Welles­ley con­sid­ers sec­ond units as a way to boost af­ford­able hous­ing

Coun­cil open to tak­ing a dis­cus­sion about base­ment apart­ments, in-law suites to the pub­lic

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - FAISAL ALI

AF­FORD­ABLE HOUS­ING, NAMELY THE lack of it in the town­ship, was per­haps one of the big­gest con­cerns to emerge from this year’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion in Welles­ley. Par­tic­u­larly for young fam­i­lies look­ing to start life in the town­ship on lim­ited in­comes and se­niors hop­ing to find smaller and more af­ford­able quar­ters in their home com­mu­ni­ties, the op­tions were seen as lim­ited.

To that end, the town­ship is con­sid­er­ing al­low­ing the cre­ation of sec­ond units on lots as a pos­si­ble so­lu­tion.

Bet­ter known as base­ment apart­ments, in-law suites, coach houses and granny flats, a sec­ond unit is de­fined as a self-con­tained dwelling cre­ated within, or ad­ja­cent to, an ex­ist­ing home. The units would by ne­ces­sity re­quire their own ameni­ties, such as a bed­room, kitchen and full washroom, and may be rented out as dis­tinct homes.

Welles­ley coun­cil­lors last week gave the go ahead for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions to be­gin into in­sti­tut­ing sec­ond units in the town­ship.

“Sec­ond units can in­crease the stock of af­ford­able and smaller scale rental units in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, and can be used by home­own­ers as a tool to off­set the ris­ing costs of home own­er­ship,” noted di­rec­tor of plan­ning Ge­off Van­derBaaren in a re­port to coun­cil.

Sec­ond units are by no means a new phe­nom­e­non, but their in­tro­duc­tion to the Welles­ley Town­ship would be re­quire a sig­nif­i­cant amount of leg­work. Un­der provin­cial leg­is­la­ture, the town­ship would be re­quired to draft a pol­icy frame­work for sec­ond units, along with a set of by­laws that would reg­u­late how these units op­er­ate.

Cur­rently, town­ship by­laws ex­ist for a sim­i­lar type of hous­ing – of­fi­cially re­ferred to as a “con­verted dwelling.” A con­verted dwelling is a semi-de­tached house that is con­verted or par­ti­tioned into mul­ti­ple liv­ings spa­ces. The chal­lenge, how­ever, is that there are lim­ited rules for how these dwellings are made, as well as the re­quire­ments that need to be met.

In­tro­duc­ing clear by­laws for sec­ond units in the town­ship would al­low hous­ing de­vel­op­ers to con­struct their own sec­ond units – such as base­ment apart­ments – right into their new build­ings.

The by­laws would also set out the re­quire­ments for ameni­ties such as wash­rooms and kitchens, and mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices such as wa­ter and hy­dro ser­vices. A sec­ond dwelling would most likely also be re­quired to have its own sep­a­rate en­trance from the main dwelling on the prop­erty, and might also be re­quired to of­fer park­ing, sug­gested town­ship staff.

Fur­ther reg­u­la­tions might also re­quire all sec­ond units to be li­censed with the town­ship, and could be sub­ject to pe­ri­odic in­spec­tions to en­sure they’re fol­low­ing build­ing codes. How­ever, town­ship staff noted that a reg­istry could dis­cour­age prop­erty own­ers from cre­at­ing their own sec­ond units, de­feat­ing some of the pur­pose of the changes.

At the mo­ment, the rules be­ing pro­posed for sec­ond units are only demon­stra­tive. Much about how the fi­nal set of by­laws will look will de­pend on the up­com­ing pub­lic en­gage­ment process.

As part of the provin­cial leg­is­la­ture, a statu­tory pub­lic meet­ing would be held on the rules and reg­u­la­tions for sec­ond units in the town­ship, while mul­ti­ple stake­hold­ers in the com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing the re­gional govern­ment, would need to be con­sulted.

[VERON­ICA REINER / THE OB­SERVER]

The songs of the sea­son were given voice by stu­dents at Elmira’s River­side Pub­lic School on Dec. 19, as hun­dreds of friends and fam­ily mem­bers packed into the gym for the an­nual hol­i­day pageant.

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