Patrick Langston reported in a recent Ottawa Citizen column that “interest in (granny suites) will continue to grow as the population ages and the recession forces families to look for new revenue sources.” According to Stan Wilder, Policy Planner for the City of Ottawa, the concept of the “granny flats” is embraced by the city as it promotes one of the city’s goals of “aging in place” for our senior residents. In the same “Homes” Section of the paper, the Citizen’s Homes Editor, Sheila Brady, featured a young family who invited the woman’s younger sister to share separate living quarters in their large home. According to the article, “They count themselves lucky because there is no way they could have afforded to buy two separate homes…”
Help with financing the mortgage is the way to go for many extended families. In fact, if you’re adding a secondary suite to accommodate a low-income senior or an adult with a disability, CMHC has a Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) that offers up to $24,000 in a forgivable loan for construction of the suite. Some units may be eligible for the GST rebate as well.
Adding the secondary living suite AFTER you’ve bought is the cheaper way to go. Development charges can double with new construction but there’s no fee to add the suite to an existing home. Prices generally start around $20,000 and you MUST make sure you have all the necessary permits. Garden suites are also becoming popular, but mostly in the country where there’s land available to put the suite in the backyard. Townhomes and row houses are not allowed secondary units in the city of Ottawa nor are homes in the old Village of Rockcliffe (don’t panic if you have an illegal unit; get your permits under the municipality’s grandfather clause).
Speak to your mortgage agent about financing options for construction to an existing dwelling. Refinancing is becoming very popular right now in this time of historically low interest rates; it may be a good idea to add the cost at renewal or even use a home equity line of credit.
If you’re thinking this may be the way to go, check out the City of Ottawa’s “Home within a home” downloadable brochure. There is loads of other information out there; give me a shout if you would like more and I’d be happy to get it for you!