Tiny houses, laneway suites and backyard homes all fall under the permit category of Additional Dwelling Units (Detached). Our zoning bylaw allows for these buildings on most properties zoned R-1 through R-7.

To build an Additional Dwelling Unit (Detached) on your property, you'll need an approved site plan application and building permit. We've outlined the application process on this page.

On this page:

  1. Zoning
  2. Parking
  3. Before you apply for a permit
  4. Additional Dwelling Unit (Detached) application process
  5. Backyard homes contest

Zoning

To help make sure that these new units are a good fit in our existing neighbourhoods, there are zoning and parking regulations that must be met.

If you want to add a detached dwelling unit to your property but don't meet all the zoning regulations, you can send us an email to discuss your options.

Lot
  • must have a minimum lot width 13.1 meters
  • must have a minimum lot area of 395 square meters
  • maximum of one additional dwelling unit (detached) per lot
  • must have full municipal services
  • must be located in the rear yard a minimum of 0.6 meters from property lines
Building height
  • maximum building height of:
    • 4.5 metres for a hip, gable, shed, or gambrel roof, measured to the mid point between the eaves and the peak of the roof, excluding the eaves of any projections
    • 4.5 metres for a mansard roof, measured to the deck line
    • 3 metres for a flat roof, measured to the peak of the roof
  • for a shed roof where the peak of the roof is more than 4.5 metres from highest finished grade level, the highest exterior wall cannot face a rear or side lot line closer than 4.5 metres

Graphic showing the measurement of building height for additional dwelling units (detached) with different types of roofs

Setback
  • if the main house is a single detached dwelling or duplex, the side yard setback of the main house must be 1.2 metres on both sides
  • if the main house is a street townhouse or semi-detached dwelling, the side yard setback of the main house must be 2.5 metres on one side
Access to unit
  • there must be a 1.1 meter wide unobstructed path to the entrance of the detached unit from the street or sidewalk
Footprint
  • the total footprint of detached structures and additional dwellings cannot exceed 15% of the lot area
  • the maximum floor area is 50% of the main house (excluding basement) or 80 square metres, whichever is less

Parking

The parking regulations for an additional dwelling unit (detached) depend on how many units are on your lot. There are two possible combinations:

  • two units in total: one in the main building, and the second in an additional dwelling unit (detached) in the backyard
  • three units in total: two in the main building (duplex) and the third in an additional dwelling unit (detached) in the backyard

There are also parking space size requirements you will need to meet.

Properties near ION stations

If your property is within 800 metres of an ION station, your backyard home does not need a parking spot. This is around a 10-minute walk from an ION station, and future tenants may not need to own a car. Check our map to see an 800 metre radius around each station.

Two units in total

If there are two units on the property, two parking spaces are required.

Here are the proposed minimum parking options for two units:

Option one

An 11.5 metre long driveway (measured from the front property line towards the house) that is at least 2.6 metres wide. An 11.5 metre long driveway meets the requirement for two parking spaces. The two spaces can be arranged in tandem (one behind the other).

Graphic showing parking requirements for an additional dwelling unit lot with two units total

Option two

A single garage combined with a driveway in front of the garage. The garage must be located at least 6 metres from the front property line and be able to accommodate one parking space. The driveway in front of the garage must be at least 2.6 metres wide and will accommodate the second space. The two spaces can be arranged in tandem (one behind the other).

Graphic showing parking requirements for an additional dwelling unit lot with two units total

Three units in total

If there are three units on the property, three parking spaces are required.

Here are the proposed minimum parking options for three units:

Option one

A double garage combined with a driveway in front of the garage. The double garage must be located at least 6 metres from the front property line and be able to accommodate two parking spaces. The driveway in front of the garage must be at least 5.2 metres wide and will accommodate the third space. Two of the three spaces can be arranged in tandem (one behind the other).

Graphic showing parking requirements for an additional dwelling unit lot with three units total

Option two

An 11.5-metre-long double driveway that is at least 5.2 metres wide. Three parking spaces must be able to fit on this driveway and only one can be located closer than 6 metres from the property line. Two of the three spaces can be arranged in tandem (one behind the other).

Graphic showing parking requirements for an additional dwelling unit lot with three units total

Option three

A 17-metre-long single driveway (measured from the front property line towards the house) that is at least 2.6 metres wide. A 17 metre long driveway meets the requirement for three parking spaces. The three spaces can be arranged in tandem (one behind the other).

Graphic showing parking requirements for an additional dwelling unit lot with three units total

Size of parking spaces

The size of parking spaces in Kitchener depend on whether it is an outdoor space (driveway) or an indoor space (garage or carport).

  • outdoor space: parking space must be a minimum of 2.6 metres wide by 5.5 metres deep
  • indoor space: parking space must be a minimum of 3.04 metres wide by 5.49 metres deep

Before you apply for a permit

Before you complete a site plan application and apply for building permits, please consider the following:

Regulations 
  • if your application does not meet all zoning or parking regulations, we cannot issue permits without legalizing the items that don't meet the regulations
  • we will not issue the building permit before the site plan is approved
  • when the site plan is approved, we will mail a courtesy notice to all properties within 30 metres of your property letting them know about the approval and next steps (building permits and construction)
Services and utilities
  • there must be full municipal services available on the property
  • properties in Kitchener are allowed only one set of municipal services to the street (sanitary & water) and the new unit must connect to these on private property
  • contact utilities companies (hydro, gas, water) separately and early in the process to set up services for the new unit
Address sign
  • each property with an additional dwelling unit (detached) must have a permanent address sign installed. This will help emergency services such as the fire department to find and access the unit.
  • it is the responsibility of the owner/applicant to manufacture the ADU Address Sign. During the site plan approval process, the sign location must be shown on the plan.
  • design requirements for the sign:
    • 6”/15cm high with a length appropriate to fit the assigned unit identifier;
    • characters shall be 4”/10cm high; and,
    • the sign shall have white characters on a green reflective background on both sides of the sign.
    • note: a unit identifier will be assigned during the site plan approval process or building permit process. Do not manufacture the sign until the unit identifier has been assigned.
  • location requirements for the sign:
    • mounted 1 metre above ground level and facing the roadway;
    • placed within 1m of the path or driveway that leads to the additional dwelling unit (detached); and,
    • located within 1m of the front property line.

If you have any questions, send us an email.

Heritage and conservation
On the property
  • it is the owner’s responsibility to provide any parking spaces for tenants of the backyard home on private property and must advise future tenants of any parking constraints
    • City of Kitchener on-street parking spaces are not to be relied upon as a parking space for future tenants
  • while the zoning allows exterior walls to be located as close to 0.6 metres (2 feet) from property lines, the Ontario Building Code requires any wall located closer than 1.2 metres (4 feet) from a property line to have a 45-minute fire resistance rating and no windows are allowed on that wall
  • if the property borders a railway right-of-way, there are other setback rules contained in Section 5.23 of the Zoning By-law
    • the railway authorities will be circulated on your site plan application for their comment
  • if there are any buildings on the property that are over 108 square feet in area proposed to be removed, you'll need a demolition permit
  • before removing any trees on shared property line(s), you'll need written permission from all property owners before we approve the site plan and before you can remove any trees
    • where any trees may be impacted by the proposed location of the new unit, you may need further studies such as an arborist
Additional Dwelling Unit (Detached) application process
Before you build an Additional Dwelling Unit (Detached) in Kitchener, you'll need to follow this process.
  • application fee
  • scoped site plan
  • building permit
Scoped site plan

Cost: $522

Time: 8 to 10 weeks

A scoped site plan:

  • confirms zoning compliance (setbacks, floor area, etc.)
  • reviews building and parking layout
  • considers affected trees and emergency access
  • review of building elevations to confirm building height
  • reviews some building code requirements such as required distance between the main house and the additional dwelling unit (detached)
  • is approved by our planning division

Visit our site plan page to download the application form and see what you need to include in your application.

Building permits

Cost: varies

When reviewing building permit applications, staff will make sure your plans and drawings meet the requirements of the Ontario Building Code.

Visit our building permits page to learn more.

Backyard homes contest

In July 2021, we asked you to design concepts for a backyard home in Kitchener, while telling a story of who the home would be for. The competition drew winning proposals from four categories: youth, adult, post-secondary student and professional. Staff judged the winning designs based on our zoning criteria and considered user experience, affordability and sustainability.

The winners are:

Professional

  • First place: GAGA (Green Accessible Granny ADU) 
  • The Architect Builders Collaborative Inc. (Ana Gascon Marco)

Post-secondary student

  • First place: Welcome Home to Accessibility
  • Tamara Bell

Community (adult)

  • First placeFour Seasons Backyard Home 
  • Paul Vogiatzis, Christina Vogiatzis, Maria Vogiatzis, Helen Vogiatzis

Community (youth)

  • First placeLazar Paroski, 17 

Check out the winning submissions and honourable mentions on our Engage Kitchener page.