Accessory or Additional Dwelling Units (ADU) are self-contained residential units with a private kitchen, bathroom facilities, and sleeping areas within homes or accessory structures. They are known as secondary suites, in-law suites, in-house apartments, and basement apartments.
ADU are the low-hanging fruit of an affordable housing strategy. Nothing new here, decades ago it seemed almost everyone had a small basement dungeon apartment to house that in-law.
As housing prices have sky-rocketed, in-law suites have been replaced with “income suites”. HGTV’s “Income Property” the ten-year syndicated television program was the de facto ADU design build blueprint of how to complete that much-needed income property for any hope of Toronto housing affordability. The program outlined the challenges and costs of creating one (1) basement ADU starting in 2008 ($20,000), to 2018 ($60,000). The ADU financial costs covered proper soundproofing, fire separation, upgraded electrical, plumbing, and HVAC, installing separate entrance and bedroom egress, and finally turn-key completion.
Constructing a proper basement ADU is not cheap; therefore, North Bay, ON has committed to a $25,000 grant for any new ADU constructed in their Community Housing Improvement Program zone. Other Ontario Cities are providing additional incentives such as reduced building permit fees, financial assistance with design costs, and reduced tipping fees.
The Sault has three (3) areas of the city “zones” that would benefit from an ADU grant program:
- Hospital ADU Zone :
Since the Sault Area Hospital moved to Great Northern Road, there has been no affordable housing built in that area. The only housing built in that area targeted higher wage earners. In planning hindsight it would have been beneficial to have an ADU program for housing built near the hospital as there is a lack of apartments or any other affordable housing options.
- Educational ADU zone:
Create a (1) kilometre radius around both Sault College and Algoma University for the creation of much-needed ADU student housing. These post-secondary institutions have a significant increase in student enrolment requiring more housing. As additional on-campus dorms have not been completed; the responsibility of student housing has fallen to the home-owners around Sault College and Algoma University.
If we are to depend on private home-owner ADUs for student housing an ADU grant program will ensure that these student apartments are safe. Student ADUs apartments require a high standard of fire safety, student personal safety and security and they ought to be in a very good condition.
- Centre, Centre/West Housing, Old Neighbourhoods:
An ADU grant program will help the revitalization of some housing in the “old neighbourhoods” of the Sault. It is important to understand that construction building materials have extremely high levels of embedded carbon. Drywall and concrete are some of the most carbon-intensive materials to produce; therefore, “old neighbourhood” houses at the end of their life cycle should be torn down and not renovated. Before implementing an ADU grant program in “old neighbourhoods” a comprehensive “Urban Blight Removal” program should be created and implemented first. Don’t waste good dollars and building materials on houses that should be torn down.
I do not support the addition of two (2) or three (3) ADUs per residential lot.
Adding one (1) ADU to a house on a standard residential lot is resurrecting a good old/new idea. This is the very definition of “gentle density increase” as outlined by the City Planning Department’s Official Plan. Adding one in-law suite to a house will not significantly change the house, block or neighbourhood.
Adding two (2) or three (3) ADUs to a standard residential house/lot will significantly change the house, block, and neighbourhood. There will be a significant increase in tenant and vehicular traffic. A single-family residential lot is not large enough to accommodate the extra vehicles that will be parked all over the yard, street, and in-front of other neighbour’s homes. Yard green space will be reduced; while there will be more garbage bins and pets than the residential zoned lot can handle.
In short, a single standard residential lot cannot handle the addition of two (2) or three (3) ADUs.
The City of Sault Ste. Marie currently has very good by-laws required for a triplex and four-plex. You do not need to fix something that is not broken.
I absolutely support the creation of an “ADU Grant and Incentive Program”; but for only one (1) ADU per resident lot /household in Sault Ste. Marie.
Mark Menean, URBAN MATTERS.
Photo courtesy “accessorydwellings.org”