Ottawa

Triplexes are coming to your neighbourhood, province says

New provincial legislation aimed at rapidly increasing the supply of housing in Ontario will allow triplexes to built on virtually all residential properties across Ottawa — something that could change the character of some older neighbourhoods.

New legislation calls for an end to single-family home zoning, among other changes

Triplexes, such as these in Westboro, would be allowed on residential lots across the city once the province's new housing bill is passed. (Eric Milligan)

New provincial legislation aimed at rapidly increasing the supply of housing in Ontario will allow triplexes to built on virtually all residential properties across Ottawa —  something that could change the character of some older neighbourhoods.

The More Homes Built Faster Act introduced at Queen's Park Tuesday calls for sweeping changes to planning rules across Ontario, including an end of exclusionary single-family zoning, which means allowing up to three household units on a single residential property anywhere in the city.

"We're past the point of NIMBYs, we're no longer in 'Not In My Backyard,'" said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark.

"We're at the point of BANANA, where it's 'Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone'. We can't continue to do the same things. We need to stop doing the things that aren't working and start to make the changes that Ontarians need."

WATCH | The minister announces the changes: 

Ontario’s housing minister announces proposed sweeping new changes to rules for building homes

3 months ago
Duration 2:18
There's "no silver bullet" to dealing with the province's housing crisis, but housing minister Steve Clark said Tuesday the government has a long-term plan to get more homes built so long as other governments buy in.

The exact details of those changes are something city staff and council members are still trying to get their heads around. The bill includes setting a new-homes target for cities — Ottawa's is 151,000 by 2031 — and waiving a number of fees the municipality charges to developers. 

But one thing is clear: the province will allow up to three dwellings on any single residential property, no matter what individual municipal rules state.

Ottawa already allows homeowers to add either a small apartment or a coach house to their homes, but this ups the intensification ante.

The new rules mean that, without having to apply for a costly or time-consuming zoning change, a homeowner would have the right to add two apartments to their existing house, or a property owner could construct a new building that contains three separate units.

Changing character of older neighbourhoods

That will be a change for neighbourhoods that currently allow only a single-family detached house on a lot, which is the case for a number older communities in places such as Orléans, Kanata South and Alta Vista.

The exclusionary zoning also applies to individual streets scattered across the city.

"I very much agree Ottawa does need more housing," said Coun. Laura Dudas, who was re-elected in the newly named Orléans West-lnnes ward this week.

"However, I believe that it's paramount that we're still respecting [the] existing character of our neighbourhoods, especially our long-established neighbourhoods, which a lot of Ottawa is made up of."

It's paramount that we're still respecting [the] existing character of our neighbourhoods.- Coun. Laura Dudas

She said she's concerned that streets in some older neighbourhoods are too narrow to accommodate more density, which will lead to challenges around where residents pile up snow in the winter or park their cars if there aren't spaces provided in multi-unit residences. 

She's also concerned that there seems to be few plans — or money — in the provincial rules to provide additional infrastructure and amenities like parks.

She told CBC it's not necessarily that communities don't want more density, but that they want it done well. 

"It has to be more surgical. It has to be more thought-out. It can't be just a carte blanche, let's just intensify everything."

Like many city officials, Dudas is still absorbing the details of the province's sweeping housing bill. She's concerned that, among other things, it will wipe out the character of many older neighbourhoods across the city. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

She's also worried about the province's plan to not allow any councillor or community input into the site plan process — the final stage in an application — for developments with fewer than 10 units.

"At the end of the day, the province has a set target, they have an agenda and right or wrong, it won't be based on a community's characteristics [or] history," said Dudas.

"It's going to be prescribed based on this legislation, which I don't think is the right way to go. There is an element of community consultation and input that is absolutely essential."

Timing of new bill seems political

The fact the province announced the details of its new housing legislation the day after municipal elections was likely not a coincidence.

"I have to imagine the provincial government was seeking to not make an election issue of it and see a number of people elected to city councils across Ontario who would oppose these measures," said three-term Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, whose ward has experienced more intensification than any other in the city.

During the election campaign, a number of candidates including mayor-elect Mark Sutcliffe said they were against doing away with exclusive single-family home zoning.

Now, the province is taking that decision out of council's hands.

A man in a purple shirt speaks to a reporter on a sunny day.
Sutcliffe said during the campaign that he didn't support getting rid of zoning that protects single-family homes. The day after the election, the province introduced legislation to do just that. (Mateo Garcia-Tremblay/CBC)

Sutcliffe told CBC Ottawa News at 6 host Omar Debaghi-Pacheco that he is still reviewing the new legislation, which seems to have blindsided newly elected city officials who were mostly focused on collecting their election signs on Tuesday, not delving into complex legislation.

(It's also worth noting the province's housing target for Ottawa over the next decade is 50 per cent higher than Sutcliffe's, who promised to build 100,000 new homes in 10 years. The province has been unclear what, if any, consequences a city would face if it doesn't meet its new-home threshold.)

How are we going to allow three units on a lot and at the same time presumably preserve room for trees?- Coun. Jeff Leiper

Leiper has long-recognized that zoning for single-family home is on its way out, but is concerned that the province's plans don't take into account the additional roads and pipes and services that'll be required with additional density.

And he says it's unclear exactly what role city council will play in the development process, given the new housing bill. 

"How are we going to allow three units on a lot and at the same time presumably preserve room for trees?" Leiper asked.

"How are we going to allow three units on a lot and still provide private amenity space? There's a lot of question marks but at this point in everyone's analysis today, I think cities are going to look different in parts of the city that have looked the same for a very long time."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joanne Chianello

City affairs analyst

Joanne Chianello is an award-winning journalist and CBC Ottawa's city affairs analyst. You can email her at joanne.chianello@cbc.ca or tweet her at @jchianello.

With files from Kate Porter

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