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What are the Different Types of Homes like in Ottawa

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What are the Different Types of Homes like in Ottawa

Discover what are the different types of homes like in Ottawa!, a city with a wide range of housing options, including more traditional homes like single-family dwellings and condos, as well as a variety of unique housing solutions. Tiny homes are growing in popularity, with some individuals choosing to downsize their footprint while still enjoying the benefits of living in Ottawa’s vibrant capital. For families seeking more traditional options, there are colonial-style bungalows and farmhouses to sleek contemporary builds, Ottawa has something for everyone! If you want to make your mark on the city and get creative with your residence, there are ‘character’ homes available that may require updates for modern comfort.

Ottawa has a long and storied architectural history. Since its founding in 1826, the area has seen numerous building styles come and go. While most people think of Ottawa architecture in terms of historic government buildings, the city is home to a wide range of home styles as well. The type, style, and age of a home in Ottawa depend largely on where it’s located within the city.

Each neighbourhood has its own flavour, design, layout, and builder The best way to look at styles of homes in Ottawa is by age. Each era had distinctive popular styles that we see represented across the city. And you can look at a map of Ottawa and see the housing styles through time emanating from the city centre of Parliament Hill out towards the modern-day suburbs. Typically you can see a circle of development for each decade as you navigate around the city.

There aren’t many buildings, and certainly, not homes, left from the earliest days of Ottawa. Most of the homes you find today were constructed after 1900. The older homes near the city centre make way for newer styles as you head out toward the suburbs.

There are beautiful, interesting houses from every era in Ottawa. Though dominated by single-family homes in its early years, the city now has plentiful options including semi-detached homes, townhomes, garden homes, condos, and apartment buildings.

Let’s take a look at home styles in Ottawa through the years.

The early 1900s OTTAWA

In Ottawa’s early days, the city’s homes were concentrated in neighbourhoods close to what is now the centre of downtown. These homes, located in neighbourhoods like Sandy Hill, Centretown, and the Glebe, were often built in Victorian styles.

The houses were usually stately and large, housing families, relatives, and sometimes servants. Victorian-style homes were most popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

You may consider Victorian a style of architecture seen mostly in parliament buildings and historical landmarks. There are certainly plenty of those. But it was also a popular style for family homes.

Victorian architecture is not a single, standard style. It is made up of many revival styles, made popular in the later years and after the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). Italianate and Queen Anne Revival styles made their way into early Ottawa neighbourhoods.

The larger examples of these homes often had turrets, red brick facades, and two or three stories. You’ll also find wraparound porches, pitched roofs, and even roof towers on occasion in these historic homes.

Unlike their European or American cousins, the Victorian homes in Ottawa lack some of the more overt ornamentation associated with the style. Gingerbread trim and multiple colours were not as common in Ottawa as elsewhere.

Original Victorian homes have many relatively small rooms, including parlours. Tall windows and ceilings, along with elaborate interior trim, were popular. Many of the Victorian homes in Ottawa built in the early 1900s have since been remodelled with more open floor plans.

These large Victorian homes were not the only ones built during those early days. Smaller homes with the same dedication to craftsmanship and stone and brick facades dot older neighbourhoods. Stained glass windows, bay windows, and detailed entrances were hallmarks of the Victorian desire to dress up houses.

As much charm as these beautiful homes have some of the challenges of living in them or in these particular neighbourhoods are small detached garages which are difficult to fit modern cars. Mutual driveways are common in the area. small closets, sloping floors and low-ceiling basements with rough rock foundations can be problematic for some.

1920s and 1930s OTTAWA

During the 1920s and 30s, new styles began to make their way into Ottawa homes. Arriving from Europe and the United States were Arts and Crafts and Prairie style homes. Arts and Crafts, or Craftsman style homes were designed to fit their location.

Unlike Victorian homes, with their abundance of decoration, Craftsman-style homes were built to take advantage of things like natural light. These homes were about function and nature, with gardens and other natural features taking the place of elaborate entrances and colourful paint.

Craftsman-style homes in Ottawa might be referred to as English cottages. These homes fit beautifully on their lots. They tend to be elegant and understated, with exemplary original underlying craftsmanship. Their floor plans are usually more open than their Victorian predecessors.

Also making their way to Ottawa and the rest of Ontario in the 20s and 30s were Prairie-style homes. Based on the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, these homes became popular in Canada under architects like Francis Sullivan.

Prairie-style homes, like Craftsman styles, lacked the decorative flourishes of Victorian styles. Geometric designs, particularly horizontal elements, dominate these low, single or two-story homes. They tend to have flat roofs, and large eaves, and incorporate natural wood, stone, and brick. Stained glass is common in Prairie-style homes.

Prairie-style homes were meant to look as if they were part of their landscape. Those built in the 20s and 30s in Ottawa range in size and layout, many with open-concept designs.

All of these very early Ottawa styles were single-family detached homes.

The 1940s and 1950s OTTAWA

– Strawberry Boxes/Bungalows

Bungalows began to spring up in Ottawa after WWII. These small, detached single-family homes are still popular today. Called variously Victory Homes, bungalows, and Strawberry Boxes, they are scattered throughout the Ottawa suburbs. A great example of this style of home is concentrated in the Carlington neighbourhood adjacent to the Carling Avenue area.

Some of these homes were built by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Those red brick homes are the same in every town in which they were built. Ottawa-area builder Minto also constructed a large number of mid-century bungalows during the same time.

Many bungalows went up to house returning soldiers and their families and others for baby boom families moving to the suburbs.  

The hallmark of these homes is their compact size. Single-story homes, usually with two or three bedrooms, sat on small lots close to their very similar neighbours. Finished basements offered the opportunity for extra living space with slightly better head room than their predecessors.

A lot of these bungalows are still standing today. They are great choices for young families and couples. Their small size and single-story design make them popular with downsizing seniors.

The one-story design also lends itself to high ceilings and wonderful great rooms.

Some of the challenges of living in these homes are the constricted living space. Over the years, home owners have taken advantage of the high A-frame roof line and attic space and built out a dormer opening the second level as additional living space. Small closets and cut-off kitchens from dining rooms and living rooms tend to be the norm in this style.z

-Ranch House

Another popular detached home design of the 1950s was the ranch house. Unlike bungalows, these single-story homes usually have an attached garage. Like their boxy cousins, they tend to be similar in outward appearance, have two or three bedrooms, and potential for basement living space.

Ranch houses have a longer architectural style with a little more space and a more open floor plan than most bungalows. 

The construction of detached, single-family bungalows and ranch houses did not stop after the 40s and 50s. It continued through subsequent decades.

At the same time as the single-family detached home market was in its post-war boom, other home styles were cropping up throughout the city. Low-rise brick apartment buildings began to appear in some of the older neighbourhoods (some of them are still standing today) and in the burgeoning suburbs.

1960s OTTAWA

– Single Family Homes

The 1960s saw a rise in modern architecture for single-family detached homes. Mid-century modern décor was in full swing, and some of these modern homes included features like sunken living rooms.

Ranch homes continued to be popular, with some including a master bathroom in their floor plan.

Semi-detached homes

This is the era that saw the semi-detached home rise in popularity. Semi-detached homes have a single common wall with an adjacent home. Commonly called duplexes in the U.S., semi-detached homes offer more privacy than an apartment or townhouse, as well as often having a yard.

Semi-detached homes come in a large variety of layouts and floor plans. Unlike bungalows and ranch houses that are limited to a single floor, a semi-detached home can be one, two, or even three stories.

The shared wall is usually in a common area, where residents need less privacy. This shared wall is often referred to as a ‘party wall’ not for the noise you hear during a party but because it is a party between the two homes. The Minto group offered semi-detached bungalows as well as much more spacious homes. Some had walk-out basements, others were built into hillsides, and some even had open kitchens, a rarity in the 1960s.

– Apartments

Adding to the rental housing market in the 1960s were the first high-rise apartment buildings. Unlike the earlier brick buildings with few units, these high rises offered a much greater housing density in the rapidly growing city and its suburbs. The first high rise, the Juliana, went up in 1962 and its 13 stories and 82 units are still in use today.

Over the course of history, apartment buildings in Ottawa have evolved drastically. Luxury and convenience have become standards for modern-day apartment buildings, offering an abundance of amenities and services alongside spacious living areas. From classic brick buildings in the city’s core to sleek new dwellings offering countless modern condominiums, it’s safe to say that times have changed since the days when apartments were regarded as a last resort option for housing. Nowadays, they’re seen as a desirable choice for people of all lifestyles, catering to everyone from working professionals to college students to families of all shapes and sizes.


Unlike semi-detached homes, townhouses share two or more walls with their neighbours. Some townhouses are built in rows, called Row Houses (or Row Units), with very similar exteriors.

Other townhouses have very different layouts and exteriors from their neighbours

What townhouses have in common is their relatively tall, narrow shape. Built with two or more floors and a basement, these homes took hold all over Ottawa starting in the 1960s. Some areas focused on building row unit complexes which became small communities in the city. Some of these had commonly shared expenses and are referred to as Garden Homes, as well as Association similar to HOA House Owners Association, found in other parts of North America.

Some were row houses lining a long stretch of an urban street. Others were built in the suburbs, offering residents small yards. The main selling point of townhouses was and remains, that they are more affordable than other types of detached or semi-detached homes. They also offer the differentiation of space that comes with more than one story, even when their square footage is not large.

1970s OTTAWA

The 1970s brought more ranch houses, semi-detached homes, townhouses, and apartment buildings. The suburbs began to see larger homes on larger lots as more families moved out of the city centre. The split-level floor plan became popular, though that popularity didn’t last past the 1980s.

Split-levels have two or more levels, with a layout that goes from side to side or front to back. There are small sections of steps separating the different levels of the home. Unlike a two-story home, these levels flow from one to the next.

Split-level floor plans can be found in bungalows as well as larger homes. In a bungalow, it’s called a bi-level. In these bungalows, the whole structure is raised, giving the basement exposure above ground. This makes it more useful as a living space, with more light and ventilation from larger windows.

One housing creation mentioned earlier that become popular in the 1970s was the Garden Home. These clusters of townhouses were arranged around common space and gave residents a neighbourhood feel. Often considerably larger than other attached homes, the Ottawa builder Minto created Garden Homes offering three or four spacious bedrooms in a variety of floor plans. They were great for people looking for townhouses with green space.

Unlike traditional townhouses, garden houses aren’t always more than one story. They come in a variety of configurations including single-story, one-and-a-half-story, and more. In most places, unlike Minto’s 1970s version, garden homes have a relatively small footprint.

1980s OTTAWA

– Present

As Ottawa grew, its older neighbourhoods began to infill with newer homes. Large lots were divided or commercial property was turned into housing. Historic homes were joined by brand-new single-family detached homes as well as townhouses and apartments.

The biggest new arrival in Ottawa housing after the 1970s was the condominium. Freestanding, in rows or as townhouses, in low- or even high-rise buildings, condo complexes sprung up all over Ottawa and its suburbs.

With endless configurations, floor plans, and amenities, condos offered more people the opportunity to own a home. Condo owners buy their units and pay a monthly fee to their condo association for maintenance and other services. In Ottawa this fee is referred to as a ‘condo fee’ but you might recognize it as a ‘strata fee’ or ‘common maintenance fee’.

Many townhouses that were once rentals are now condos. The same is true of apartment buildings, both low-rise and high-rise. Townhouses and garden homes that were owned and turned into condos have an association to manage the property, to the benefit of the residents. Another style of property built during this time was the ‘Stacked’ home which was similar to a townhouse unit but might have an external walk up and the floor levels might be inter-mixed.

So the bedrooms and living space might be separated by a level shared with another unit but not accessed by the unit. Many of these operate on monthly condo fees covering the costs to replace the roof, windows and exterior of the building. But this is not always the case so due diligence with understanding what and how the condo board is involved is a wise investment. Construction of new condominium complexes continues in the city and the suburbs.

Ottawa is known for having great modern and contemporary architectural homes as well as eco-friendly homes. From Kitchissippi to Hintonburg, many of the homes offer breathtaking views of the Ottawa River and downtown skyline. Additionally, with many homes built in recent years, home buyers can choose from an even greater selection of contemporary designs. With so much modern style throughout the city, it’s no wonder that more and more people are choosing to call Ottawa home.


Whether searching for a piece of history or looking for futuristic designs, Ottawa’s architecture offers something unique that captures the imaginations of all who visit. Whatever type of home you decide best suits your needs, you’ll find that Ottawa is a great place to live and build into the future!

And if you are thinking of relocating to Ottawa feel free to reach out to us. Give us a call – shoot us a text – send us an email – or even wrap it in a bow and send it first class because we got your back when moving to Ottawa or anywhere across Canada.




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