Intrigued by the possibility but uncertain about the details?
Interest in building a Coach House continues to come from many Ottawa residents, but along with that interest comes a lot of questions and a little confusion. We invariably have to point folks to the City for specific details pertaining to their property, but there is a lot of good information now available that can help residents to do their own research and feel comfortable in understanding their options in the early phases of planning.
The new Coach House legislation is a great boon for many. The potential in particular for an income-generating property right where you live is really appealing to many and it’s a seriously smart investment. But where to start if you have a property and you need to figure out what you can obtain permission to build?
In the fall of 2017, the City of Ottawa published a 32-page document on How to plan your Coach House in Ottawa, and here we break it down into small, easily understood parts. You may still end up reading that 32-page document, but starting here will give you the key information more quickly. We’re also able to clarify some information that is not currently available in that document.
What is a coach house?
Meant to be a gentle form of intensification, coach house are smaller dwellings – usually up to 40% the size of the principal dwelling – on residential properties with detached, semi-detached, duplex or some rowhouse dwellings (the latter must be on a corner lot or have access to a travelled lane).
In fact, any primary residence under 125 m² can accommodate a 50 m² house. For example a 90 m² house would still be allowed to have the coach house of 50 m² just like the 125 m² home. This is welcome news for homeowners of small, post-war homes in Ottawa.
The initial requirements list below is important – if your property doesn’t meet these basic guidelines, you can’t build.
Coach houses must be:
- secondary to the principal dwelling
- remain as an accessory use to the main dwelling (and cannot be severed)
- designed and located to be in harmony with the neighourhood and immediate neighbours
- serviced by the principal dwelling’s water/sanitation connections, or by a direct connection when the main dwelling is on a private well/septic
- designed and located to preserve mature trees
- development is not allowed on the floodplain
- for urban lots, the coach house must be in the rear yard (in rural lots larger than 0.4 hectares exceptions are permitted)
- in the urban area, the main dwelling and the coach house must share the same parking area and yards
- the coach house must not exceed lot coverage of 40% of the yard
- max. height not to exceed the height of the primary dwelling (up to 3.6m, or a flat roof of 3.2m in urban areas; 4.5m or up to 6.1m when a garage is included in village/rural areas)
- it’s not possible to have a secondary dwelling unit inside the principal dwelling and a coach house; you may only have one of these
- existing accessory structures may be permitted to convert in part or whole (e.g. garages, sheds or stables) up to a max. footprint of 80m2 (urban area) or 95m2 (rural area)
2 Storey Coach Houses
“An application to allow the height of up to a two storey coach house in the urban area through a minor variance may be considered where the conditions for minor variances have been considered and the coach house is proposed to contain a garage on the main level.”
From How to Plan Your Coach House in Ottawa, City of Ottawa
All coach houses require a Building Permit, and any to be sited with private septic/well will also require a Site Plan Control Approval application.
Make sure your planned investment will be viable first by understanding these key factors:
Servicing feasibility: water/sanitation
Your coach house will need full water/sanitation service, just like the primary dwelling. For urban lots with municipal service, you will need to extend that service to the coach house, and this “may mean modifying or replacing the service at the point where it connects with the City’s water and sewermain”. For lots with private well/septic, the coach house will need to connect to these.
In either case, you will want to consult the appropriate professionals to help ensure that you have the best plan and infrastructure in place so that approval is given.
The City of Ottawa does also recommend that any new coach house also have an independent water heater; Ontario building code does not require this, but it’s strongly recommended.
Servicing feasibility: electrical
Naturally you will need to investigate the electrical service for your primary dwelling to see how it may be extended to your planned coach house. Additional capacity will almost always be needed, and you need to develop an electrical plan that will be approved.
Servicing feasibility: grading/drainage
A formal grading and drainage plan will be required by the City of Ottawa as part of your application for a Building Permit for any coach house “55 m2 or larger in size and/or for coach houses which are within 1.2 metres from a property line”. It makes good sense to consider grading and drainage as part of any coach house project.
All of these steps are a fundamental part of the planning process, and EkoBuilt can help ensure that you go about this properly. Our team of professionals can make this part of the process much easier, navigating key steps along the way.
Design and placement
Some commonsense factors come into play with the placement and design for your coach house:
- setbacks from property lines will apply and must be adhered to
- height permission will depend on location and lot size (see above)
- privacy for neighbours will be important; entrances and windows will generally face towards the principal dwelling and not outwards toward neighbours
- the Zoning By-law requires a walkway from the coach house to the street of 1.2m in width (for pedestrian access and emergency services), however the walkway may not be used to expand parking on the lot
- the City’s 32-page guide provides excellent visual examples of different urban and rural coach house configurations
Finally, remember that your new coach house will require insurance coverage and it will also increase the property taxes that you pay.
For a coach house that will be used as an Airbnb rental or another form of income generation, the total cost of a coach house may be well worth it.
Looking for a great solution? The EkoBuilt team is ready to help make your coach house dream a reality, with our expertise, experience and 8 Coach House designs. We can also create a custom design just for you.
Give us a shout today: firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-227-4663.
Download the City of Ottawa’s 32-page document on How to plan your Coach House in Ottawa