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City planning workshop on tiny homes, two-unit houses

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Pending council approval, the city could soon be hosting a workshop on tiny homes and two-unit houses in Oshawa.

At its latest meeting, the city’s development services committee approved a staff recommendation to schedule the workshop with stakeholders, including the Durham Region Association of Realtors and Durham Home Builders Association, among others.

In December, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing set official standards for tiny homes in Ontario.

Tiny homes can’t be smaller than the minimum standard of 17.5 m. sq. (188 sq. ft) in the Ontario Building Code.

The province also released a guide offering advice regarding building or buying a factory-built tiny home.

Tiny homes are not explicitly defined in the city’s zoning by-law and are considered a single detached dwelling, meaning they must comply with all applicable standards.

These include a minimum 2.75 m (9 ft.) wide driveway, a minimum of 50 per cent landscaping in the front yard, and minimum front, side, and backyard depths.

An example of a tiny home in Oshawa is a 253 sq. foot residence at 96 Quebec St., which drew significant attention on social media in late 2018.

Over the past year, Oshawa resident Christine Gilmet made it her quest to raise awareness about tiny homes in the city and across Durham Region.

However, the type of homes Gilmet is focusing on are of the mobile variety, so they can move from location to location, which aren’t currently legal in Oshawa.

According to a report from commissioner of development services Warren Munro, these mobile tiny homes create issues when several are placed on a single lot.

This would go against Durham Region’s servicing policies, which only allows one water supply and one sanitary sewage connection per lot.

In his report, Munro also explains if the city were to zone tiny homes individually, a separate development charge would need to be created. The region and school board would also need to review development charges for any new zoning.

If the city were to charge the development rate for a single-detached dwelling, Munro said this could be a barrier for those considering tiny homes.

The proposed workshop will also address two-unit homes.

As previously reported by The Oshawa Express, late last year local realtors Roger Bouma and Michael Dominguez called on the city to form a committee to review two-unit homes.

Bouma and Dominguez both claimed most of Oshawa’s two-unit houses are illegal because they are not properly registered.

Owners of two-unit homes are encouraged to complete a registration process with the city.

Homes built before 1994 may be eligible for registration after they meet property, building code, and fire code standards.

For homes constructed after 1994, registration may be eligible upon meeting criteria related to zoning by-laws and the Ontario Building Code.

Both the realtors told councillors they’ve seen their share of unsafe basement apartments in two-unit houses.

However, they warned against “heavy-handed enforcement” as they believe it could lead to many tenants being evicted because owners can’t or won’t make the needed improvements to bring their homes up to code.

According to Munro’s report, the workshop would review tiny homes through an “Oshawa lens” to determine the viability of “tiny home villages” in the city.

It will also consider the city’s registration process for two-unit houses and the need to educate homeowners and tenants.

Staff will also consult with participants on compliance requirements for property standards, building code and fire code regulations.