First approved backyard tiny home going up in Kitchener

The City of Kitchener has approved its first backyard tiny home as housing prices in the region continue to climb.

Thanks to a bylaw approved by council in the spring, homeowners like Simon Wong are able to construct and have new, smaller residences on their property.

“What we really mean by tiny homes in Kitchener is basically a second, smaller house at the backyard of a main property,” said Richard Kelly-Ruetz, the city’s planning division project manager. “There are certain zoning requirements in terms of what your lot has to look like, it needs to be 13.1 metres wide and within 400 square metres of lot area.”

The tiny home must also be no bigger than half the size of the main house. Basements are allowed, as its space that doesn’t count towards the square footage cap.

There are 25,000 homes in Kitchener, both free-standing and duplex, that qualify.

So far, only two permits have been approved, but seven more are in the works.

“Typically the highest it could be is about 800 square feet, so that would be on the higher size that we would see built in Kitchener,” said Kelly-Ruetz.

Wong’s new build is under that maximum at 500 square feet, with one bed, one bath, a full kitchen and a room for a washer and dryer.

“It’s a cathedral ceiling design,” he said. “We’re trying to maximize the square footage.

“We’ve taken a single family and we’ve made it into three units, so we’ve tripled the housing supply in this one piece of property.”

For years, Waterloo Region and most of southern Ontario has not had enough housing supply to meet demand, and with the pandemic only adding fuel to the fire, housing prices have skyrocketed in the area.

“It’s also an opportunity for renters to have a different kind of housing to choose from when they’re looking for a place to live,” said Kelly-Ruetz.

For now, Wong plans to rent the space, but eventually hopes it will be a way to keep aging parents close to home.

“I think it would be great for a young professional [to rent],” he said. “But we can have our big family all within one property.”