Coach house Ottawa's 1st under new backyard building rules

Ottawa Morning dropped by the site of the city's first coach house to be built under new zoning rules allowing the backyard dwellings.

Separate dwellings cost between $200 and $300 per square foot, can be income properties or 'granny flats'

The City of Ottawa recently passed new rules for coach houses. What are the steps you need to take to build a coach house in your yard? 1:07

Tiny homes. Micro homes. Coach houses.

Whatever you call them, both the City of Ottawa and some local builders are hoping they catch on.

On Thursday, Ottawa Morning visited the site of the first coach house to be built under a new bylaw permitting homeowners to construct the smaller buildings on their property. 

Fares Elsabbagh, president of Ottawa General Contractors, is overseeing the project on Hartleigh Avenue in Lincoln Fields. He previously constructed laneway homes in Vancouver before returning to Ottawa, where he grew up.

Fares Elsabbagh of Ottawa General Contractors is building the city's first sanctioned coach house. The 500-square-foot structure is going up in the city's west end, and will cost about $150,000. (Hallie Cotnam)
"There's a huge trend right now in making sure people are efficient with the space they have," Elsabbagh told Hallie Cotnam.

"Whether it's to accommodate adult children and give them affordable housing, or whether it's to move in in-laws that might not be necessarily comfortable moving into the primary household … One way or another it can also raise property value by allowing for additional, residual income." 

The City of Ottawa's zoning rules have allowed for separate apartments within existing homes, but not for smaller, separate dwelling units in people's yards. The city was forced to update its rules when the provincial government made it clear it sees coach houses as a way to boost the stock of affordable housing.

"The idea of the coach houses is to allow for a gradual and discreet kind of intensification, particularly in lower-density neighbourhoods that might have originally been built as nothing but single, detached houses," said city planner Tim Moerman, in an earlier interview with CBC Ottawa.

Cheaper, but not cheap

Ottawa General Contractors have designed the first coach house to be built in Ottawa under a new bylaw allowing the smaller, separate dwellings. (Supplied)
The new regulations offer some flexibility, but the structure can't be too intrusive and can't change the character of the home, said Elsabbah.

"Before the coach houses were passed, homeowners were able to build basement apartments or secondary dwellings as they call them. And now the coach house offers them an alternative with a little bit more privacy," said Elsabbagh. 

You can probably expect a coach house to run anywhere from $200 and $300 dollars a square foot.- Fares Elsabbagh

"You can probably expect a coach house to run anywhere from $200 and $300 dollars a square foot... But we're working on trying to figure out how to make it more affordable."

The new home on Hartleigh Ave. is going to be about 500 square feet and will cost approximately $150,000.

Size is also a consideration. Generally speaking, the coach house can only take up 40 per cent of the footprint of the existing home, but Elsabbagh says his company can work with the city to come up with variances where possible.

Even so, residents in some neighbourhoods are shunning the idea. In Rockcliffe Park, where even secondary dwellings within existing homes have been banned, coach houses will not be allowed.