Municipalities are starting to turn to secondary suites

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Municipalities are starting to turn to secondary suites

The City of Sainte-Catherine is the first municipality in Quebec to regulate accessory housing units in its regulations, whether they are additions to an existing house, or a garden suite.

In Quebec, it is practically impossible to build a second house on your land or to add an apartment to your residence to rent it to a tenant, since municipal regulations prohibit it most of the time.

Some cities, however, are beginning to allow the development of what are called accessory dwelling units. A form of soft densification that can be a solution to the housing crisis and the difficulties of accessing property.

The City of Sainte-Catherine, on the South Shore, is one of the pioneers in this regard. It reviewed its by-law, which only allowed the development of intergenerational homes.

“Over 10 years, we had nine project requests, and only one was carried out in accordance with regulations. It was so complicated that people abandoned their project or asked for exemptions, ”says the director of land use planning and economic development, Marie-Josée Halpin.

The regulations stipulated in particular that the occupants had to share a common entrance or rooms inside the residence, which was far from pleasing to all. “The regulations were made to accommodate a single person, mainly an elderly person,” says Ms. Halpin.

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

“The City's objective was to enable a new form of housing, a new form of #x27;access to the property. »

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

Unlike Toronto or Vancouver, most cities in Quebec prohibit the addition of a second residence on a lot. Yet it can genuinely help and address the housing shortage. They are called accessory dwelling units; a detached house in the backyard or an extension attached to an existing building. Report by Olivier Bachand.

It is precisely for this reason that Ariane Duguay and her mother applied for a permit to build a second floor in the family bungalow to provide accommodation.

“With the current housing market, it was difficult to get access to a property. »

— Ariane Duguay, future tenant

Their project was the first ever to be accepted by the City's Planning Advisory Committee under the new bylaw. If all goes well, construction will begin in March and the young woman will be able to move into her accommodation located just above that of her parents next summer.

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

And if she ever moves out, her parents won't be caught off guard. “It would be possible to rent to someone who is not family,” says Ariane's mother, Huguette Arseneau.

This news This possibility seems to be generating some excitement, as the City receives three to four requests for information on the development of accessory dwelling units each week.

The City of Granby implemented a similar by-law a year ago. No one has yet taken advantage of it, but Mayor Julie Bourdon indicates that several citizens have filed requests for information.

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

“For soft densification first of all, but also to allow better accessibility to housing […] It can be used as extra income, to accommodate a loved one, a parent, a child or whoever whatever,” she says.

For the City of Granby, it's also a way to improve the rental offer, so that the vacancy rate there is only 0.1%.

Stéphane Boyer is the mayor of Laval.

With its new urban planning code, the City of Laval now allows housing to be added to a single-family house, but it does not authorize construction backyard cottages.

As for the City of Longueuil, it will launch a pilot project on accessory housing units over the next year.

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

< p class="e-p">In addition to intergenerational housing, the construction of accessory housing units is prohibited in the vast majority of municipalities in Quebec. But some are sometimes set up illegally.

The director of the Écohabitation organization, which helps individuals and professionals to carry out their housing projects, showed us one of them: a garage converted into an apartment that overlooks an alley in Montreal.

Emmanuel Cosgrove misunderstands why this type of housing is still prohibited.

“It is happening under the radar and it is believed that it is high time to recognize the phenomenon. Not only recognize it, but allow it and promote it. »

— Emmanuel Cosgrove, director of Écohabitation

According to him, municipalities in Quebec must follow in the footsteps of other provinces where the units of x27;housing accessories are permitted.

“We're talking about Ontario, British Columbia, cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa… They have regulations, citizen aids, guides, advisers,” he says.

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