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City eyes R4 zoning overhaul as remedy for aching rental market

R4 infill housing, via a City of Ottawa planning report.

The city last year outlawed bunkhouses that pack stupid numbers of bedrooms into urban buildings. Now it’s looking to address the rental housing shortage that made them.

City of Ottawa planners are readying for consultations this fall on the second phase of its residential fourth density (R4) zoning review, which ties in with larger consultations over the new official plan. The first phase of the R4 review concluded last summer with the outlaw of bunkhouses.

Now, the city wants to enable developers to provide more rental housing and ease tension on the city’s distressed rental market. It plans to do that by changing the zoning by-law to enable a wider array of multi-unit infill in R4-zoned neighbourhoods.

(What’s R4 zoning? According to the city’s by-law search, R4 is urban zoning that allows residential buildings “ranging from detached to low rise apartment dwellings, in some cases limited to four units, and in no case more than four storeys”.)

The city’s working on their draft changes to R4 zoning now and into the summer, with public consultation slated for fall. The hope, the city’s website says, is for new rules to be in place by mid-2020.

It hasn’t revealed exactly what it has in mind but the city’s R4 webpage says the review will look for ways to permit more types of housing, “while respecting compatibility and context sensitive design.”

Specifically, it’s looking at what’s called “missing middle” housing. That refers to a broad range of multi-unit housing that are sized in the same ballpark as single-detached homes. A design company called Opticos coined the term in 2010 and describes missing middle as including housing types like duplexes, triplexes and townhouses.

Graphic/Opticos Design LLC

The city’s gotten a head-start on the public consultation, by posting a Kijiji ad as a novel way to get renters in the loop on the upcoming changes.

“The City of Ottawa wants to make it easier to build low-rise apartments in those urban neighbourhoods you want to live in,” the city’s “ad” on the classifieds site posting said.

“By changing the Zoning By-law to let the housing market produce more apartment units to meet growing demand, we can make it easier to find an affordable place to live, whether you’re young or old; a student, working or retired; a single person, a couple, a group of roommates or a family,” it goes on to promise.

You can read more on the zoning review on the city’s website and sign up for future updates by emailing R4Zoning@ottawa.ca.


Devyn Barrie

Devyn Barrie is the publisher and editor of OttawaStart.com. He currently studies math and physics at the University of Ottawa, and has previously studied journalism and pre-technology (separately) at Algonquin College.