DEAR DAVID: We are excited to hear that tiny homes are now permitted in Kitchener, Ontario. We would like to build a residence for my Dad. How hard is it to get started? – HANDYMAN
DEAR HANDYMAN: The prospect of building an “as seen on TV” tiny house has been the talk of the town since last April, when Kitchener city council passed a motion that would allow the construction of tiny homes on residential properties.
Under the motion, some 25,000 Kitchener homeowners (on approximately 44 percent of the city’s detached properties) can potentially meet the criteria for tiny home construction.
Those who qualify may be allowed to build a second dwelling on their property, provided the tiny home is separate from their primary residence, occupies less than 15 percent of their lot area and does not exceed 50 percent of the size of the main house. Local tiny homes can’t exceed 860 square feet and one-and-a-half storeys at most, and rooflines are bound by height restrictions to ensure they don’t impose on the surrounding neighbourhood.
Before construction begins, the city will require your property to have appropriate zoning (R-1 through R-7), an approved site plan, unobstructed street access, adequate parking and an approved building permit for a “detached additional dwelling unit”. The City of Kitchener website (kitchener.ca) lists pertinent building details, along with the required minimums for lot size, frontage and property line setbacks. If your property is within the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) catchment, falls under the Ontario Heritage Act or is affected by other influences, you may need to complete additional steps in the permit process.
Here in Ontario, tiny homes have been pitched as part of the solution to our affordable housing crisis, yet they remain a contentious issue. A boom in tiny home builds could impact municipal services, roadways, schools, and the aesthetics of the surrounding subdivision in ways that are yet to be seen.
These pint-sized residences do have the potential to increase our inventory of rental units. Built to the maximum allowable limits, a tiny home would be roughly comparable to a downtown two-bedroom apartment and could potentially generate $1500 or more in monthly rent. While this can provide a welcome mortgage boost for some homeowners, it won’t do much for first-time homebuyers trying to break into the market. Because a homeowner can’t sever their lot when they add a tiny home, the tiny home can’t be sold separately from the main house.
PRO TIP: Tiny home construction may be a great idea for some homeowners. Because the industry is new to our area, I recommend doing your research now to see if your property qualifies and keeping an eye on the opportunities that develop. While your focus may be on things like tying electricity, plumbing and sanitation into your existing property at this point, you’ll also want to look at how tiny homes impact property values over the long term. #AskDavid #Advice