Central Saanich could position itself as a leader on secondary suites in the Greater Victoria region, pending council’s support of a recent motion.
At the Feb. 27 regular meeting of council, Coun. Zeb King brought forward a three-part motion calling on the district to send a signal to the region it wants to encourage more legal, inspected secondary suites to be created.
The motion also aims to have staff research and propose a range of legally permissive bylaw and policy changes to accommodate more secondary suites while outlining their requirements, and collect and share with the public annual reports on the number of secondary suites in the district to ensure they are increasing housing inventory.
Discussion and voting on that motion ended up being deferred by council to a later committee meeting where related topics are set to be discussed.
“It’s really a shift in culture. Up until now, we have removed the illegality part of secondary suites, but what do we do to encourage and incentivize and be more bullish about it,” King told Black Press Media on Tuesday (March 7). “There is a shortage of housing, and a big part of it is a shortage of rental housing. Renters often work in our community, and we need a place for them to live, which also relates to climate action because we don’t want them to have to live far away and commute to work.”
King said that during last fall’s municipal election campaign, he found the community had a fair number of empty-nesters with large homes with unused space - yet there seemed to be little incentive for them to convert that space into a secondary suite to be rented out.
He said many of them were fortunate enough to be in a situation where the extra income may not be enough of an incentive, especially when they may have heard stories from others who went through the process of creating a secondary suite on their property, only to find barrier after barrier standing in their way.
“This motion is intended to find ways we can facilitate and encourage those many homeowners who are at that point where they have a large home and could establish a small suite. What can we do within the law to encourage that sort of thing since it will help our community?”
King said recent changes in the province’s building code have left Central Saanich’s existing regulations on secondary suites more restrictive than they need to be, so his proposal would effectively bring the district’s regulations in line with the province’s guidelines as well as simply encouraging more people to build secondary suites.
With council set to further discuss King’s motion at a later date and consider expected additional and related information, his hope now is his colleagues will continue to show his proposal the support he has already seen, and that the new bylaw could be developed and adopted by end of year.