In today’s world secondary suites can come in wide variety of styles and appearances. If you’ve thought about building a secondary suite but don’t want one as an integral part of your home, then a detached carriage house might be the perfect answer. While common in some parts of the world carriage houses are fairly new additions to the inventory of secondary suites found throughout Nanaimo.

In its simplest terms a carriage house is a small additional dwelling located on your existing property. In many cases these mini homes are located at the rear of the lot. A self-contained small home, a carriage house is normally no more than two stories and confined to one or two bedrooms. The City of Nanaimo regulations state that while no formal design approval process is required for a carriage house, any detached suite must provide for a safe and comfortable living environment for tenants while respecting the privacy of neighboring residents.

City staff has formally recommended that the following items should be considered when constructing a carriage house:

  • The exterior materials and colors of the suite should complement the overall character of the existing dwelling and neighborhood.
  • Emergency personnel must be able to easily find and access the suite.
  • Three (3) parking spaces must be provided – one for the suite and two for the principle residence.
  • The detached suite should be oriented and sited in a manner that protects the privacy of the neighbors.
  • The suite should be screened from the neighboring yards in a manner most suited to the character of the neighborhood.
  • Private outdoor space of at least 30 square meters must be provided for the occupants of the carriage house.

Regardless of its size, a carriage house is a formal dwelling, as such its design and construction must be approved by the city prior to the start of building. Before starting work those thinking about adding one to their property are encouraged to check with the City’s Building Department to learn what permits are needed or what requirements they will have to ultimately fulfill.

A carriage house can be a unique addition to a property and to a neighborhood if built legally. By doing a little homework in advance unnecessary expense and headaches can be avoided.