This site uses JavaScript. Please enable JavaScript in your Browser and reload the page to view the full site.

Residential Fourth Density (R4) Zoning Review

Project Status: 


The R4 Zoning Review began in January 2016 in response to the continued development of buildings in the inner urban area containing unreasonably large dwelling units that operated as unlicensed rooming houses, commonly known as bunkhouses.

The project is proceeding in two phases. R4 Phase 1 concluded in June 2018 with a zoning amendment that closed zoning loopholes, clarified definitions. As a result of these zoning changes, further bunkhouse development is now illegal city-wide.

R4 Phase 2 will address the broader housing pressures affecting the inner urban area, of which bunkhouses were merely a symptom. For almost a decade now, Ottawa's inner-urban neighbourhoods have faced persistent low rental vacancy rates. Census data suggest that rents on newly vacant units are rising by 12%-17% per year.

To help improve housing affordability, the R4 Zoning Review will explore zoning changes to make it enable a wider range of low-rise, multi-unit infill housing in R4-zoned neighbourhoods, while respecting compatibility and context sensitive design. In doing so, it will seek to fill a "missing middle" range of affordable mid-density infill housing suitable to a wide range of household types, incomes and tenures, as directed by the Official Plan.

Next Steps

  • The City will develop and model draft changes to the R4 zoning standards in the spring and summer of 2019.
  • Public consultation on the proposed changes will take place in the fall of 2019.
  • Final zoning proposals will be produced and circulated in early 2020, and an amendment brought to Planning Committee in the spring of 2020.

To sign up for future updates, please contact us:

R4 Zoning Review       
c/o Tim J. Moerman        
Ottawa City Hall, mail code 01-15
110 Laurier Avenue West, 4th floor  
Ottawa, Ontario  K1P 1J1
FAX: 613-580-2459
Email: or 

Summer 2019: Technical Review Committee Work

We are still on track to begin public consultations in the fall. Look for updates to this website in September or October. In the meantime, technical work is continuing over the summer.

This technical work will consider low-rise apartments and stacked dwellings of between eight and twelve units that may be feasible within the currently permitted building envelopes in the R4 zone, subject to the following constraints:

a) The existing lot fabric and land economics of Ottawa's established urban neighbourhoods;

b) The limitations imposed by the Ontario Building Code;

c) The minimum functional requirements for site plans as specified by the City and the Planning Act; and

d) The need to produce affordable solutions to housing needs suited to a range of household types, and particularly the need for more units in the two- to three-bedroom range.

We have engaged two consultants to help us take a holistic look at the functional requirements for low-rise apartment dwellings, including the Building Code, Fire Code and accessibility standards, and the need for garbage and recycling management, bicycle parking, tree protection and promotion, and meaningful amenity spaces. These are all being examined together to ensure that new zoning rules promote affordable, practical and context-sensitive low-rise apartment infills.

We have also assembled a small Technical Review Committee with representatives from inner urban Community Associations, architects, infill developers, and City Building Code and Planning staff to review this technical work over the summer.

We will be publishing a Discussion Paper in the fall, summarizing the results of the summer's technical exercise as well as draft proposed changes to the Zoning By-law. If you would like to be notified directly when the consultation begins, please send an email to or to the file lead at

Older Materials

Discussion Paper #1, November 2016

The first Discussion Paper [ PDF 808 KB ] was released in November 2016 and explored the issues and intent behind the R4 Zoning Review, as well as some possible solutions for consideration.

Discussion Paper #2, March 2017

A second Discussion Paper [ PDF 684 KB ] containing draft zoning proposals was released in March 2017.

As We Heard It: Comments on Discussion Papers #1 and #2, September 2017

Following the release of Discussion Papers #1 and #2 and an extended comment period, we posted a summary of the comments we received in an As We Heard It [ PDF 613 KB ] report.

R4 Zoning Review Phase 1: Report to Planning Committee, June 2018

Planning Staff delivered a zoning amendment to Council in June of 2018 in co-ordination with changes to the Rooming House By-law and with collaboration of By-law enforcement, Licensing, Committee of Adjustment, Building Code and Development Review Staff. The R4 Phase 1 report [ PDF 423 KB ]   [ PDF corrected clear and pressing weaknesses in the Zoning By-law in order to close the door on excessive-bedroom bunkhouse buildings and address some of the more pressing performance issues associated with intensive low-rise in established neighbourhoods. The zoning amendments adopted by Council included:

  • Clarifying the distinction between a rooming house and a dwelling unit, to ensure consistency in permitting and by-law enforcement
  • Prohibiting further development of dwelling units with unreasonably large bedroom counts in multi-unit dwellings
  • Appropriately balancing the rare need for oversized dwelling units (ODUs) (i.e. for statistically unusual households) against the need to effectively plan for and regulate density; and
  • Ensuring that large residential buildings provide adequate space to store and manage garbage and recyclables