Creating secondary units: A solution for families and Ontario’s housing crisis

Interior image of a recent garage conversion in Hamilton completed by

Real estate prices may have declined, the country is also expected to head into a recession. Coupled with high gas prices and inflation, many Canadians will continue to experience ongoing difficulties in acquiring affordable rental housing or home ownership.

Innovative solutions are needed to provide long-term housing security. For some families, the solution is to create secondary units in their homes – whether that’s to provide affordable housing for their adult children, safe housing for their aging parents or loved ones with disabilities, or to have another source of income to mitigate the rising costs of living.

Hamilton resident Sean Mougenot is working with his in-laws to renovate their home and create a multi-unit dwelling for the entire family to live in. It’s a win-win for all: Mougenot, his wife, and 8-year-old son can live in his in-laws’ four-level back-split while his in-laws will have the comfort of having them close by if they’re needed. His father-in-law has Alzheimer’s disease and his mother-in-law has difficulty with stairs. The house will be renovated so that his in-laws will have their own separate unit.

“[A secondary unit] allows families to stay together if they need to,” says Ken Bekendam, President and CEO of, who has assisted hundreds of families each year to create legal secondary dwellings in the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, Halton, Niagara, Brantford, Barrie, London and the Tri-Cities.

READ MORE: Housing costs concern for southwest Ontarians 

It can also be a source of income for young couples, as it was for Bekendam: “When my wife and I first started out as a young married couple, we bought a little single-family bungalow and we put in a legal basement apartment into our home and that really set us on the right path and put us on a good financial footing… that really kind of helped us start our journey.”

Not only can developing more secondary units help serve Ontario families and dampen the housing crisis but it can also strengthen communities by gently increasing the population density needed to support schools, libraries, and community centres. It also helps municipalities by making better use of existing infrastructure compared to new subdivisions, which can be very costly to the taxpayer.

Mougenot began working with Ken and his team at in 2022 after having issues with his former contractor. “We had an architect before that wasted our time for about six months,” says Mougenot. “By May of this year, he didn’t have anything for us. He said, ‘Maybe you should find someone else’ so we were scrambling to find someone else because we thought we’d be under construction by then.” was recommended to him.

Inexperienced contractors can cause stressful delays, additional financial costs, or, even worse, cut corners. In the city of Hamilton alone, there are thousands of illegal second units in houses, which are a huge liability and can cause unexpected financial burdens.

“We want to make sure everything is all safe and everything is all legal [because] for us, it’s always going to be our family home,” says Mougenot.

The process of building a legal secondary unit in a house may feel daunting, but Bekendem assures it doesn’t have to be difficult. “We basically take all of the unknowns and all of the uncertainty” and stress out of the process, and we take that upon ourselves so that it feels like a very easy and seamless experience for our clients, he says.

Interior image of a recent garage conversion in Hamilton completed by


READ MORE: Ontario condos 35 smaller than 25 years ago also completes the required renovation work with their in-house construction company and works with professional engineers, mechanical designers, HVAC, plumbing and electrical contractors as well as has extensive experience in working out zoning issues and the minor variance process.

It’s been a very good experience working with them, says Mougenot who praises their customer service. “It’s a big investment and it’s a personal thing that you’re dealing with, and if you’re doing all that, you need to be able to have someone there for you that can understand what you’re dealing with,” he says.

Want to find out what’s possible for your home? Book a free consultation at

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