Kingston Zoning Bylaw. Are Third Dwelling Units Allowed? Explained by Lisa Henderson, House of Three President

Kingston City Council has approved a new zoning by-law! See what it means for homeowners and builders.

On September 29, 2022, Kingston adopted a single zoning by-law. It will regulate land uses as well as development across (almost) the entire city! (As per the City of Kingston website, “the almost, in this case, refers to a limited number of properties that have old permissions under the former zoning by-laws”).

What does this by-law bring to homeowners and builders? Lisa Henderson, the House of Three President, is sharing her thoughts:

Kingston is an amalgamated city made up of previous townships. There used to be 5 separate zoning by-laws, and now there is just one. The City has been working on this for years - my understanding is about 15 years. When the council voted to go forward and implement the by-law, there were two appeals. One of those appeals reached an agreement with the City at the end of September. When the agreement was reached, the by-law went into effect immediately, with no additional waiting period or notice.  There are a few areas that are still under appeal and are marked as an "Advisory Area" on the City's mapping program.

Parking Rules Have Changed

Under the old zoning by-laws, there were several discrepancies.  For instance, parking had to be different sizes in different parts of the City (yet we all purchase the same vehicles!). There are still some areas that need to be considered differently than others.  For instance, our downtown core has gorgeous heritage buildings that need to be protected, and at the same time, they can't exactly be moved to make them meet the same zoning requirements as the more "suburban" areas.  And now that we do drive vehicles, not ride horses or walk to every location we frequent, we need somewhere to keep those vehicles (driveways) to allow for traffic, and for maintenance vehicles such as plows to go through.

For the most part, there are minor changes for homeowners, such as the parking sizes being more consistent (and slightly smaller). Some setback changes (distances from lot lines to buildings, for instance), although what is existing can remain as is. 

Third Dwelling Units Are Allowed

The biggest change in our view is the allowance for third additional dwelling units (detached). This recognizes the province's push for much-needed additional housing.

The third additional detached dwelling unit allows for essentially small bungalows to be added separately from the main and secondary suites. There is a cap of 8 bedrooms per lot. Still, those can be in any combination (3 in the main house, 3 in the secondary suite, and 2 in the third detached home, for instance), with a maximum lot coverage of 10%, setback requirements, and an allowance for bicycle parking. But this could be a major change in the right direction in providing additional housing.  

Ultimately, our most valuable resource in housing is land. And we are running out of land that is serviced. This takes the land we already have and better utilizes it.

  • For homeowners with aging parents or children, this allows another option for housing.
  • For snowbirds, it may make more sense to move into the third detached unit in the summer months while renting the larger house out while they are away.
  • For real estate investors, with rising costs, this allows the same property they may already own to be used for a third unit.  

Ultimately, there are a lot of possibilities for better utilizing our existing land. However, there will be situations where setbacks have been increased or decreased, which may affect the ability of some projects such as additions. Also, sewage capacity might affect your ability to build an additional unit, but that is where a good planning consultant will be necessary to complete a project. 

The adoption of the new zoning by-law is a big move for Kingston that will help regulate development, and better control land uses moving forward. It's an exciting time for the city, and we can't wait to see what the future holds!

Thanks for following along as we explained this complex issue - be sure to check back soon! Subscribe to our newsletter and get more updates, decor ideas, and special offers from our partners and us!


House of Three is an architectural technology firm that produces BCIN-licensed, predesigned house plans, custom designs, and renovation blueprints. We create affordable, attractive, and code-compliant designs for residential homes, renovations, and rentals. Located just north of the historic limestone city of Kingston, Ontario, we work with clients from our local area and across Canada.