Municipalities are beginning to turn to secondary suites

Municipalities are beginning to turn to secondary suites

However, some cities are beginning to allow the development of so-called secondary housing units. A form of soft densification that can provide a solution to the housing shortage and difficult access to property.

The town of Sainte-Catherine on the South Shore is one of the pioneers in this regard. It revised its statute, which only allowed the development of multi-generational houses.

“In 10 years we had nine project requests and only one was carried out according to regulations. It was so complicated that people abandoned their project or requested exceptions,” says Director of Regional Planning and Economic Development, Marie-Josée Halpin.

In particular, the regulations stipulated that residents had to share a common entrance or rooms within the residence, which was far from pleasant. “The regulations were made to accommodate a single person, mainly an elderly person,” Ms Halpin explains.

Since January it is allowed to add an apartment to your apartment or to build a house in your backyard. These units can be rented to anyone, not necessarily a family member.

“The goal of the city was to enable a new form of housing, a new form of access to property. »

— A quote from Marie-Josée Halpin, Director of Land Use Planning and Economic Development of the City of Sainte-Catherine

Municipalities are beginning to turn to secondary suites

Unlike Toronto or Vancouver, most Quebec cities prohibit the addition of a second home on a property. Nevertheless, it can really help and counteract the housing shortage. They are referred to as secondary housing units; a single-family house in the backyard or an addition to an existing building. Report by Olivier Bachand.

A family project

This is precisely why Ariane Duguay and her mother applied for planning permission to build a second floor in the family bungalow to create an apartment there.

“In the current housing market it has been difficult to access a property. »

— A quote from Ariane Duguay, future tenant

Their project was the first ever to be accepted by the city’s planning advisory board under the new statute. If all goes well, construction will start in March and next summer the young woman will be able to move into her apartment directly above her parents’.

“We will have a common entrance, then a door each to our respective apartments, then we will share the yard, the parking lot and the garage,” she explains.

And if she ever moves, her parents won’t be surprised. “It would be possible to rent to someone who is not part of the family,” says Ariane’s mother, Huguette Arseneau.

This new opportunity seems to be generating some excitement, as the city receives three to four requests for information about side housing development each week.

Other cities have their turn

The City of Granby introduced a similar statute a year ago. So far no one has taken advantage of it, but Mayor Julie Bourdon points out that several citizens have made requests for information.

In her opinion, many properties have a large plot and could accommodate, for example, backyard maisonettes. The construction of an apartment attached to a house is also permitted.

“Initially for gentle densification, but also for better accessibility of living space […] It can be used as extra income to accommodate a loved one, parent, child or whoever it is,” she says.

For the city of Granby, this is also a way to improve rental supply while the vacancy rate there is just 0.1%.

Stephane Boyer, Mayor of Laval.

Stéphane Boyer is the mayor of Laval.

Photo: The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes

With its new Urban Planning Act, the City of Laval now allows apartments to be attached to a single-family home, but does not authorize the construction of small houses in the backyard.

The city of Longueuil will launch a pilot project for secondary housing over the next year.

For its part, the City of Montreal indicates that these units will be part of the considerations as part of the revision of its Urbanism and Mobility Plan, which will guide the city until 2050.

Calls for generalizing the practice

In addition to intergenerational housing, the construction of secondary housing is prohibited in the vast majority of Quebec communities. However, some are sometimes arranged illegally.

The director of the organization Ecohabitation, which helps individuals and professionals to realize their housing projects, showed us one of them: a garage converted into an apartment overlooking an alley in Montreal.

Emmanuel Cosgrove does not understand why this type of accommodation is still prohibited.

“It’s happening under the radar and we think it’s high time we recognized the phenomenon. Not just recognizing, but allowing and promoting. »

— A quote from Emmanuel Cosgrove, Director of Ecohabitation

According to him, Quebec municipalities will have to follow suit in other provinces that allow secondary housing units.

“We’re talking about Ontario, British Columbia, cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa… They have regulations, citizen support, leaders, advisors,” he says.