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A primer on Ottawa’s Draft Comprehensive Zoning By-law

The City of Ottawa is developing a new comprehensive Zoning By-law for approval by Council in 2025. The Zoning By-law is a set of regulations that sets rules on what can be built as of right, without having to seek specific permission.

In this feature story you will find background on how we got here, a summary of next steps in the process, and a summary of issues addressed in the Zoning By-law. These include: Housing, Climate resiliency, Parking and an explanation of the difference between Dwellings and Storeys.


The new Zoning By-law will implement the policies and directions in the City’s Official Plan, which outlines a comprehensive land-use policy framework to guide growth and development within the city to the year 2046. The new Zoning By-law will be critical to City efforts to address housing affordability in Ottawa by facilitating growth that aligns with intensification goals outlined in the Official Plan.

In addition to the Zoning By-law, the City is reviewing its Infrastructure Master Plan, updating its Transportation Master Plan and implementing its Climate Change Master Plan, all in support of the Official Plan.

Housing is the priority

Opening new opportunities for housing is at the very core of our Official Plan. The Zoning By-law will help us achieve the goals of the Official Plan, namely to provide opportunities for more homes that are:

  • affordable for more people

  • located within low and mid-rise settings in existing neighborhoods

  • located within high-rise settings near main streets and transit hubs

  • well-designed and well-built

  • located in neighbourhoods with amenities that enhance quality of life

Provisions in the draft Zoning By-law aim to encourage development of housing closer to public transit. It also addresses the needs of households with the lowest 40 per cent of income levels, who need a wider range of housing options that includes shelters and supportive housing.

What are the next steps?

Extensive public engagement will follow, with residents encouraged to review and comment on the new by-law both online on and in person at open-house events in the fall.

Staff will compile the results of the consultation and use it to update a second draft of the Zoning By-law, which will be presented for consideration in the spring of 2025 at a joint meeting of the Planning and Housing Committee and the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. Public consultations will then continue until the fall of 2025 when a final draft is scheduled to be considered at Joint Committee once more and then approved by Council.  

Guiding principles of the draft Zoning By-law

Four dwellings does not mean four storeys

To increase housing construction options and opportunities in existing neighbourhoods, the by-law creates a framework of Neighbourhood Zones. All Neighbourhood Zones would permit four dwellings or more on each serviced residential lot. A dwelling refers to an address, a house, an apartment or other place of residence. It does not refer to the number of storeys in a structure.

  • What this means:If a homeowner wants to renovate a structure to allow up to four households to live there, they would not need a zoning amendment to seek special permission to do so. However, they still must adhere to other provisions regulating setbacks, site plans and the building code.

What is a Neighbourhood Zone?

Neighbourhood Zones allow neighbourhoods to evolve in a way that is appropriate based on their location, age, maturity and the needs of the people living in and around them. Where supported by the Official Plan, the draft adds new permissions for non-residential uses to encourage more retail and services near where people live, helping to meet the day-to-day needs of residents.

  • What this means:The Zoning By-law will provide more opportunities in neighbourhoods for daycares, hair salons, coffee shops, food stores, small local-oriented retail and offices to provide local benefits that residents want and need.

What is a 15-minute neighbourhood?

One of the Official Plan’s targets is to permit denser, more livable communities. The draft Zoning By-law supports the development of 15-minute neighbourhoods.

  • What this means:In a 15-minute neighbourhood, most of what you need to live can be found within a 15-minute walk of your home, including access to food, shopping, medical care, schools, employment and recreation; or, access to public transit to take you where you need to go.

What does the draft Zoning By-law say about parking?

The draft does not propose minimum parking rates. That does not mean no parking will be provided for new developments, but it would be by choice and driven by market preference and demand.

  • What this means:Maximum parking rates in areas well served by transit will continue to apply, as will requirements for accessible and visitor parking spaces. 

How does the draft by-law address Climate Resiliency?

This draft Zoning By-law includes provisions that encourage the densest development near transit, increase the prevalence of EV-charging stations, require EV-ready parking spaces where parking is provided, and encourage tree retention and forest regeneration.

  • What this means:Climate resiliency is not just something residents do in their homes, it begins at the planning stage, when neighbourhoods are being designed and developed.

Other areas of focus include:

  • EquityThe draft Zoning By-law aims to implement the Official Plan equally and consistently so that no one neighbourhood is treated differently or affected disproportionately.

  • Space for treesThe draft expands requirements for soft landscaping to help establish preconditions for more trees, ensuring room is preserved in front and rear yards as properties are redeveloped.

  • Water and stormwater servicesThe draft strengthens provisions requiring adequate water and sewer capacity before a building permit could be issued, in particular for developments that do not require a site plan control application.

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