Secondary Suites in Halifax Regional Municipality
Am I permitted to have more than one secondary and backyard suite?
No – You may have either one secondary suite or one backyard suite.
Who can live in a Secondary of Backyard Suite?
Anyone. Secondary and backyard suites can be used as accommodation for aging parents, adult children or can be used as a rental unit for the general public.
Can I have a secondary or backyard suite accessory to an apartment building?
No. A secondary and backyard suite are only considered accessory to low density residential uses - single unit dwellings, two unit dwellings or townhouse dwellings.
What is the cost of developing a secondary or backyard suite?
- The cost of construction and permits varies depending upon the extent of development
- It is acknowledged that in most cases the development will be costly
- Get permit fee information
Do I need a separate water lateral or power meter to develop a backyard suite?
Halifax Water will allow you to connect to the lateral of the main dwelling. However, depending on the property, should it be too difficult to connect to the lateral of the main dwelling Halifax Water may consider having a separate lateral for a backyard suite that connects directly to the street.
In regard to power meters, the secondary or backyard suite may share the same meter or a second meter can be installed depending on the preference of the property owner.
Does the Building Code have specific requirements for a secondary suite vs a two unit dwelling?
Yes. View the Building Code requirements for a secondary suite (See above document).
Do I have to talk to my neighbours before building or applying?
You do not have to talk to your neighbours before building or applying for a permit to create a secondary or backyard suite when it is permitted. However, it may be a good courtesy to let them know if construction will be taking place or if they will have new neighbours.
What do I do if a neighbour’s secondary or backyard suite is creating a nuisance (too loud, too much garbage)?
Nuisances such as noise and garbage will be dealt with just as they are for any housing form. Call 311 to log a noise complaint if the noise falls between the hours of 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. or if the noise is a result of a home-based, commercial or industrial business. Call Police at 902-490-5020 if the noise complaint is currently in progress and/or falls between the hours of 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. or the noise is vehicular in nature. If there is a dangerous or slightly property in your neighbourhood, you can call 311 to report the details of the violations. Get more information.
Can the secondary or backyard suite share the same civic number as the main dwelling?
No – A secondary or backyard suite will be assigned a new civic number separate from the main dwelling at the construction permit stage.
Can I use my secondary suite or backyard suite as an Airbnb?
While municipal Land Use By-laws do not speak specifically to Airbnbs, some land use By-laws do contain provisions for tourist accommodations or boarders and lodgers. We suggest reaching out to our municipal Planning & Development group (see contact info below) early in your process to make sure you are clear about what rules apply to your property.
Why is the municipality considering secondary and backyard suites?
Currently our By-laws vary in terms of where and how secondary and backyard suites are permitted. Some don’t allow for them at all, and some only allow them in certain areas, with varying design and land use controls. Amending our By-laws to permit secondary and backyard suites in a consistent manner will make it easier for homeowners to take advantage of the benefit a secondary or backyard suite may provide.
Why allow secondary and backyard suites?
- Secondary and backyard suites are a form of housing that increases density gently and that are generally a slightly more affordable form of rental housing.
- Having access to safe, suitable, and reasonably priced housing is foundational to strong, vibrant, and inclusive communities.
- Secondary and backyard suites can add to the rental housing stock without notable physical change to established neighbourhoods.
- More residents in new and established neighbourhoods adds to the support for public and private services, like recreation, transit, and retail.
- Secondary and backyard suites provide options for ageing in place and multigenerational households.
What are some benefits of secondary and backyard suites for homeowners?
- An additional source of income.
- A place for children, elderly parents or relatives to live who may require care, but would benefit from a private space.
- Retirement planning options – some homeowners shift from a main dwelling to the secondary suite and rent out the main suite to save money after retirement.
- A place for live-in care givers to reside.
- Allows a homeowner to afford more home as the income of the secondary suite can be counted towards a mortgage.
What are some benefits of secondary and backyard suites for renters?
- Rental housing that is often located near parks, schools, and other amenities.
- Rental housing that is often less expensive.
- Secondary suites and backyard suites, often necessitate there is a more direct relationship with the landlord.
Do we need more rental housing?
In recent years the amount of rental housing in region has been decreasing. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s most recent (2019) vacancy rate for all of HRM is 1%. A healthy vacancy rate is 3-5%. Secondary and backyard suites provide options to increase rental housing supply that can be blended into existing neighbourhoods.
Do I need to provide parking for the secondary or backyard suite?
No parking is required for secondary or backyard suites.
Can I develop a Tiny Home as a backyard suite?
A tiny home is a house that is generally smaller than 30 square metres (400 square feet). A tiny home, can be developed as a backyard suite provided it meets the requirements of the National Building code. We suggest reaching out to our HRM Planning & Development group (see contact info below) early in your process to make sure you are clear about what rules apply to your property.
When developing a secondary suite, will my single unit dwelling house now become a two unit dwelling?
No. Your single unit dwelling house would be considered a single unit dwelling house with a secondary suite.
Am I able to have a Backyard Suite and a garage on my property?
The rules regarding the total number of accessory buildings are different depending on the community plan area and applicable land use By-law. We suggest reaching out to our HRM Planning & Development group (see contact info below) early in your process to make sure you are clear about what rules apply to your property.
5251 Duke St, 3rd Floor, Suite 300, Halifax
8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Monday to Friday, excluding Holidays
By Phone - 311 or 1-800-835-6428
By Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Do other cities allow secondary and backyard suites?
Most cities in Canada permit secondary and backyard suites unique to local conditions. In general, it is accepted these suites are a way to increase the supply of affordable housing without changing the character of a neighbourhood.
Since the amendments allow for a backyard suite that is 90 m2 (968.75 sq ft), what happens if the Land Use By-law my for community does not permit an accessory building of that size?
A backyard suite must conform with the accessory building requirements including the maximum size.
The accessory building provisions vary in each community land use By-law to reflect each community/neighbourhood. Where the accessory building provisions require the building to be smaller than 90 m2 (968.75 sq ft), the backyard suite must conform with those requirements. Where the accessory building provisions allow for a building to be larger than 90 m2 (968.75 sq ft), the area of the building that is devoted to the backyard suite can be no larger than 90 m2 (968.75 sq ft). We suggest reaching out to our HRM Planning & Development group (see contact info below) early in your process to make sure you are clear about what rules apply to your property.
Why isn’t additional parking required for a secondary or backyard suite?
Residents of secondary and backyard suites may not own a vehicle or may not be able to drive. Requiring additional parking, can put undue expenses on the homeowner and, in some cases, prohibit a homeowner from adding a secondary or backyard suite. Not having specific parking requirements for these units does not prohibit homeowners from providing the parking, it simply means a parking space is not mandatory where additional parking is not necessary or cannot be provided.
Will a secondary or backyard suite impact my property value?
Assessment in the municipality is completed by the Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC). PVSC updates the value of each property annually and a wide variety of factors contribute to a home’s value including economic and market conditions across the municipality as well as factors related to specific properties such as any construction or alterations that may have occurred. The amendments allowing secondary and backyard suites are unlikely in themselves to have a significant impact on property values, however, any individual property owner, that undertakes construction or alterations to their property, should expect PVSC to review its market value.
Will secondary and backyard suites create more traffic and on-street parking?
The purpose of secondary and backyard suites is to allow for gentle density and it is not anticipated that permitting secondary and backyard suites will have a significant impact on traffic and on-street parking, especially in areas of high transit services and walkability. If on-street parking and excess traffic become an issue in the future, solutions such as permits for on-street parking and traffic calming measures can be explored.
My neighbour has a suite and I don’t think it’s permitted. What do I do?
The proposed land use by-law amendments for secondary and backyard suites will allow the use almost everywhere residential uses are permitted. However, that does not mean your neighbour has received the proper permits to ensure the secondary or backyard suite meets current land use and building code regulations. Should you be concerned that your neighbour has an illegal secondary or backyard suite, you can contact Planning & Development at 311.
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