Mixed views on accessory dwellings

An American planner may be advocating the building of accessory dwellings in urban areas, but the concept is receiving mixed views on Canadian soil.

The idea of building individual micro-units on the site of single-family properties has been met with much enthusiasm, with affordability and relative ease of construction proving lucrative to many property owners.

Jack Wegmann, the planning guru spearheading this argument, says this is the easiest solution for urban areas to meet their housing requirements.

“It’s great to have solutions to deal with housing potential but there are so many by-laws and compliance issues, that it would be hard to get more development on already small lots,” says Realtor Shannon Murree from Barrie, Ont.

Monika MacMillan, sales representative from Bosley Real Estate Ltd, says many homeowners prefer to build up and preserve green space due to smaller lot sizes and not give up the backyard for another structure.

“Aside from the legal issues, it is the issue of living and green space,” adds Murree. 

Tracy Ma, an Ottawa-based investor, believes it is a good concept but any backyard cottage dwellings would have to be legal with the ability to rent out, while also complementing the existing house and local neighbourhood.

“Having lived in Vancouver for eight years, I personally witnessed friends and family who built these 'backyard cottages' and rented them out,” she says. “It may become more difficult to sell these properties to the emotional buyers in the housing market as the emotional buyers may perceive it as an eye sore, loss of land space, or more upkeep and maintenance.  A realtor is key to marketing these types of properties, so that it not only appeals to the emotional buyer but also to an investor like me.”

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