- BC Games
Secondary suites move towards becoming legal in Burnaby
Burnaby's status as one of the few Metro Vancouver municipalities that doesn't allow secondary suites could soon come to an end.
Burnaby city staff is recommending council approve implementation of its proposed secondary suites program after it met with majority support in a public opinion survey conducted last spring, according to a report to the community development committee.
Currently, secondary suites are illegal in Burnaby and all it takes to have one shut down by bylaw inspectors is a complaint to city hall from a neighbour.
The proposed program was developed partly due to community requests for such affordable housing that came out of the process for the city's social sustainability strategy.
The city received 130 completed public opinion surveys for the program which asked people's input on five aspects of the program.
On the program's objectives, 80 per cent agreed with the city's aims which include increasing safety standards of suites, protecting affordable housing and ensuring impacts on neighbourhoods are minimized.
Of the 17 per cent who did not agree, concerns cited included the impact of suites on the livability of single-family neighbourhoods.
Proposed changes to the zoning bylaw to allow suites include setting maximum suite sizes of 970 square feet or 40 per cent of total livable floor area of the house, whichever is less, setting minimum sizes of 344 square feet and requiring an additional off-street parking space for homes with a suite.
The proposed amendments were supported by 66 per cent of survey respondents, the report said. Of the 28 per cent that objected, many cited concerns that the parking-space requirement is not adequate and would hurt neighbourhood livability, while others said the parking requirements would prevent homeowners from creating legal suites and were against city policies to encourage transit use.
The proposed building permit process, including applying BC Building Code guidelines, city hall offering free suite feasibility reports for the first two years of the program to help owners legalize existing suites, and encouraging that new houses be built to easily and safely accommodate suites in the future, was supported by 72 per cent of respondents.
The proposed approach to legalizing currently illegal suites that are the subject of a complaint was supported by 68 per cent of respondents. The enforcement plan would include prioritization of complaints from people who live at or own a property within 200 metres of the illegal suite, and shutting down suites in duplexes and cases of multiple suites in single-family homes that are the subject of a complaint.
Of the 26 per cent opposed, some felt the enforcement approach was too restrictive and that the 200-metre limit for complainants was too far for legitimate issues to be of real concern, while others felt the limit should be expanded.
The lowest amount of respondent support was the 54 per cent seen in the question regarding the proposed licence and utility fees for suites, which also saw the largest number of comments and suggestions, the staff report said.
The fees include a requirement for a business licence and application fee of $270, additional water and sewer fees of about $500 annually for properties with secondary or grandfathered in-law suites—which equates to 50 per cent of the full single-family home charge—and a requirement that all homes with suites have one medium-sized garbage toter at a cost of $205.
Those opposed felt the fees were too high and would affect rental rates, make homeownership financially difficult, and discourage property owners from legalizing suites. Others felt the fees were not high enough to pay for suites' impact on city services, the report said, noting one of the major concerns of residents over suites is that their owners don't pay their fair share.
The report noted that the fees are consistent with what is being charged in other municipalities in the region.
"A cautious and deliberate approach by the City in developing its own policies and programs has allowed Burnaby to build on valuable insights gained through the experience of other Metro Vancouver municipalities."
If approved by council, the necessary bylaws could be in place by Jan. 1, 2014. The second phase of implementation would include a public information program while in the third phase, property owners of existing unauthorized suites could be billed for utility fees starting Jan. 1, 2015.
The report noted that the number of illegal suites rivals that of the city's total non-market housing stock of about 6,175 units.
According to BC Assessment Authority records, there are currently about 5,878 illegal secondary suites in Burnaby, or a suite in 20 per cent of single-family homes, according to an earlier city staff report. That's in addition to the 426 legal in-law suites which are registered and must be occupied by a family member.