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Laneways Around the World: Ottawa


Image from: documents.ottawa.ca


In the fourth segment of the series in viewing different laneway houses across the globe, we will be analyzing Ottawa as a case study to further understand the differences compared to Toronto.


Ottawa is one of the cities in Canada to legally pass the concept of backyard housing units. While backyard housing is not a new notion - also often referred to as infill housing, granny flats, coach houses, or accessory units - the population of Ottawa imagined a new way of housing which would be suitable for single-family areas that have the intention of renting or living in the added space on their own property.


In the fall of 2017, the Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development Department of Ottawa passed and released a set of guidelines for Coach Houses in the city. According to the document, “A coach house is a small accessory apartment located in a small freestanding building detached from the principal dwelling and located on the same lot as the principal dwelling. This type of infill housing is a discreet way to achieve affordable housing and increased density in existing neighbourhoods where existing services and infrastructure are in place.”


Similar to laneway houses, coach houses are only permitted on lots with a detached, semi-detached, duplex or townhouse dwelling and where the primary dwelling does not contain a garden suite, rooming

units or a secondary dwelling unit.

According to the department’s section 3.1 of the Official Plan, a coach house must be:

  • Located on a lot in a public service area where both the water and wastewater services are provided to the main dwelling, OR

  • Located on a lot of sufficient sizes and is located in the rural or village area where the primary dwelling is serviced by: private water and wastewater and will share either water or wastewater with the coach house;

  • OR one public or communal service (water or wastewater) and one private service and will share the public or communal service with the coach house service. Coach houses proposed in the village or rural areas on lots larger than 0.4 hectares are subject to a Site Plan Control application to confirm water quantity and quality is sufficient to support the coach house.


Section 142 of the Zoning By-law contains the detailed performance standards for coach houses:

  • Prohibit Coach Houses in the Floodplain: Coach houses, like all development, are prohibited in the floodplain throughout the City of Ottawa.

  • Maximum Number: Only one coach house is allowed per principal dwelling unit on a property. A coach house cannot be located on a lot where the principal dwelling already has a secondary dwelling unit, garden suite or any rooming units.

  • Where Permitted: For lots in the urban area, the coach house must be located in the rear yard of the principal dwelling. Except in the rural area on lots larger than 0.4 hectares, the coach house must be located in the rear yard of the principal dwelling.

  • Despite the above: In the case of a lot with frontage on both a street and a travelled public lane, the coach house must be located in the yard adjacent to the travelled public lane.

  • Maximum Size: The coach house must not:

  • be greater in size than 40% of the footprint of the principal dwelling unit on the lot

  • exceed a lot coverage of 40% of the yard in which it is located

  • exceed a footprint of 80 m2 for lots in the urban area or 95 m2 for lots in the rural area

  • If the primary home is less than 125 m2 in footprint, a coach house of up to 50 m2 is permitted, and must not exceed 40% of the yard in which it is located.

  • Maximum Height:

  • In the urban area:

  • maximum height not to exceed the building height of the existing primary dwelling; and

  • maximum height of 3.6 metres, with a maximum height of a coach house with a flat roof not to exceed 3.2m.

  • coach houses are not permitted to have a shed style roof in the urban area.

  • In the rural area including village areas:

  • maximum height not to exceed the building height of the existing primary dwelling; and

  • where the living area of the coach house is entirely located on the second storey above a detached garage, maximum height of 6.1 metres; or

  • Setbacks

  • Rear and interior side lot line: Urban Area: 1-metre maximum OR Urban or Rural Area: 4-metre minimum.

  • Corner side yard: same as the principal dwelling

  • Parking Yards and Driveways

  • In the urban area: The principal dwelling and the coach house must share the same parking area and yards provided for the principal dwelling unit.

  • A driveway may only be where a garage or carport is provided as part of the coach house unit.


In terms of greenery, the city considers that trees add considerable social and environmental value to the neighbourhood. It is crucial to take trees on the subject property and adjacent properties into consideration when designing a coach house. Coach houses and their services should be designed and positioned so that they will not impact trees or the underground critical root system. The City suggest homeowners consult with a qualified forester, professional landscape architect, or International Society

of Agriculture certified arborists to minimize any potential impacts.


Overall, Ottawa is a great example of how much planning and consideration goes into coach houses and shows with detailed research and analysis, the regulations can allow clear guidelines for homeowners to build suitable living spaces and enrich their neighbourhoods.


If you are interested in Garden/Laneway Suites or have any further questions, please send us an email or book a meeting.


Source: documents.ottawa.ca


Lawn Strip

FREE Site Assessments are coming to your neighbourhood. Interested?