Central Saanich is taking the first steps in what could be a wider effort to reduce restrictions on and support the construction of secondary suites as the district takes aim at housing inventory and affordability.
At a committee of the whole meeting Monday (May 29), a series of recommendations were made for council to consider at a later date.
The recommendations largely surrounded directions to staff to produce reports to help council make more informed decisions on potential changes, but a pair of motions would lead to direct action, should council approve them at a later date.
The first action would see the district remove an existing rule dictating secondary suites must be smaller than 90 square metres in size “as soon as legally permissible,” with the added requirement all secondary suites larger than 90 square metres have at least two dedicated parking stalls.
The second recommendation for action was to direct staff to produce an amendment to the district’s Fees and Charges Bylaw to eliminate the building permit fee for secondary suites in an existing home.
The two major recommendations which came out of the committee meeting follow a presentation by Vince Blankenborg, secondary suites task force lead with the Central Saanich Community Association and a notice of motion made by Coun. Zeb King in February calling on the district to make it easier for residents to build secondary suites, thus encouraging their construction.
Blankenborg told the committee the association felt the district’s regulations around secondary suites had become less permissive than the latest B.C. Building Code regulations, introduced in 2019.
He told the committee the association has three main recommendations for the district, and the hope is as many as possible will be addressed at the meeting.
Those recommendations were to update the district’s regulations to bring them up to speed with the latest provincial guidelines, establish a permissive permitting process for suite applications and inspections, and eliminate or reduce permit fees for suites.
Blankenborg said enacting those recommendations will result in more secondary suites being built in the district, which in turn will help local businesses hire employees by providing more local housing options, reduce carbon emissions by shortening commutes, help alleviate pressures on seniors care homes by allowing more multi-generational homes, and provide more affordable housing – all with minimal cost and environmental impacts.
In addition to the two recommendations to council approved by the committee, which would result in more direct action, several other recommendations were approved Monday.
Those include directions to staff to promote the B.C. Building Code alternative compliance pathway for secondary suites; research and report back on amending the Land Use Bylaw to support suites; review options to amend that bylaw to support secondary suites in attached multifamily buildings; report on bylaw enforcement addressing unauthorized construction, only in the case of health and safety issues or significant infractions; research availability of grant or program funding to help incentivize secondary suite construction; and a pair of additional motions to recommend made by Couns. Robert Thompson and Niall Paltiel.
Thompson’s additional recommendation was to update the district’s secondary suite information resources to include both the long-term benefits and challenges of creating a secondary suite, while Paltiel’s was to write to the Minister of Housing to request a meeting to discuss updating tax incentives and tenancy regulations around secondary suites.