What is a garden suite? Can a garden suite be a tiny house?
Many of us starting to look at options for parking a tiny home will encounter the concept of the “garden suite”. This is a term found in Ontario municipal zoning by-laws that sounds like it may apply to renting a parking space for your tiny house.
According to the definition from the Ontario government:
Garden Suite means a one-unit detached residential structure containing bathroom and kitchen facilities that is ancillary to an existing residential structure and that is designed to be portable. It is permitted only where a site-specific, temporary zoning by-law allows one.
So, can garden suite regulations be used to install a tiny home on wheels in Ontario? Yes.
One-unit detached residential structure? Check!
Containing bathroom and kitchen? Check!
Portable? So much check!
But what is a temporary zoning by-law?
The original purpose of the garden suite in these regulations was to house family members who wanted some independence, but also needed to be close by for ongoing care – think elderly parents or someone with disabilities. The family would request permission to put up a second building in their backyard for this purpose.
Today, the process is very similar. In essence, this is a contract between you and the municipality where the municipality actually changes the zoning for your property only, to allow a specific person to live in a separate temporary apartment in your backyard until they no longer need it.
What: garden suite
Why: for housing family members in a separate apartment in your backyard
How: Apply with the name of the garden suite occupant, a drawing of your property, and desired timeline (up to 10 years initially, with possibility of 3-year extensions)
Cost: Because this requires a special review of your property, a meeting and a re-zoning decision, it costs as much as other minor rezoning cases. You will pay between $700 and $1500 for the application alone. Then, the rezoning will cost several thousand dollars, depending on the municipality.
Timeline: The review and decision process will likely take several months.
Limitations: Limitations on garden suites vary slightly from one municipality to another, but overall, there can’t be more than one of them in your backyard, they can’t be too big, and they can’t interfere with other elements in the area (i.e. encroach on your neighbours’ privacy, be too close to waterways, require trees to be cut down).
The verdict: While the garden suite is a fully above-board, legal way to long-term park a tiny home in Ontario, it’s quite expensive. Depending on the municipality, there may be cheaper and more flexible options, such as the Coach House.