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Affordability & Choice Today

Broadening Housing Options

These projects address regulatory and community barriers to specific types of housing, such as secondary dwellings, triplexes, rooming houses and artisan live/work housing. It also includes projects on homeownership financing options and special housing needs, e.g. refugee/ immigrant families, accessibility.

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    Introducing Micro-suites for Seniors

    As the Canadian population ages, seniors will be searching for alternatives to the single-family dwelling, the condo, or the retirement home. One solution is micro-suites - small, self-contained units in large converted single-family houses with access to common areas such as a garden, kitchen, dining room, living room, laundry and gym. Although the design of the units can vary, key elements include small bathrooms, kitchenettes, and living and sleeping areas. Micro-suites are small enough to allow three to five units in a large, remodeled single-family house.
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    Visitable Housing in Prince George

    As the Canadian population ages, people are looking for homes and neighbourhoods that allow aging in place and that permit everyone, regardless of mobility, to visit someone else's home. Visitable housing is the term that describes houses in which a minimum of structural adjustments are made to permit the safe and comfortable use of the house by visitors with mobility challenges. This involves a lesser degree of adaptation than a fully accessible house, where all the main features have been adapted for mobility challenges.
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    City of Victoria Helps Homeowners to Create Secondary Suites

    With a vacancy rate well below three per cent, the City of Victoria was facing a severe rental housing shortage. To address this issue, the city made it easier for homeowners to create secondary suites - rental units located within single-family detached homes. In addition to increasing opportunities for affordable housing options, secondary suites offer home-owners a number of benefits such as helping to pay mortgages, providing a sense of security, increasing the home's value and increasing opportunities for affordable housing options.
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    Donation Of Condo Units For Affordable Rental Housing, Kehilla Residential Programme, Toronto

    To enhance social and economic diversity within the neighbourhood, at the encouragement of the local councillor, a Toronto developer committed to contribute four condominium units in a new downtown project, the Charlie, to the Kehilla Residential Programme, a non-profit housing agency.
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    Neighbourhood Infill Housing for Whistler's Resident Workforce

    Workers looking for places to live in resort communities with huge, expensive houses often face a tough choice: commute, or live in a home they can't really afford. Two public forums and one design exercise tested and communicated regulatory changes that would be needed to clear the way for affordable infill housing. Landowners came away with a greater understanding of the issues, such as density and setback implications, design considerations, and affordability measures. The public forums opened the door for the municipality to consult with residents and inform them of recommended changes, resulting in overall widespread positive support for the proposed infill housing policy direction.
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    Affordable Workforce Housing in a Resort Community

    Escalating real estate prices and a shortage of building sites for homes have been driving homeownership and rental costs in the luxury resort community of Whistler beyond the means of the town's resident workforce and seasonal workers. The municipality introduced new regulatory measures in 2003 to limit further loss and gentrification of the town's remaining affordable private housing stock. With the assistance of an ACT grant, the Whistler Housing Authority commissioned a study in 2004 to create baseline research against which the municipality could assess the effectiveness of its regulatory changes.
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    Infill Housing Solutions For Whistlers Workforce

    Workers looking for places to live in resort communities with huge, expensive houses often face a tough choice: commute, or live in a home they can't really afford. Two public forums and one design exercise tested and communicated regulatory changes that would be needed to clear the way for affordable infill housing. Landowners came away with a greater understanding of the issues, such as density and setback implications, design considerations, and affordability measures. The public forums opened the door for the municipality to consult with residents and inform them of recommended changes, resulting in overall widespread positive support for the proposed infill housing policy direction.
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    Whole Village King Rural Cohousing

    Whole Village created Greenhaven, a one-storey building of 1,421 m2(15,300 sq. ft.) with 10 suites, each with a private bath, wet bar (sink and refrigerator) as well as a private outdoor terrace. Whole Villagemembers believe their interaction with Town of Caledon officials, and their input to public consultations, had a positive impact resulting in an amendment to the Town's Official Community Plan. The amendment spells out permitted land uses -with respect to agriculture, environmental protection and rural economic development - and serves as the basis for the evaluation of development proposals within these areas.
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    A Unique Single-Family Dwelling for a Multi-Family Community, Whole Village Ltd., Town of Caledon, ON

    Whole Village created Greenhaven, a one-storey building of 1,421 m2(15,300 sq. ft.) with 10 suites, each with a private bath, wet bar (sink and refrigerator) as well as a private outdoor terrace. Whole Villagemembers believe their interaction with Town of Caledon officials, and their input to public consultations, had a positive impact resulting in an amendment to the Town's Official Community Plan. The amendment spells out permitted land uses -with respect to agriculture, environmental protection and rural economic development - and serves as the basis for the evaluation of development proposals within these areas.
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    Making Space for Rooming Houses

    Negative aspects often associated with rooming houses can be mitigated through good design and features that take tenant needs into account. The project team recommended that rooming houses be permitted in central areas, where tenants can be close to services. The team also concluded that either the property owner or a manager should live on-site, an important factor in contributing to a well-maintained property.
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    Design Guidelines for Adding a Second Dwelling to Suburban Ranch Houses

    The former City of Charlesbourg was awarded an ACT grant to develop and apply design guidelines for adding secondary suites to ranch homes.
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    O.U.R. Ecovillage: The Development Of A Model Demonstration Sustainable Village

    Cowichan Valley Regional District worked with OUR Community Association to develop a new zone, called "Rural Residential Comprehensive Development Zone", the first of its kind in Canada. This zone permits a combination of land uses and allows the creation of a multi-functional, holistic ecovillage. The ACT project included construction of a demonstration building featuring an environmentally sensitive design and the use of natural materials, specifically cob construction (sand, clay and straw mixed with water), straw bale construction, rainwater harvesting, alternative heating/energy, earthen floors and a green roof.
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    Approaches Create a Unique Model Ecovillage, OUR Community Association, Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia

    Cowichan Valley Regional District worked with OUR Community Association to develop a new zone, called "Rural Residential Comprehensive Development Zone", the first of its kind in Canada. This zone permits a combination of land uses and allows the creation of a multi-functional, holistic ecovillage. The ACT project included construction of a demonstration building featuring an environmentally sensitive design and the use of natural materials, specifically cob construction (sand, clay and straw mixed with water), straw bale construction, rainwater harvesting, alternative heating/energy, earthen floors and a green roof. 
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    Housing Whistler’s Workforce

    Escalating real estate prices and a shortage of building sites for homes have been driving homeownership and rental costs in the luxury resort community of Whistler beyond the means of the town's resident workforce and seasonal workers. The municipality introduced new regulatory measures in 2003 to limit further loss and gentrification of the town's remaining affordable private housing stock. With the assistance of an ACT grant, the Whistler Housing Authority commissioned a study in 2004 to create baseline research against which the municipality could assess the effectiveness of its regulatory changes.
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    Project Promotes Home-Based Business

    Conception Bay South wanted to encourage residents to plan for home-based occupations when building or renovating a home. The town proposed a project, dubbed Home Work, to promote its home office and occupation regulations.
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    Regulatory Options for Secondary Suites

    In 1997, the City of St. Albert and the Towns of Devon, Gibbons and Morinville decided to pool resources to provide solid information for their four Councils to use in making informed decisions on land use bylaws. An architect found serious code obstacles to construction of basement suites in existing single family homes. The final report recommended asking the Alberta government to respond to the concerns about secondary suites and code obstacles.
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    Project Promotes Home-Based Business

    Conception Bay South wanted to encourage residents to plan for home-based occupations when building or renovating a home. The town proposed a project, dubbed Home Work, to promote its home office and occupation regulations.
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    Second Suites Promotion

    Although the City of Toronto approved a bylaw permitting secondary suites, the City had not widely publicized its bylaw nor had it promoted the benefits of secondary suites for homeowners, tenants and the community. Landlord's Self-Help Centre (LSHC) undertook to raise the general awareness and acceptance of secondary suites in the community. The components that ACT contributed to included a brochure, a poster campaign and a website. The brochure encourages homeowners to hire renovation experts who are members of the Greater Toronto Home Builders'.
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    Promoting Secondary Suites as an Affordable Housing Alternative

    Although the City of Toronto approved a bylaw permitting secondary suites, the City had not widely publicized its bylaw nor had it promoted the benefits of secondary suites for homeowners, tenants and the community. Landlord's Self-Help Centre (LSHC) undertook to raise the general awareness and acceptance of secondary suites in the community. The components that ACT contributed to included a brochure, a poster campaign and a website. The brochure encourages homeowners to hire renovation experts who are members of the Greater Toronto Home Builders'. 
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    Barriers & Solutions: Secondary Suites Workshop

    As part of its strategy to advance secondary suites, Smart Growth BC held a half-day workshop for practitioners from several municipalities to discuss different approaches and success in their communities. The proceedings report provides insight on legal, health, safety, financial design and community acceptance issues and solutions. An informative resource document for any municipality looking at its secondary suite policies and related issues.
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    Neighbourhood Satisfaction Survey Report On Survey Results

    Policies promoting higher density housing had been part of Kelowna's Official Community Plan for some time. When it came to building this type of housing, however, proponents often encountered neighbourhood resistance. The City believed better data on the actual neighbourhood impacts of affordable housing projects would help reduce opposition. The City's survey showed that the majority of single-unit dwelling occupants felt similarly about their neighbourhood regardless of the mix of housing forms in their neighbourhood.
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    Barriers & Solutions: Secondary Suites

    As part of its strategy to advance secondary suites, Smart Growth BC held a half-day workshop for practitioners from several municipalities to discuss different approaches and success in their communities. The proceedings report provides insight on legal, health, safety, financial design and community acceptance issues and solutions. An informative resource document for any municipality looking at its secondary suite policies and related issues.
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    Survey Indicates Housing Mix Does Not Compromise Quality of Life, Kelowna, BC

    Policies promoting higher density housing had been part of Kelowna's Official Community Plan for some time. When it came to building this type of housing, however, proponents often encountered neighbourhood resistance. The City believed better data on the actual neighbourhood impacts of affordable housing projects would help reduce opposition. The City's survey showed that the majority of single-unit dwelling occupants felt similarly about their neighbourhood regardless of the mix of housing forms in their neighbourhood.
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    Freehold Strata Title Project

    Centretown Affordable Housing Development Corporation examined and documented the implications of freehold strata title severance.
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    Freehold Strata Title As An Affordable Housing Tool

    Centretown Affordable Housing Development Corporation examined and documented the implications of freehold strata title severance.
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    Live/Work Space: A Feasibility Study for the Waterloo County Jail and Governor's House Conversion

    The City, in partnership with Kitchener Housing Inc., undertook a feasibility study to convert the former Waterloo Jail and Governor's House into 21 live/work units, 30 residential units, a café/art gallery and a reception area. The proposed conversion project was found to be financially unfeasible, due primarily to the high cost of renovating a heritage building and of accommodating tenants with special needs.
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    Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan

    The Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan led a community process in drafting housing policies for inclusion in Vernon's revised Official Community Plan. The policies were aimed at reducing or eliminating financial and other barriers to affordable housing. Compared to the rest of BC, Vernon has a much higher percentage of seniors and lone-parent families, as well as a higher incidence of people living on low incomes.
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    Removing Barriers to Low-Cost Housing in Vernon, BC

    The Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan led a community process in drafting housing policies for inclusion in Vernon's revised Official Community Plan. The policies were aimed at reducing or eliminating financial and other barriers to affordable housing. Compared to the rest of BC, Vernon has a much higher percentage of seniors and lone-parent families, as well as a higher incidence of people living on low incomes.
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    Promoting Housing for All, Cochrane, Alberta

    Rapid growth created a housing affordability crunch in Cochrane, Alberta, just west of Calgary. In May 2000, the Town set up the Cochrane Affordable Homes Task Force to examine current needs for affordable housing, identify any regulatory or policy barriers to development and propose solutions. The task force went to extraordinary lengths to obtain public input and to make the case for affordable housing.
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    Affordable Housing in Vancouver for People Living with HIV/AIDS

    Wings Housing Society opened the Bonaventure, an affordable housing project for people living with HIV and AIDS in January 1999. The ACT case study chronicles the conception and implementation of the Bonaventure project and highlights the use of innovative renovation of existing historic buildings with unusually high density allowances as a way to provide affordability, choice and quality to some of Canada's most marginalized individuals.
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    Affordable Seniors Supportive Housing

    With the seniors' population in Richmond, BC, expected to double from 10% in 2000 to 20% by 2020, the City wanted to encourage the availability of supportive housing at different levels of affordability and support.  The City made senior supportive housing a municipal priority, banking land for this purpose. In addition, it approved a set of design guidelines for affordable seniors supportive housing.
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    Supportive Housing for Seniors

    With the seniors' population in Richmond, BC, expected to double from 10% in 2000 to 20% by 2020, the City wanted to encourage the availability of supportive housing at different levels of affordability and support.  The City made senior supportive housing a municipal priority, banking land for this purpose. In addition, it approved a set of design guidelines for affordable seniors supportive housing.
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    Community-Based Affordable Housing Initiative, The Cochrane, Alberta

    As a result of this project, and after further deliberation and public consultation, Town Council amended its Land Use Bylaw to allow accessory (secondary) suites and garden suites. Later, Town Council adopted a replacement Municipal Development Plan that incorporated new policies that addressed requirements for housing choice availability. Council further amended its Land Use Bylaw to increase densities in all residential zoning categories, as the committee had recommended, and to create a new zoning category for multiples taller than four storeys.
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    Housing Choice and Adaptability for African Refugees

    The Canadian African Newcomer Aid Society of Toronto (CANACT) proposed that an adaptable housing model for refugees be developed which would take into consideration the unique needs of refugees, including changes likely to occur in family size and composition through family reunification. CANACT conducted a series of workshops with African refugee groups to identify the cultural issues and individual concerns it needed to consider before building suitable housing for them. The people who participated in the focus groups came from 11 different countries. CANACT concluded that the design of successful housing for African newcomer refugees must go beyond functional requirements and promote relationships.
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    Improving Quality of Life in Boarding Houses for the Elderly

    The Regroupement des résidences pour retraités du Québec undertook an ACT initiative to develop a set of regulatory tools and model bylaw for use by municipalities wishing to improve the quality of life in small boarding houses for elderly people.
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    Together Independently: A Housing Concept to Aid the Community Integration of Seniors and Disabled Adults

    The concept, called "Together Independently", was a duplex-style dwelling in which the occupants of each half shared certain facilities but would otherwise live as if they occupied self-contained units. They would share a kitchen with two fridges, the metered electrical system, the water and sewer systems, and the heating system, and they could share a central vacuum system. The clientele were seniors and disabled adults. Basically, the house would be occupied by a primary tenant/owner and another tenant willing to act as a companion and helper to the primary occupant. They would share certain living costs, making this an economical arrangement for both. Unfortunately, the owner could not persuade anyone to live in it. This report describes the concept and suggests reasons why it did not succeed.
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    Planning an Artisan Community

    Economic constraints and the need for suitable workspace cause many artisans to seek space in older, industrial buildings. The City of Sainte-Geneviève introduced two innovative regulatory changes in order to encourage the development of accommodation that would meet the needs of artisans: 1) the municipal development plan was modified to permit artisans to live, work and sell their products from their workshop or residence, and to create artisan districts or zones; and 2) a siting and architectural integration plan was adopted to  allow flexibility in applying regulations, while preserving heritage, character and standard of living quality objectives through specialized criteria. The project included renovation of a demonstration building.
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    Ryder Lake "Urban Village": Development Plan For A Sustainable Community

    In 1994, ACT awarded the District a grant to be used towards the preparation of a plan, including development policies, standards and guidelines, for a high-density, compact sustainable community development. From the beginning, the public was consulted through various venues. Implementation of the plan stalled, however, due mainly to the protests of an organized group of Ryder Lake residents who did not want any type of urban development in what they view as a permanently rural area.
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    Shared Ownership Housing Pilot Project

    This ACT initiative combined innovative financing with a small-house design suitable for low- and middle-income households. By deferring the payment for the land component of a house for several years, shared ownership reduces the upfront cost of purchasing a home, thereby making homeownership more accessible.
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    A Flexible Regulatory Tool: Model Garden Suite Bylaw

    The goal of this ACT project was to develop a flexible regulatory instrument for which municipalities could effectively manage the installation of new garden suites and the conversion of existing accessory buildings into garden suites. The model garden suite bylaw which resulted provides building permit applicants and municipal decision-makers with evaluation objectives and criteria, as well as an approval process designed specifically for garden suite projects. The architectural design and site planning objectives and criteria prepared for this ACT initiative were specifically designed both to facilitate the integration of garden suites into existing residential areas and to meet the particular needs of seniors.
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    SPROUT: Flexible Housing Concept

    SPROUT, the first EnviroHome in Quebec, demonstrates how housing can be designed to change as the owner's needs for space changes. The design includes an accessory apartment.
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    Orchard Neighbourhood: A Model for Community Architecture

    A community-based approach was used to develop recommendations for a 12-block area in the Town of Sydney, located on Vancouver Island in BC. The project included a survey of homeowners in the area, an information meeting and a community workshop. Municipal staff recommended changes to the Town's Official Plan, bylaws, regulations and approval process to make the Orchard Neighbourhood Society an officially recognized and integral part of the development process.
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    Legalization of Secondary Suites in Surrey, B.C.

    The ACT case study documents the introduction of new zones and regulations in 1992 for secondary suites and recommendations made in 1996 for an easier and simpler administrative process.
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    "Garden Suites" Pilot Project

    This project contributed significantly to the initiation of dialogue at the provincial level on developing changes in the Planning Act to give municipalities the authority to regulate suites. The proposed changes did not stipulate that garden suites are for use only by family members because this is considered to be discriminatory under the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
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    Home Occupation Scenarios and Their Regulatory Requirements

    The work of the consultant and Task Force led to the adoption of a "blanket by-law" for home businesses in the Town of Markham. The blanket by-law is in effect a one-stop approvals process. The main features contained in the by-law were incorporated into a generic home occupations by-law which can be adopted by other municipalities.
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    Two-Generational Housing

    APCHQ undertook to develop model regulations for two-generational housing; to examine how regulatory processes relating to zoning, site planning and building could be modified to permit the construction of two-generational homes, or the adaptation of existing dwellings into two-generational homes, in single-family zones; develop technical design and construction criteria; and to encourage municipalities to adopt the proposed regulations to permit two-generational homes.
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    Modifying Municipal Regulations to Accommodate Two-Generational Houses in Québec City

    The project reviewed the current regulatory environment and proposed changes to municipal regulations in order to encourage development of two-generational housing in post-war single-family suburbs in Québec City.
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    Planning Cohousing: Creative Communities and the Collaborative Housing Society, Toronto, Ontario

    The resulting handbook, Planning for Cohousing: Cohousing and the Municipal Planning Process, provides a description of cohousing to assist municipal planners in understanding the concept. The handbook also outlines the planning process for cohousing groups, along with strategies for developing a collaborative relationship with municipal officials and neighbours.
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    Mediation As A Tool To Resolve Land-Use Disputes

    Kamloops Council decided to provide the option of mediation at the rezoning stage as a cost-effective way to enhance public involvement in land development proposals. A developer foreseeing public resistance to a proposal can ask the City to approve mediation to resolve the potential dispute before the proposal goes to a public hearing. Appendix A provides a list of the pros and cons of mediation.
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    Construction Standards for Accessory Suites

    The major task facing many urban municipalities is not one of introducing accessory suites, but rather one of converting illegal suites into legal dwelling units. The City of Saskatoon wanted to encourage its landlords to upgrade illegal suites to acceptable standards of health and safety, while helping to make the process as straightforward and economical as possible. As a result of the project, the City of Saskatoon determined that it needed to make a clear differentiation between accessory suites and other types of apartment dwellings, since the lack of distinction had proven to be confusing.
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    Preparing for Barrier-Free Regulations

    In the Early 1990s PEI had no standards in place to make sure new buildings and major renovations would be accessible to persons with disabilities (except in Charlottetown and Summerside, which had adopted the National Building Code).  This project developed tools to help builders and designers with the application of new barrier-free regulations.
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    The Inclusion of Made-to Convert Lots in a New Plan of Subdivision

    London created the first new subdivision that includes lots zoned for made-to-convert housing. These homes are designed and built so that they can be easily converted from a single-family dwelling into two self-contained units and back again.
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    Second Dwelling Units in Rural and Village Settings

    Second dwelling units have the potential to meet the special needs of small families, young people and seniors. The Township amended its policies and regulations to permit second dwelling units.  The project team also produced a permit checklist to assist staff in processing applications and a 16-page handbook, Second Dwellings Units (Apartment in Houses): An Information and Application Guide.
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    Laying the Groundwork: Garden Suites and On-Site Septic Systems

    Installing a separate septic system for a garden suite would compromise the affordability aspect.  This project resulted in guidelines aimed at minimizing the effect of garden suites on on-site septic systems, and ensuring a speedy approval process for garden suite applicants.  Recommendations included, for example, requirements to evaluate system capacity, water conservation fixtures and devices and remedial measures to be taken in the event of a system malfunction.
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    Criteria for Garden Suite Regulations

    HMS developed criteria related to occupancy, siting, installation and the approval process for garden suites-portable, self-contained dwellings temporarily located on the property of existing single-family homes-in the Region of Durham.
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    The Convertible House: A Flexible Alternative

    The 197 m2 (2,118 ft2), two-storey Convertible House was built in a predominantly single-family residential area in Vancouver, with the secondary suite in place. With only one exterior entrance, the house looks like any other single-family dwelling from the street. Inside, each unit has its own separate entrance. The two units can be readily integrated into one, and converted back into two, as desired.
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    Policies and Regulations for Seniors' Housing

    By the early 1990s, several bylaw amendments were required to update, clarify and streamline the municipality's zoning regulations for seniors' housing. The amendments extended the types of seniors' housing that could be permitted "as of right," thereby reducing the approval time to approximately one-third of that previously experienced; introduced new types of seniors' housing not formerly addressed in the bylaw, in order to widen the range of choice; and reduced or clarified development standards where appropriate
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    Dividing Large Houses: A Solution for Affordability and Maintenance

    In 1993, Sillery amended its zoning bylaw to permit the division of large, single-family detached homes into two units. This helps seniors to "age in place" by enabling them to receive additional income by renting the accessory unit or entering into a joint ownership arrangement. It also encourages the production of affordable housing units for young families and other moderate-income households.
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    Hearth Homes: Small Homes for Rural Communities

    The "Hearth Home" is a small, two-bedroom bungalow (53m2 / 572 ft2) developed in the 1980s to meet the needs of the rural poor living in Kings County.
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    Innovative Rooming Houses

    This project involved the development of architectural ideas aimed at creating innovative rooming house that allow rents to be reduced by increasing the density and the number of housing units; increase the feeling of privacy and security by providing units with individual exterior entrances; and make the units more comfortable by creating an interior layout that gives tenants the impression of two rooms. The City revised its zoning bylaw to reduce the requirements for unit area and parking spaces.
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    Regulations for Garden Suites

    The Commission worked with representatives of the manufacturedhousing industry, local municipalities and the community to identify and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of garden suites, and to develop regulations and approval processes that would make this innovative housing form readily available in the Tantramar Planning District.
Page Updated: 21/12/2015