Why my bungalow in is a two-story building?

A zoning by-law
issue in Toronto and how to fix it.

Denis-Strong-Basements-big-Bright-6

By DENIS SMAL

Imagine you have purchased a bungalow and plan to add a second story to your home. You invest a lot of money and time into the design and drawings, and you apply for all the appropriate building permits. But you are denied by the city. You cannot build a second story because they say your bungalow is already a two-story building and residential buildings are limited to two stories in your area. How is this possible? The answer is a zoning by-law issue. It impacts real estate in Toronto, especially in the North Shore area. Luckily, there are some solutions.

What is the by-law?

According to the zoning by-law, if the midpoint of your basement story is below the established grade (below ground) then it is classified as a basement. If the midpoint of your basement is above the established grade, then it is classified as a first floor. Many bungalows have their midpoint above the established grade. So while you might think your building has a basement and a first story, it actually has a first and second story. In many areas of Toronto, the zoning laws restrict buildings to two stories or less.

What are some solutions for bungalow owners?

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry. There are some solutions.

1. Apply for approval from the Committee of Adjustment

One option is to go through the Committee of Adjustment (CofA). When submitting an appeal to the CofA, you will need to provide a topographical survey, drawings of your building, a zoning review or zoning wavier, and a completed application. After submitting these four items to the CofA, it takes about three months to get a hearing date. Two weeks after the hearing, you should receive a decision letter. Four weeks after that, you should receive a banding letter.

What is a banding letter?

There is a two-week period after receiving a decision when anyone can appeal CofA’s decision. A banding letter is proof that no one appealed the decision, so the decision stands.

How much does this process cost?

You can expect CofA fees of about $1700 and agent fees of about $2,000. Also, a zoning review costs about $200. That is a total of about $3,900.

2. Lower your basement.

Another option is to lower your basement floor so the new midpoint is below the established grade. This will allow you to re-classify the basement officially as a basement, rather than as a first story.

Lowering the basement floor might seem like a difficult job compared to going through CofA, but there are many benefits of this method.

Advantages of lowering the basement:

1. Foundation underpinning

When you lower the basement, you will also underpin the foundation. By underpinning the foundation, you will reinforce the foundation so it can hold the additional load of the second story. You may have to do this to add a second story anyways, even if you go through the CofA.

2. Additional total living area

By lowering the basement, you add additional ceiling height and living space in your home. Increasing the living area also increases the property value. Who doesn’t love that?

3. Waterproofing system

At Strong Basements, we include an interior basement waterproofing system in every basement lowering project we do, ensuring that your basement is dry and safe.

4. Modern building codes

At Strong Basements, we replace all old drainpipes with new PVC pipes to comply with modern building codes. We also install a sump pump system to protect your basement from any flooding and bringing your entire drainage system up to code.

5. Fast process!

The entire basement lowering process takes just 2–3 months. Going through the committee of adjustments can take you up to 6 months.

Advantages of lowering the basement:

Basement lowering does cost more than going through the CofA, but there are so many advantages to lowering your basement. With this option, you’ll be investing money into your property instead of just spending it on the adjustment process. Investing in basement lowering is guaranteed to have a high return on investment for your property.

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