Affordable Housing Development Toolkit:
Housing Services Manager
Department: Human Services, Human Services
What are additonal residential units?
Bruce County defines Additional Residential Units (ARUs) as “a separate residential unit that is located within a detached house, semi-detached house, or rowhouse or within a building or structure that is ancillary to a detached house, semidetached house, or rowhouse”. ARUs function as additional homes on a property, with their own entrance, kitchen, bathroom, living quarters, and sleeping areas. They may be used by members or relatives of the household or rented out.
In Ontario, these additional residences used to be called secondary suites, but with the growing need for affordable housing options, the province has expanded the number of additional units that may be permitted on a property (Bill 108 - More Homes, More Choice Act) and Bill 23 (More Homes Built Faster Act). Additional residential units are also sometimes referred to as: granny flats, in-law suites, basement suites, laneway homes, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and more.
ARUs can take different forms and be situated on different parts of a property. The illustration below shows some examples of different additional residential unit types.
Did You Know...
82.8% of all dwellings in Bruce County are single-detached homes. Apartments with 5 storeys or less are the second most common type of dwelling (7.9%), followed by rowhouses (4.6%).
We need more diverse housing options to meet the needs of households currently living and looking to settle in Bruce County, yet single detached homes continue to make up the majority of new housing being constructed.
By adding additional residential units to existing and new homes, we can foster greater housing diversity, make better use of existing infrastructure, and help ensure there's a place for all.
Source: Statistics Canada, 2021 Census of Population
Different locations and types of ARUs (image adapted from housable.com)
Why create additional residential units?
Bruce County is growing. To ensure that everyone has housing that is suitable and attainable to them at every life stage requires creativity and embracing new ideas of what housing can be. Creating additional residential units is a way to unlock more housing supply, while increasing the diversity of housing options in our communities. When people create ARUs, it's an investment that not only benefits the homeowner, but the entire community and beyond.
For more information on the housing needs across Bruce County, see the Affordable Housing 101 Guide.
Step By Step Guide
This Step-by-Step guide contains key information on the pathways for homeowners to create additional residential units in Bruce County. It includes key information on how to get started, design considerations, financial considerations, and the municipal approvals process.
1.1 Understanding the ARU Options
There are different pathways you can take to hosting ARUs on your property. For example, you could:
Creating additional residential units is a big undertaking, but one that can lead to numerous benefits for the homeowner and the overall community. To help determine if this option is right for you, here are some questions to consider:
These scenarios may also give you some ideas about how adding an ARU could benefit your family and community.
1.2 Understanding ARU Permissions
Local municipalities in Bruce County set rules and requirements for additional residential units, such as:
In addition, you'll find that some municipalities use alternative terms for ARUs (e.g., secondary suites) and there may be slight nuances in how municipalities define these terms.
In November 2022, Ontario passed Bill 23: More Homes Built Faster Act to help accelerate the creation of new housing supply. This legislation includes provisions that will make it easier for people to add additional residential units by reducing some of the building requirements and expanding the number of ARUs that shall be permitted on properties located in settlement areas, with municipal water and sewer services.
Local municipalities are currently working with County Planners to review and update their zoning by-laws to reflect these changes. The section below describes current ARU permissions across municipalities in Bruce County, which are in the process of being updated, as well as the policy changes that are on the radar.
The Current Landscape
The table below contains a high-level summary of existing policies for ARUs by municipality. The municipalities that have recently updated their ARU policies are highlighted in blue.
Please note that many municipalities are working on updating their zoning by-laws to comply with Bill 23. Go to your local building department for most up-to-date information and further details to help you assess your options. Contact information for getting in touch with your local municipality can be found in Section 4: The Municipal Approvals Process.
For municipalities that have not yet updated their policies, you can also reach out to Bruce County Planning for more information.
Note on garden suites:
Garden suites are typically defined as portable, detached units intended for use as temporary housing by members or relatives of the household (e.g., an elderly parent requiring care). Policies for garden suites were intended to fill a housing gap, but with the advancement of policies for ARUs, they may become less relevant.
The Current Landscape
1.3 Who You Will Work With
This overview shows some of the key professionals that can help bring your ARU project to life.
2.1 Design Requirements
When designing your additional unit, it's important to know the specific requirements you must meet, which can differ depending on where your property is located and the type of ARU you're looking to add. This section contains an overview of design requirements that apply to additional residential units. Make sure you reach out to your local municipality early in the planning stage and engage qualified professionals to understand the specific requirements, constraints, and considerations for adding an ARU to your particular property.
Municipal Design Requirements
There are different types of design requirements that apply to additional residential units. Here are some key requirements you should know about:
Detached residential units on properties that are outside of settlement areas may be required to meet additional minimum distance separation setbacks (e.g., from livestock or manure storage facilities on other properties).
Visual of typical setbacks for an urban residential property
Note: If you are not able to meet one or more requirements set out by the municipality, you may be able to apply for relief through a minor variance process. County planners will work with you and your local municipality to resolve any issues.
2.2 Design Principals
When designing housing of any kind, it's important to think about the needs of future residents, the neighbourhood context, and how the unit will last over time. Applying these principles helps to ensure that you get a well-designed product that is a good investment of resources. Furthermore, some of these principles - like fit with neighbourhood character - may be requirements under municipal zoning by-laws and will be evaluated as part of your building permit application.
Here are some of the key principles to incorporate into your ARU design.
The table below lists some of the potential costs you may need to budget for.
Note: For the construction of an additional residential unit(s), development charges (DC's) are not collected in Bruce County. In Ontario, local municipalities are prohibited from charging DCs for ARUs in an existing house. Implementation of Bill 23 will fully exempt additional residential units from Development Charges.
3.2 Funding Programs and Incentives
Is there funding available to offset some of the costs associated with building my ARU?
Bruce County Incentives/Grants
Home Repair Program
For further information and to verify funding availability please contact the housing office at 1-877-396-3450.
Spruce the Bruce - Residential Improvement Grant
Natural Resources Canada
Federal Government Incentives
4.1 Municipal Information Sheets
This section breaks down the process for planning and approvals by municipality, including key contacts and resources.
Note: Your builder or contractor may be able to apply for any permits on your behalf and guide you through the inspections required.
Northern Bruce Peninsula
South Bruce Peninsula
4.2 Bruce County Planning
Bruce County's Planning team is available to help bring your ARU project to life. Contact information for the County's 3 Planning Hubs is listed below.
Are you interested in renting out your additional residential unit?
Here is what you should know:
Before listing the unit for rent
Being a Landlord
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Additional Tools and Resources
Affordable Housing 101
This resource will give you some helpful context on housing needs across Bruce County and the importance of affordable and attainable housing for all.
Here are some additional resources to help guide your ARU journey:
- Ontario Second Unit Guide -This guide contains detailed information on creating an additional unit on your property, including building requirements.
- CMHC Secondary Suite Case Studies - This webpage contains case studies on the impact of secondary suites from communities across Ontario.
- Saugeen Shores Additional Residential Units Guide - This guide includes information on different ARU options and details on how to create an ARU in Saugeen Shores
- Huron County Additional Residential Units Guide - This guide from Huron County covers best practices and scenarios for creating additional residential units that may be applicable in Bruce County.
- Town of Wasaga Beach: A Guide to Second Dwelling Units - This guide explains how to create second dwelling units in Wasaga Beach, with some tips and considerations that may be relevant to Bruce County.
- Ontario Tiny Home Guide - Some detached ARUS could be considered a “tiny home”. This guide contains detailed information on how to build or buy a tiny home for your property. Make sure to check with your local municipality for more information.