Low-rise Infill Housing Urban Design Guidelines Update

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Project status


The main purpose of the project is to implement the Low-rise infill policies of the current OP and OPA 150 by:

  • Updating the current Urban Design Guidelines for Low-rise Infill Housing, including expanding the scope of the Guidelines to address non-residential and mixed use low-rise buildings;

Projected Timeline

  • April 2020: Circulation of the draft urban design guidelines for public review and comment;
  • Fall 2020: Approval of Urban Design Guidelines for Low-rise Infill Housing by Planning Committee and City Council


The City Council approved Official Plan Amendment 150 (OPA150) on November 26th, 2013. Both the current Official Plan (OP) and OPA150 include policies regarding low-rise buildings. A refresh to the Urban Design Guidelines for Low-rise Infill Housing was proposed as part of the R4 Phase 1 Council report and included in the 2019 Council-approved Department Work Plan.

The current Guidelines were approved in 2012. A review of these guidelines is required to ensure they are in keeping with the current OP changes and OPA150 directions and following recent best practices in the City and other municipalities in Canada. In addition, the scope of the existing Guidelines is primarily limited to residential development.

The Planning Department has been engaged in several studies over the course of the previous years concerning infill and intensification in the Urban Area, with particular focus on the inner-urban areas characterized as the “mature neighbourhoods” typified by residential buildings and streetscape patterns of a pre-1950’s era. As neighbourhoods have aged and turnover of buildings has occurred, concerns with respect to the maintaining of “character” have been frequently expressed, in terms of how new buildings coexist and contribute to the streetscape character of a neighbourhood, and also in terms of how the architectural design, including material selection, articulation, and prominence of certain elements contributes or detracts from the established character of a neighbourhood as a whole.

Infill buildings generally are larger than both the building it replaces and the buildings that surround it in context. The desire to maximize the building envelope is a natural outcome of market demands for infill development on expensive urban land, and the greater massing does not need to be viewed as a problem in and of itself. However, greater massing does make it far more important to regulate how that massing is expressed through design and consider how context is considered in the arrangement of bulk and massing, and the architectural expression.

The selection of appropriate materials, and the use of architectural elements to reference the design of buildings in the neighbourhood, can help to integrate the resulting massing into the streetscape. Ottawa has many examples both of excellent infill architecture and of incompatible design choices. While the low-rise design guidelines provide some guidance in this category, much more work can be done to improve design outcomes and raise the minimum expectations for design quality, in line with best-practices and Ottawa’s status as the Capital of a G8 country.

The refreshed Guidelines will provide design guidance to City staff, Industry and community associations on how low-rise housing should be designed and delivered in the context of infill and intensification in the urban area of the City. They will clearly identify how context will be considered when considering design and will identify the process and mechanism by which the City will administer the appropriate implementation of the “Low-Rise Design Guidelines” through the Development Approvals and Building Permit process.


For further information, please contact:

Christopher Moise, Project Lead
Planning, Real Estate and Economic Development Department
Tel.: 613-580-2424, ext. 24591