Pembroke – Secondary dwellings are not only being permitted but encouraged in the County of Renfrew and could even possibly come with some grant funding in the future if the model seen in other areas is adopted.
“Increasingly I’m seeing plans by municipalities encouraging secondary dwellings,” Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon said at county council last Wednesday.
“I’ve heard in some communities they funded $5,000 and found that with the cost of construction they had to raise it,” he noted.
He said this model, which has been used in other parts of Eastern and Southern Ontario, would be a grant structure providing some funding if a property owner builds a secondary dwelling on their land.
“Like the CIP (Community Improvement Plan) model where you make an application and get a grant to develop a secondary unit,” he said. “I’m wondering if there is an appetite for that in the County of Renfrew.” He suggested this is something the county could look into specifically to deal with the existing housing shortage.
According to the report by the Development and Property Committee, secondary dwellings are a self-contained residential unit that has kitchen and bathroom facilities located on the same property as the primary dwelling. It can be lived in by the property owner, other family members, or rented out.
“They are commonly known as in-law flats, secondary suites, coach houses, and accessory or basement apartments,” the report noted. “Changes to the Planning Act and County of Renfrew Official Plan have made secondary dwellings a new housing option for municipalities and property owners to consider.” As well, municipalities, including Bonnechere Valley, are updating their zoning by-laws and developing provisions for allowing these housing units.
Reeve Emon said having some kind of financial grant program could be considered in the future.
“The rental market now is flat,” he said. “There is not much happening.”
He said the county could look into the possibility of grant funding through provincial programs.
“Someone is going to have to lead it,” he said.
Warden Debbie Robinson said in Laurentian Valley the zoning by-law was changed two years ago to allow secondary dwellings. She pointed out no money was attached to this or grant funding.
“We have no takers either at this point in time,” she noted.
Director of Development and Property Craig Kelley said this idea of grants has been reviewed in the perspective of creating more housing stock. He said in some counties grants of up to $25,000 were being offered.
“This is out of levy dollars mind you,” he said.
He cautioned there are implications, including to property values.
“$25,000 doesn’t go very far these days when you are buying 2x4s,” he noted.
As well, they will look to see if any funding opportunities or planning announcements are made, he said.
A brochure prepared by the County of Renfrew, which will be distributed to municipalities, noted secondary dwellings “are a great option if you are considering adding an additional source of income and you can provide your family or community with an affordable housing opportunity in the process.”
Those interested in secondary dwellings need to first conform the project confirms to their zoning by-law. As well they will need to obtain building permits, compliance with building codes and receive an occupancy permit.
There are different restrictions for properties depending on size and location. Smaller lots under one acre may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Lots greater than two acres but smaller than five acres must share the same septic and water system. Lots greater than five acres do not have to share the same water and septic system.
As well, mobile homes and recreational vehicles are not considered secondary dwellings. Secondary dwellings are not permitted at an “at capacity lake” or near an “at capacity lake.” For secondary dwellings on any waterfront property, studies must be provided to determine there will be no negative impact on the water body or potable drinking water and septic effluent levels. As well a secondary dwelling may not be severed from the lot with the primary dwelling.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader