Central Saanich is set to start the debate on whether and how to modernize its policies around secondary suites this month, and a local residents group is leading the charge to encourage council to vote yes to change.
On May 29, a special council meeting has been scheduled to hear presentations by the Central Saanich Community Association (CSCA) and debate a three-part motion first made by Coun. Zeb King in February 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 bylaws 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 on the motion was deferred to a later date as a discussion on related housing topics was in the works, and now that date has been set for the end of May.
The push to encourage more secondary suite construction in the district and reduce barriers to do so is being led by the association, with Vince Blankenborg serving as secondary suites task force lead for the group.
His participation in the charge for change came about after he experienced first-hand the challenges of building a secondary suite in the district.
“We became empty nesters and wanted to stay in the municipality while being good stewards for the home we have, so we started investigating options for a secondary suite,” said Blankenborg. “With the bylaws currently in place, it basically became a cost-prohibitive option. I looked into it further, and that’s when I discovered the changes the province made in 2019 and realized the municipality was enforcing outdated bylaws.”
In 2019, the province updated the BC Building Code to remove barriers to secondary suite construction by increasing permitted options and designs for suite construction, including allowing more building types to have secondary suites added.
Blankenborg said given this situation where the district’s bylaws are no longer in line with the province’s regulations, the CSCA is making three recommendations to the district, which have been captured in King’s motion.
First, and most important to Blankenborg, the association recommends the district update its bylaws to bring them in line with the province.
Secondly, CSCA recommends the district establish a more accommodating process for residents to apply to build legal and inspected secondary suites, and third, CSCA recommends the district reduce application fees for the permits required to build such a suite.
“One of the big benefits is providing more local workforce housing,” said Blankenborg. “In Central Saanich, one of the number one concerns for businesses is they are having trouble hiring staff because there is no place for them to live … it also allows for multi-generational homes which reduce the burden on daycares and nursing homes.”
The timing of Central Saanich’s consideration of revamping its secondary suites rules comes as the province is in the midst of further reducing its regulations on secondary suites.
In April, Premier David Eby announced plans for province-wide legalization of secondary suites come the fall, as well as a subsidization program to help ease the costs of secondary suite construction as an incentive to build.
The May 29 meeting is set to start at 6 p.m. in council chambers and will be open to the public. Blankenborg encouraged the community to attend and share their thoughts on the proposed changes.
The full agenda for the meeting is expected to be published at centralsaanich.ca the week of May 23.