Saanich considers garden suites to boost housing stocks

Garden suites are up for discussion in Saanich, as the municipality investigates options to generate more housing stock and allow mortgage-burdened homeowners another income.

Saanich allows secondary suites in its urban-containment area, but garden suites are not currently allowed.

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In September 2017, council adopted terms of reference for a study to explore potential regulatory changes that would allow garden suites.

“For me, any option we can look at to help homeowners with the cost of their house and provide housing close to services is a good thing,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff.

The district says the study will take about 12 months to complete and will involve various opportunities for public input.

A garden suite is a residential dwelling located on the ground in the backyard of a property that has a single-family home as its primary use, says the district.

Victoria allows long-term rental, legal garden suites — not strata-titled or short-term rentals such as Airbnb. Eligible locations in Victoria include all properties that contain only a single-family detached dwelling and are appropriately zoned.

Not eligible for garden suites are properties that already have secondary suites, or an existing duplex.

“We’re saying that Saanich is now allowing secondary suites in all housing in the urban-containment boundary and now we’re looking at some lots in Saanich being big enough that maybe someone wants a cottage out back for renting,” Brownoff said.

Others might want to accommodate family members, an elderly parent, for example, in a garden suite, she said.

The district is inviting the public to upcoming open houses to share “ideas and concerns” about garden suites.

“As housing in our region becomes increasingly unaffordable, Saanich is looking for solutions that diversify and increase the opportunities for everyone,” Mayor Richard Atwell said in a statement.

“Public input is important and it will help to inform the draft regulations. I encourage all residents to participate.”

Brownoff said homeowners will not be allowed to have both a rental suite and garden suite on the same property.

Open house dates:

• March 17 at Gordon Head Recreation Centre auditorium, 4100 Lambrick Way, from 2 to 5 p.m. There will be a brief presentation at 2:30 p.m. and recreation staff will be available to provide activities for children 12 years and younger.

• March 20 at Saanich Commonwealth Place, Douglas Fir Room, 4636 Elk Lake Dr., from 4 to 7 p.m. There will be a brief presentation at 5 p.m.

The district says residents can also give input through an online and paper survey to be released in coming weeks.

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