A blog about all things rural and agritourism related

You can now have Second Dwellings on your farm property… 

Tags: , , ,     Categories: Agritourism, barn design, farm design, house design, sustainable design

Second dwellings are being encouraged by the Provincial government on all properties in Ontario to help with the housing crisis. This means farm properties, too, but with some caveats. The provincial planning act tries to help by encouraging all municipalities to allow second dwellings on all their property zones and types with fewer restrictions.

In this article, we share when the act was adopted and how it applies to properties, why you should consider adding a second dwelling to your property, and some things to consider.

red container house in the woods

Airbnb in Castleton Ontario (source: Artsy “Glamping” experience in Airbnb)

01. WHEN 

The provincial planning act was adopted in 2020. From there, it trickles down to the County level planning departments to incorporate into their official plans.

Then, it trickles down to the Townships (2nd tier government) to adopt with specificity into the zoning documents. It may take 2-6 years for all municipalities to get it into the zoning, but it’s coming in some form to a township near you!

Some townships, like Grey-Bruce County, have sped this process up by making emergency zoning by-law changes.

Link to the Provincial Planning Policy

02. WHAT & HOW 

Looking at sun, wind, topography, views, to evaluate the options on your farm. (collab sketch by 20’10south architects)

Zoning by-laws are where you will learn the conditions, specifics, and details about how and what kind of second dwellings are permitted on your property. Some specific requirements we have seen include the following:

  • Maximum areas
  • Proximity to the main or “primary” dwelling
  • Maximum number of bedrooms
  • Where on the property it needs to be located
  • Type of use of the second dwelling, IE, not a short-term rental

First, you need to identify the zoning code of your property. Then, you can review that section of the by-law to see if it is allowed. 

Some zoning by-laws read like they are written in Greek some days. So you can always call VELD architect, a planner, or the planning and building department to get them to translate. Or ask them when they will be implementing these regulations into their zoning.

03. WHY

Why should you consider a second dwelling on your property even if you don’t need one for someone you know?

Rental income: It can provide additional income in the form of rental income. I know most farmers don’t like being landlords, but… You may want to consider a medium-term rental. For example, around Stratford, the festival theatre employs many seasonal workers. Providing a unique space close to this need could put it in high demand, meaning higher rental rates.

Seasonal workers or hired help: You can use that second dwelling for seasonal workers or a hired hand. With surplus farm dwellings being torn down, finding housing for the farm labour within a reasonable distance or without needing a vehicle is hard.

Succession home: It makes a great transition home for kids as they age and want to be out of the house, but for reasons like affordability, occupation, or taking over the farm, it makes living on the farm viable.

On-farm stays: Enhance your farm experience with a farm stay. Who doesn’t want to participate in feeding cute animals or doing some simple chores on a farm for just a weekend? This is especially beneficial to agritourism destinations further from the major cities. Capture that extra income they would have to spend anyways.

And who doesn’t want a piece of the country? You could have a great tenant or rental relationship with the right space and interview process.


Privacy: Maintaining both people’s privacy and boundaries is essential. And it requires careful site planning, especially if the conditions of the second dwelling are near the primary residence. Creating access, like a shared driveway and parking, to the second dwelling needs to be considered in addition to how it affects the primary residence’s yard areas.

Septic and services: Proximity to the main dwelling is an advantage as it’s less costly to bring water, hydro, gas, etc., to the secondary dwelling. But be prepared to add a second septic bed which can be expensive. Some municipalities may ask for it to connect to the existing system, which can trigger a complete replacement of the current septic if it is older than 30 years. Consider using passive house principles to go off the grid for the other services.

Maintenance of yard: as part of the rental agreement, it should be clear about yard maintenance like gardens, mowing lawns, yard clutter, scraping snow on walks, etc.

Ideal tenant or renter: Who is your target renter (family, single, help, etc.): Choosing a compatible target helps with the tenant and landlord relations. It also has a significant effect on the design and build that you create and offer. For example, we converted a 16′ grain bin into a space, which is perfect for a single, remote worker or couple.


Traditional construction: Uses a stick frame that is built on-site. It can give you the most custom results but is slower than a prefab option.

Ikea prefab home PHOTO: JOSIAH AND STEPH PHOTOGRAPHY (source: travel and leisure)

Prefab Construction: There are many companies that specialize in prefab units. It’s a cost-effective, and easy way to get a building up quickly. To successfully get a permit a for this type of construction, you will need a local engineer to design the foundation and septic system. Here are some resources:

Looking for passive house prefab options or resources? Here are some great resources.

Grain bin Conversion to tiny home.

Grain Bin Conversions: Don’t underestimate your existing silo that may longer serve a purpose. These would definitely be unique rental offerings!

Tiny home dreams: This second dwelling is also a great opportunity to develop your tiny home dreams!

Barn conversions: The second dwelling is a fantastic reason to keep that old barn and give it new life. Although large, they can become the new primary dwelling or VELD architect has developed a few alternative ways to reduce the overall size and thus conversion costs.

Small barn frames are great for conversions. Don’t have a small frame, we can help you adopt one! 

Don’t miss out on more great information or articles about agritourism and opportunities 

for your farm business.  

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