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Saanich resident says simpler process when building garden suites a solution to housing crisis

Reducing bureaucracy will solve need for more housing, says Claremont area resident
Igor Kotliarsky showcases a new garden suite in the backyard of his Claremont area home that he built in response to the need for more housing in the District of Saanich. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)

In the midst of the B.C. housing crisis, one Saanich resident saw a clear opportunity for other homeowners on similar properties while in the process of building a garden suite in his own spacious backyard.

Igor Kotliarsky lives on an expansive property in the Claremont neighbourhood and decided to build a suite after recognizing a need for more housing options in the district – especially for university students.

Many Greater Victoria property owners are sitting on untapped opportunities when their yards are large enough to host a secondary home, he said.

Financial gain and the contribution to the livelihood of others by providing much-needed living spaces are two of the greatest benefits, he added.

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Although his experience building the suite was positive overall, Kotliarsky sees red tape at the District of Saanich as a barrier.

“It was a long journey – two things stop people from just going ahead and doing it – one is bureaucracy and the other is that it is very difficult to find a reliable builder,” he said.

As a result Kotliarsky, a builder who also understands the complex approval processes required, is in the process of starting a company to bridge the gap between people’s hesitancy and their ability to move forward.

Saanich’s garden suite regulations were developed through a comprehensive community process, said district communications manager Erika Schade.

“The regulatory framework aims to strike a balance between an efficient approval process and ensuring that an adequate review is conducted to address livability, privacy and sustainability objectives,” she said.

The vast majority of applications do not require council approval and approval authority is delegated to staff except in instances where variances to the zoning bylaw are requested. Saanich council has committed to a continual review and refinement of the regulatory process, including through one and two-year check-ins.

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