University of Waterloo School of Architecture Partnership

In May 2021, Council directed staff to investigate options to encourage the development of small and tiny dwellings, including, best practices, acceptable sizing, requirements, land use, and any other necessary requirements to allow for the development of tiny homes as an affordable and attainable option. A tiny home is a dwelling of any form (apartment, detached dwelling, etc.) that is sized to meet its occupants needs with little excess space. While there is no universal definition of “tiny homes”, they are generally understood to be dwelling units with significantly smaller floor areas than traditional houses.

In the summer of 2021, Council received a report about a research partnership with the University of Waterloo School of Architecture supporting Tiny Homes as part of an overarching Affordable Housing Strategy. This partnership addresses the strategic action of the Cambridge Connected 2020-2023 Strategic Plan and aligns with Council direction related to the evaluation of a variety of affordable housing options.

tiny home with ramp

Often considered as part of a homelessness strategy, Tiny Homes have become an emerging way to increase options for attainable housing that accommodates people of all income levels, socio-economic status and housing needs including aging parents, grown-up children who are not yet ready to enter the housing market or in some cases to generate income to offset mortgage costs.

This project is a wonderful opportunity for the City to partner with local experts and discover practical lessons around construction, building code, site planning, costing and servicing to help support this unique housing option. 

Take a virtual tour of the tiny home prototype!


 What is the Tiny House prototype on display at City Hall meant to exhibit?
The City of Cambridge has partnered with researchers from the University of Waterloo to support the development of a tiny home prototype.  Each organization has distinct objectives for this project:
  • The City of Cambridge participated in this project as part of the 2020-23 Strategic Plan action to increase housing options, with the intent of using the outcomes of the project to inform our work in the attainable housing and alternative residential unit areas.
  • The UW Architecture School is exploring tiny homes as a rapid alternative to shelters, and as a safer and more stable alternative to tent encampments.

The concept on display that the School of Architecture students built is an examination of potential future solutions and a great research exercise. While it does not comply to the current code regulations, it may provoke thought around unique ways to configure spaces for housing options.

 What is a Tiny House?
When most folks use the term tiny house, they are often referring to a home built using conventional methods but on the scale of an RV travel trailer. Small cabins, cottages, and other small residences can also be considered tiny houses, so the term is not so much an exclusive definition, but an inclusive category of extremely small residences. In the City of Cambridge, a small house may be permitted on adequately sized residential properties as an Additional Residential Unit (ARU) and would need to meet the requirements of the Ontario Building Code for a “house”
 What are Additional Residential Units (ARU's)?
An accessory residential unit is a second or third additional residential unit on a property that already contains one primary residence. This includes a detached structure on a property that already has a primary residence, or an additional unit within any part of the primary residence. The detached accessory residential unit may be small in size (a tiny house) or as large as allowed based on the zoning requirements. 
 Can I install a Tiny House on my property?
The City of Cambridge allows for the creation of additional residential units in most residential zones. On lots that are sized appropriately, the ARU may be in a detached structure. New residential units would need to meet the minimum requirements required for dwellings.
 What types of Tiny Houses are permitted?
Travel trailers or tiny houses on wheels are not permitted to be used as living accommodations in any zone within the City of Cambridge. Tiny houses and small houses would need to be installed on an adequate foundation or anchored, be provided with servicing (water, sanitary and utilities), and can be:
  • Built on site, in conformance to the Ontario Building Code requirements for a house,
  • Built in a factory or off-site provided:
    • a Stage 1 Building Permit has been obtained in the municipality it is manufactured in and the structure is inspected and certified to meet the Ontario Building Code requirements, or
    • it is certified to CSA A277, “Procedure for Factory Certification of Buildings”, or
    • it is a Park Model Trailer conforming to CAN/CSA-Z241 Series, “Park Model Trailers” and is intended for four-season use, or
    • it is a modified shipping container or modular unit designed to the Ontario Building Code requirements and designed and reviewed by a professional engineer
 What are the requirements in order to build or install a Tiny House on my property?
All new Tiny Homes require building permits, regardless of size. There are minimum standards for the construction of housing in Ontario and both the local zoning requirements and building code requirements will be reviewed and verified through the building permit process.
  • Zoning Requirements: The local, City of Cambridge zoning by-law is applicable and prescribes the locations they are permitted, required setbacks, maximum size and parking requirements.
    • For more information regarding the planning requirements, contact: or phone 519-623-1340 ext. 4602
  • Building Code Requirements: The Code requirements are in place to ensure health and safety of building occupants by regulating things like how the structure is constructed, insulation and heating requirements, minimum room sizes, access to safe plumbing facilities, and that the materials used to build the house are effective.
 How can I apply for a building permit?
You can apply for a building permit by contacting the City of Cambridge Building Division at, visiting City Hall, or submitting your application online using our Permit Application Portal.
 Will my property taxes go up if I have a tiny home on my property?
Your property tax rate equals the current tax rate (the City of Cambridge, the Region of Waterloo and the school boards rates combined), multiplied by the current value assessment of your property determined by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). When a building permit is issued for improvements to your property MPAC is notified and the improvements will be factored into the next assessment of your property value
 Construction, location, and permitting requirements:
All new houses are required to be designed and constructed in conformance to the Ontario Building Code regulations and City of Cambridge Zoning By-law, regardless of size. A building permit must be obtained before construction can start.

The City of Cambridge Zoning By-Law amendment 22-017 prescribes the locations they are permitted, required setbacks, maximum size and parking requirements.

The design and construction requirements for tiny houses are the same requirements that are applicable for all new houses in the province of Ontario and are in place to ensure the health and safety of anyone making use of these structures. These requirements include things such as minimum room sizes, ceiling heights, stair construction requirements, insulation and heating requirements, structural integrity, and construction material standards.

Because the province of Ontario has specific construction requirements for all new homes, the tiny home designs you seen on the Internet may not be able to meet the requirements of the Code. While there may be design constraints, city staff are available to discuss your options and help you though the approval process. Please visit the City Of Cambridge Additional Residential Unit Guideline, on the Accessory Structure information page of our website for permitting requirements and construction considerations.

Further reading:

Additional Resources