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Saanich homeowners won't need council approval to put a garden suite in front or side yards

Having municipal staff oversee the positioning of garden suites is expected to speed up the pace of approval.

Garden suites in Saanich can now be built in a front or side yard if the layout allows without having to get council approval, as part of changes approved by council Monday.

Having municipal staff oversee the positioning of garden suites is expected to speed up the pace of approval.

Homeowners can also install on-site storm-water management, since about 25 per cent of Saanich properties don’t have a storm-drain connection.

“When you’re looking at the scale of a garden suite, it’s cost-prohibitive to ask a homeowner to install the main [drainage] line on the road,” said Nick Kardum of Backyard Bungalows, who spoke at Monday’s council meeting.

Options for managing storm water in a yard include rain gardens and rock pits, Kardum said.

Garden suites have been popping up all over the district since they were approved in 2020. About 70 of the suites are now dotted around the municipality, with as many as 300 more in the pipeline.

On Tuesday, Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes toured a 1,000-square-foot garden suite that’s under construction on Austin Avenue in the Gorge-Tillicum area. Homeowner Lesley Murphy said she’s building the suite to live in with an eye to renting out her main home.

A thousand square feet is the maximum size of garden suite allowed in Saanich right now, Haynes said as he toured the suite with Murphy and Kardum, whose company specializes in garden suites and has about 30 projects in the works around the region.

Murphy said her garden suite is designed to have room for her landscaping tools in a workshop/garage, along with 700 square feet of living space, “which I feel is very comfortable.”

Her main house is too big for her and her small dog, Murphy said, and renting out the main house will generate income as she ages. “This is my retirement plan.”

Haynes said garden suites add to the housing supply, offer flexibility for homeowners and are sensitive to the neighbourhoods where they are built. “It’s really what we would call gentle infill.”

He said Saanich is working to make the process of getting a garden suite built smoother and faster.

“We can improve the timelines for approval and increase the scope of how many houses can apply,” he said.

“This is supported by the individual homeowners. It’s a unique market.”

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