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Residential Fourth Density (R4) Zoning Review

Project Status: 

Project Update: February 2019

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 2019, 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 

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Stay tuned! An FAQ document is in the works.