Bylaw Information

The construction of a home made out of a shipping container is restricted by bylaws put in place by the City of Kitchener. As it stands, Kitchener does not permit the construction of additional housing units on residential lots that already contain a housing unit. In order to build a home made out of a shipping container on a property with an existing housing structure, the property will need to be rezoned. However, Kitchener has recently released a new Official Plan that emphasizes densification and the implementation. If the Plan is enacted and bylaws are added, modified, or removed then building a home made out of a shipping container may become considerably easier from a legal perspective.

The external aesthetics of the completed structure and how it will be received by the neighbourhood is also important to consider. Though there are no specific bylaws detailing what a building must look like, all structures are expected to “conform” with the aesthetic of the neighbourhood. Please see the [SectionNameHere - walls/external?] for more information. An issue that can arise when attempting to obtain clearance to build a new structure on a residential lot is pushback from neighbours. Disputes can lead to serious delays and even cancellations of construction projects.

Garden Suites

A home made out of a shipping container and placed on a lot with an existing residential structure will be classified as a garden suite. According to the City of Kitchener, a garden suite is one-unit detached residential structure containing bathroom and kitchen facilities that is ancillary to an existing residential structure and that is designed to be portable.


While garden suites are legal to have on a residential property in Kitchener, none of the current zoning bylaws allow for their construction. This is a result of a change in bylaws that prohibited their construction but allowed property owners to keep any garden suites that had been built prior to the change. Despite this challenge, there is a way to work around the existing restrictions: applying for a zone change. Having a property rezoned costs $10,000 per property and takes approximately six months. For example, the Louisa Street property owned by the Working Centre is currently zoned as R-5. Applying for a rezoning would change the designation and allow for the request of building permits to construct a home made out of a shipping container.

  • Do we know what it would be rezoned to?

  • Do we need to learn more about getting an override for existing bylaws? (I can’t remember the word)

Kitchener Official Plan

A new Official Plan has been approved by the Kitchener City Council. It emphasizes the densification of the downtown core and makes mention of garden suites. We hope that the Plan’s approval by City Council is an indication of new bylaws that will be better suited to the construction of a home made out of a shipping container. Ideally, the need for a $10,000 zone change would be eliminated, making it much easier to construct homes made out of shipping containers.

  • Could someone more familiar with what the plan says improve this section?

Building Aesthetics and Neighbourhood Politics

According to the City of Kitchener, a new structure on a residential lot is expected to “be integrated into its surroundings with negligible visual impact to the streetscape”. Unfortunately, there is little information on how exactly this is enacted. However, ensuring that a new building - in this case, a home made out of a shipping container - receives a building permit means demonstrating that the structure “fits in” with the neighbourhood. Additional pushback can come from neighbours near the property. If there are people in the neighbourhood who do not like the proposed building, they may lodge a complaint and delay and/or prevent the construction of the home.

  • I feel like we should look deeper into how neighbours might go about stopping a construction project.

  • I also feel like this isn’t even a concern for the Working Centre, but mentioning it may still be important.

-- Main.bmclachl - 2015-02-24
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Topic revision: r5 - 2015-03-10 - n5john
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