just dropped from three spaces to two spaces, and the two spaces can be stacked one behind the other.
If you own a detached or semi-detached house in Guelph and you’ve considered converting a portion of your house to an accessory apartment, now is the time to act.
Also, if you own one of the hundreds of ‘unregistered’ basement apartments in the city and are afraid of alerting the city to its existence, you may finally be eligible to formally legalize the unit, providing a huge boost to the value of your property.
While these parking changes are helpful, the city is commencing work on a new Comprehensive Zoning by-law. This by-law could outline other strategies to limit the locations in the city where accessory apartments are permitted. This means there is a small timeframe in which it will be possible to create accessory apartments or make existing apartments legal. Once a building permit is issued, you would be protected against any future zoning changes that seek to further restrict accessory apartments.
The interplay between the provincial regulation and the city’s zoning is complex. We encourage anyone seeking to create a new accessory apartment, or wishing to utilize this potentially time-limited window to legalize an illegal apartment, to contact me or any one of SV Law’s highly-skilled municipal lawyers.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and is not legal advice. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your specific circumstance.