Urban Design Guidelines for Low-rise Infill Housing

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Urban Design Guidelines for Low-rise Infill Housing

** Please be advised that the Urban Design Guidelines for Low-Rise Infill Housing are currently under review. For further information please consult (link to engage Ottawa)**

Approved by City Council on July 6, 2022

Urban Design Guidelines for Low-rise Infill Housing [ PDF 1.418 MB ]


A low-rise building is defined in the new Official Plan as any building that is up to and including four full storeys tall. Low-rise residential buildings are the most common built-form typology expected to be built within most areas of Ottawa, particularly in areas designated as ‘Neighbourhood’ in the City’s new Official Plan. Low-rise residential infill is anticipated in the Downtown Core-, Inner Urban-, Outer Urban- and Suburban Transects, and may be located within serviced villages within the Rural Transect. This typology can contribute to the creation of healthy, walkable 15-minute neighbourhoods. These buildings can add a range of housing options for all ages and income groups, including large-sized units suitable for families.

Purpose and application

These urban design guidelines are a tool to help achieve the Official Plan’s goals in the areas of design and intensification and they help implement Official Plan policies with respect to the review of development applications for infill development.

This design guideline document will be applied to all low-rise residential infill development in the Downtown Core-, Inner Urban-, Outer Urban- and Suburban Transects, as identified on Schedule B of the Official Plan, and also applies to infill development within serviced areas of villages in the Rural Transect. This infill may include the following residential types: single detached, semi-detached, duplex, triplex, townhouses, stacked townhouses, low-rise apartments (four units and more) and other forms of ground-oriented housing typologies that may emerge.


The objective of the guidelines is to help create low-rise residential infill development that will:

  • Enhance streetscapes
  • Protect and expand established landscaping
  • Create a more compact urban form to consume less land and natural resources
  • Achieve a good fit into an existing neighbourhood, respecting its character and its architectural and landscape heritage
  • Provide new housing designs that offer variety, quality and a sense of identity
  • Emphasize front doors and windows rather than garages
  • Include more soft landscaping and less asphalt in front and rear yards
  • Create at-grade living spaces that promote interaction with the street
  • Incorporate environmental innovation and sustainability.

Official Plan and by-law direction

Low-rise residential infill can contribute to achieving the strategic directions outlined in Section 2 of the Official Plan and address the cross-cutting issues of Intensification, Energy and Climate Change and Healthy and Inclusive Communities, described in Section 2.2.

Low-rise residential infill will help to achieve Ottawa’s intensification objectives outlined in the Growth Management section of the Official Plan, which directs most of the residential growth to occur within built up areas by 2046, and to provide ground-oriented housing options for larger households.

Low-rise residential infill supports the development of a compact and connected city and helps prioritize a shift to energy efficient transportation modes, as this development provides an opportunity for more people to live closer to existing services and amenities, including transit.

Well designed low-rise residential infill contributes to a high-quality, human-scale urban design that creates a sense of place and a vibrant public realm. Low-rise residential infill supports the evolution of Ottawa’s neighbourhoods into the healthy, complete, 15-minute neighbourhood model outlined in Section 2.2.4 of the Official Plan, or can reinforce mature neighbourhoods that have already evolved to include the necessary components, by adding more density and expanding housing options.

Section 6.3 of the Official Plan indicates that ‘Neighbourhoods’ are planned for “ongoing, gradual, integrated, sustainable and context sensitive development”. In areas subject to an ‘Evolving Overlay’, the gradual, well-planned transformation of these areas is supported and Section allows for “new building forms and typologies, such as missing middle housing”, which may differ from the existing building stock of the immediate context. In accordance with the Official Plan, Section 6.3.1(3), areas designated as ‘Neighbourhood’ will generally remain low-rise, and the OP expects a full range of low-rise housing options sufficient to meet the intensification goals outlined in Table 2 and Table 3b of the OP.

The design of low-rise residential infill will be important as Ottawa’s neighbourhoods evolve to meet contemporary planning challenges and the strategic directions outlined in the Official Plan.

Infill and intensification

Infill is development that occurs on a single lot, or a consolidated number of small lots, on sites that are vacant, undeveloped or where demolition occurs. Infill may also refer to the creation of the lot or lots.

These design guidelines illustrate some of the important principles for design of the site, the building and in the public realm.


For further information please contact:

Christopher Moise
Project Lead
Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development
City of Ottawa
110 Laurier Avenue West
613-580-2424, ext. 24591
Email: Christopher.Moise@ottawa.ca