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Cutting red tape to create more housing options

Woolwich to loosen planning regulations in line with call for more housing

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A provincial push to increase housing stocks means Woolwich will be loosening its own rules to allow the likes of duplexing single-family homes, adding rental space and creating income streams for homeowners.

The Ontario government this fall amended the Planning Act to allow for the creation of accessory dwelling units, requiring municipalities to follow suit, manager of planning Jeremy Vink told councillors meeting December 17.

That will require the township to alter its zoning bylaws and to ease restrictions on parking, for instance.

The first step is to launch the consultation process, with a formal public meeting to be held in the new year, as councillors approved moving ahead with that course of action.

In keeping with the intent of the provincial changes, the goal is to increase the number of long-term rental units, not short-term situations like Airbnb, said Vink.

Woolwich is looking at allowing up to two additional units, which are to be accessory to the main dwelling unit.

“To limit the units so that they remain accessory, it is proposed that both units should not exceed 40 per cent of the total floor area of the dwelling, up to a maximum of 90 square metres. Additionally, it is proposed to limit the number of bedrooms for each accessory unit to two bedrooms,” said Vink in his report to council.

With such conversions making a single-family home into a de facto multi-residential unit, which would typically demand parking behind the building line, the township will have to change its parking regulations, recognizing that driveways will remain the standard parking. The provincial guidelines now allow for stacked or tandem parking, which would be prohibited under the township’s current rules.

“The zoning bylaw requires parking to be behind the building line. This means the required parking is in a garage, or to the side or rear of the dwelling. Many properties are not able to provide that second parking space behind the building line without stacking the vehicles, which prevents the creation of the accessory dwelling unit,” said Vink in the report.

He noted the township will have to take steps to prevent people from simply converting more of their front yards to parking. With that in mind, the plan is to add a zoning regulation to restrict driveway width such that it not exceed the greater of 50 per cent of the width of the front yard, or more than half of the total area of the front yard.

The move to add more accessory dwellings was welcomed by Coun. Scott McMillan, who noted the changes would  provide more housing, and allow homeowners some income to help with the mortgage.

“We need to go in the direction of more affordable housing,” he said.

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