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Building a Coach Home

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Coach House Overview

In this guide, we will talk about five things.

  • What should you know when building a coach house?
  • Specific guidelines you need to follow when building a coach house
  • How does a coach house differ to a main house?
  • The pre-application process you need to follow
  • Other considerations to keep in mind

A coach house is different from the main house, as we will talk about below. When you are looking to build a coach house, here are a few terms you need to know about.

The Lot

In real estate, the lot is a tract of land owned by someone.  Your lot is that piece of land on which your residence is currently situated and on which you wish to build a coach house. This term shall be used frequently in the subsequent part of the guide.  The entire manual is based on the lot or plot of land that you own. Hence, keep this term in mind to gauge whether your lot meets the criteria required to build a coach house. 

The definition of a coach house

Vancouver residents have an occasion to rejoice because their backyard space can now be put to productive use with the construction of coach houses. A coach house is a self-contained accessory dwelling at the rear of the existing house.

This is the basic outline of a coach house, bringing you a step closer to the creation of the actual dwelling- except there are guidelines that you need to read before you can begin the work. Read on to understand better.

How do you distinguish between the main house and the coach house?

A coach house is a small house with an area of up to 70 sq. m. It cannot be the main dwelling on the lot and cannot be subdivided or stratified- meaning it cannot be large enough to accommodate an east wing or west wing. It can be constructed at the street level or above a garage. It can be rented out but not for short-term stays such as vacation rentals.

In a nutshell, the coach is a small house not more than 70 sq. m in area, with or without a garage. Additionally, tenants cannot view it as a holiday home.

Guidelines for a Coach House

Where are coach houses permissible?

The Port Coquitlam guidelines permit coach houses in single-family lots. This is to provide more options for quality accommodation for the increasing influx of people in the city.

How do you ensure that the coach house does not flout community norms?

There has to be a sense of uniformity, if not homogeneity if a neighbourhood has to have coach houses. When you think of constructing one, keep in mind the aspects of- its appearance and scale, its compatibility with neighbourhood homes, lighting, landscaping, and on-site parking.

You cannot build the coach house in a way that it encroaches on the privacy of the neighbours. All these facets are important to the building of a coach house so that it does not stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise neat neighbourhood.

Lot Guidelines for a Coach House

What kind of lot can fit a coach house, and what specifications do you need to follow to build a coach house? Here is every detail you need to know.

What kind of lots can have a coach house?

You need to look up your Official Community Plan to verify if your lot has been designated ‘Residential’ or ‘Small Lot Residential.’  This is a house meant to be behind the actual residence; hence, you have to be living in a residential area (RS1, RS2, RS3, RS4) to be permitted to have a coach house. To verify the designation of your zone, visit – portcoquitlam.ca/pocomap.

What is the floor area consideration for a coach house?

The floor area of your lot will determine whether or not you can have a coach house, and if you can, what is the area that it can cover.

The first step to applying for a coach house is locating and understanding the building plan of your house. The City Hall Annex shall evaluate your plans if you have a prospective coach house in mind. That can easily give you the floor area of your lot and give you an approximate idea of the space your coach house can cover.

However, the easiest way to calculate the floor area on your own is by using the Floor Area Ratio (FAR). It is calculated by dividing the sum of the area of your main dwelling and the coach house (if you have one) by the size of the property.  The formula is:

 TOTAL RESIDENTIAL FLOOR AREA           = FLOOR AREA RATIO (FAR)

                PROPERTY SIZE

Note that the maximum FAR allowed for single residential zones is 0.5 FAR. There are some exemptions. But for the most part, you cannot go beyond the stipulated FAR.

If you have a home of 2000 sq ft. on a property of area 6000 sq ft. your FAR is 0.3, which means you have 0.2 FAR (1200 sq. ft.) remaining for your coach house.

Use this knowledge to assess the space you have before you invest your time and hopes in this project.

What is the location of your lot? And how does it affect the width and façade of the lot?

The location of your lot refers to its lane access, including if it is in the street corner. If it is yes to either, your lot must have a width and frontage (façade) of at least 10m.

If your answer is a no to both, then you have to comply with three conditions-

  • Your lot must have a minimum width and frontage of 12m;
  • There should be at least 5m of uninterrupted road edge along the front of your property. This means refraining from creating a driveway or ramps for vehicles along the front edge of your premises.
  • You must create an unimpeded path from the front of the lot to the coach house to provide access in case of emergencies. There should be no trees, shrubs or any other foliage blocking this path.

What are the space considerations for a lot that already has a secondary suite in the main home?

If you have a secondary suite or day care in your main residence, the lot must have a minimum area of 740 sq. m so that there is adequate area for the coach house.

If you do not have it, the lot has to have a minimum area of 370 sq. m. to fit in the coach house.

The Pre-application Process

What factors should be considered before applying for a coach house?

There have to be several considerations before you can take the plunge. Before applying for the permission to construct a coach house, go over these questions-

  • Is your lot eligible to accommodate a coach house? (Read the section above to get a clear idea)
  • Can you afford the entire process of construction? If yes, what is your budget?
  • Have you prepared a design or plan of the coach house, which can be assessed for its compliance with the design, zoning, and landscaping regulations of Port Coquitlam?
  • Does your neighbourhood approve of your decision? Does it have a fair idea of your vision for the coach house? Have you discussed this plan with your immediate neighbour?

Once you have considered these thoroughly, send in the complete Coach house Development Permit and Building Permit applications together. These shall undergo complete review and scrutiny and you shall get a fair idea of where you stand with regard to your coach house from the authorities.

Other Considerations for a Coach House

Developing a coach house is not a spontaneous job. It has to take months of planning and assessment to ensure that it does not flout norms, is comfortable and habitable. To ensure all these aims are met, you have to consider a number of other things apart from the individual lot and its area. These include- going over the zoning, parking and landscaping guidelines thoroughly.

A good coach house that conforms to the norms and guidelines would be one that has a compatible architectural style with the main house (so that the two houses on your lot do not look mismatched).

Apart from this, it is a good practice to maximize the use of natural lighting in both the houses on your lot and design the accessories such as decks, patios, balconies and windows in a way that maximizes privacy between the two houses. The coach house is, after all, meant to accommodate tenants. It will be a good thing to ensure that each dwelling on the lot has its private space.

The most important element of a coach house is that it is always smaller than the main house. You have to keep this in mind if you wish to have a coach house that is not breach the guidelines.

Conclusion

The idea of a coach house can work out great for the city and the residents. However, before going ahead, you need to read the guidelines carefully. Calculate all the essential measurements before you submit an application for the coach house. If you are worried, give us a call!

At Silvercrest Custom Homes & Renovations, we can help you through the process of planning your new coach house. Talk to our experts to help you get started building on your coach house.

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