If Oak Bay can Approve Secondary Suites in All Homes, What’s Up With Salt Spring?

Hoity toity Oak Bay has just legalized secondary suites in ALL homes in their well manicured, upper class, municipality.

After eight-year process, Oak Bay council votes to allow secondary suites….The district had been one of the last local municipalities without a secondary suites bylaw. But as of last Tuesday, the suites are permitted in all single-family lots as long as the suite meets the regulations and requirements outlined here. Homeowners will be required to reside in the principal home and must provide an outdoor, labelled, energized outlet capable of providing at least 110V charging for an electric vehicle, scooter, or bike. If not, the homeowner must provide a parking space.

Council adopted the policy after a public hearing this month, and after eight years of public consultation and research. The 2014 Official Community Plan process conducted a community survey that found 78% of Oak Bay residents supported secondary suites, and a specific secondary suites study was launched in 2018.

This legalization is mainly about addressing the estimated 500 to 750 “unregulated” secondary suites that the district already has. The UVic Students’ Society argued to council in June that without this bylaw many of those suites’ tenants—especially young newcomers—will continue to be mistreated. Meanwhile, Mayor Kevin Murdoch said at that time that the district’s infill housing strategy, not its secondary suites bylaw, would be what would increase local housing supply. Capital Daily, September 24, 2022

And now, the only real, regulatory requirement is a building permit, issued by their muncipal building inspection department.

Given the CRD’s Building Inspection department issues building permits on Salt Spring, a simple, similar change in our Land Use Bylaw, would mean an owner on Salt Spring could just apply for a Building Permit without having to jump through any Islands Trust hoops.

Secondary suites in pilot areas on Salt Spring were legalized 9 years ago (2013). Since then, it is my understanding fewer than 5 owners have applied for a secondary suite permit.

Arguably, the fear that the legalization of secondary suites would create an avalanche of applications was, and still is, unfounded in reality. Recent real estate increases have also decreased the liklihood of large numbers due to the fact that new, upper middle class owners, who can afford the existing real estate prices, don’t need/want tenants living in their homes.

An amended version of the current Land Use Bylaw, which would allow ALL homes to have a secondary suite, would look something like this:

Definition – “secondary suite” means an accessory, self-contained dwelling unit, located within a building that otherwise contains a single-family dwelling, and having a lesser floor area than the principal dwelling unit.

3.16 SECONDARY SUITES

3.16.1 Secondary suites are permitted on ALL lots.

Information Note: Secondary suites require a building permit from the Capital Regional District Building Inspection Office to be fully legalized.

3.16.2 A dwelling unit is permitted to contain a secondary suite provided that:

(1) the dwelling unit or the secondary suite is occupied by the owner of the dwelling; or

(2) the dwelling unit or the secondary suite is occupied by a person other than the owner who has responsibility for managing the property, including dealing with complaints of neighbours arising from the occupancy of the property.

Information Note: Pursuant to other provisions of this Land Use Bylaw, short term vacation rentals are not permitted in residential areas.

3.16.3 There is a maximum of one secondary suite permitted per lot.

3.16.4 A secondary suite must be contained within the walls of the building that contains the principal dwelling unit.

3.16.5 The entrance to a secondary suite from the exterior of the building must be separate from the entrance to the principal dwelling unit.

3.16.6 A secondary suite must not be subdivided from the principal dwelling unit under the Land Title Act or the Strata Property Act, UNLESS THE TITLE TO THE SUITE IS COVENANTED FOR EMPLOYEE, OWNERSHIP HOUSING.

Information Note: At time of Building Permit application, the Capital Regional District requires specific amounts of potable water be demonstrated, and proof of adequate septic capacity be provided, prior to issuing approvals.

Its long past time to stop being afraid of too many suites, and start worrying about not having enough. Either way, they are a temporary fix in search of our longer term, sustainable housing solution.

If you are an employee, an employer and/or a renter, on Octoberr 15th, elect two representatives who will support much needed employee housing on the island.

If you don’t know who they are, you need to wake up now, and find out – this is YOUR community’s future that is at stake. Do your civic duty and be part of the positive change we so desperately need!



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