Many of you agreed with my recent article regarding the modest action of local municipal councils on the subject of affordable housing and secondary suites. After the article appeared, Randy Humble, chief administrative officer for the Town of Sidney, drew to my attention the town’s proposed solutions to both these issues. These are addressed in Sidney’s zoning bylaw, which has received second reading and is now awaiting a public hearing on May 28.
After downloading the document from Sidney’s website, I must admit the proposed solutions of Sidney council appear to have great merit. With some restrictions, Sidney has allowed secondary suites since 1996. The new zoning bylaw could accomplish what every Greater Victoria municipality should strive to emulate.
Not only will the new bylaw continue to permit secondary suites in many single-family homes, but also propose to allow such suites in almost all types of homes, including duplexes, townhouses, row-houses, and even in certain strata apartment situations.
Also for the first time in Greater Victoria, with the exception of Langford, detached secondary dwellings will be permitted, where adequate lot sizes and reasonable setbacks can be achieved. These units are often referred to as coach houses, carriage houses, or laneway houses. In order to esthetically blend in, such structures will not exceed 60 square metres of habitable floor area, and will be no higher than 85 per cent of the main dwelling height.
Should an owner’s property and design qualify for a small secondary dwelling, and if it can be built for around $100,000, the resulting rental income to the owner would not only cover 100 per cent of its maximum financing cost, but would in fact, produce a profit from the first day it was rented. At the same time, it would meet a huge need for younger residents and for many seniors who might be looking to unlock the equity in their current residence, and rent a new, attractive and easy-care carriage home.
These progressive changes will be beneficial to not only the enterprising homeowner and lower-income occupant, but will also to the entire community of Sidney. The construction sector will see jobs created, merchants will find it easier to attract employees who will be able to afford to live in Sidney, and the tax base will be further broadened as a result of increased assessments.
Once these changes wend their way through the public hearing, third reading, and the requisite B.C. government approval, Sidney will boast by far the most progressive policies addressing home affordability and the use of secondary accommodation, to be found anywhere on Vancouver Island. We can only hope that other councils take note, and choose to follow suit.
A retired corporate executive, enjoying post-retirement as a financial consultant, Peter Dolezal is the author of three books. His most recent, the Smart Canadian Wealth-Builder, is now available at Tanner’s Books, and in other bookstores.