In a move to improve housing availability and affordability, Victoria City Council voted on April 13 to approve garden suites in single-family zones. “It helps with both the rental-affordability issue and the housing affordability issue because people, as a right, can build a rental unit in their backyard,” says Mayor Lisa Helps. “It’s a mortgage helper, helping out the rental market.”
Two weeks later, the City also voted to remove some of the existing restrictions on secondary suites, self-contained units within existing single-family dwellings.
A garden suite is a small, ground-oriented unit located in the rear yard of a single-family detached dwelling. The City’s guidelines outline eligible locations and include a design section with guidelines to optimize privacy between neighbours.
There are no additional parking requirements for the creation of a garden suite, but the primary dwelling should have a minimum of one parking stall, which may not be located in the front yard.
One of the city’s biggest challenges is housing.
“This will have an economic impact not only in terms of making it more affordable to buy homes, but also in terms of providing housing for workers,” says Helps.
“Working people are having trouble finding housing — even workers in tech and tourism, our two biggest industries. There are about 6,700 single-family dwellings that are now eligible to build rental units.”
Victoria’s vacancy rate of 0.5 per cent is among the lowest in Canada.
“More rental supply is badly needed,” says David Hutniak, the CEO of LandlordBC. “Garden suites will augment the existing secondary rental market with an attractive housing form. At the same time, market demand highlights the need for the building of more purpose-built rental housing [multi-unit rental apartment buildings] to better address the community’s long-term rental housing supply needs. Purpose-built rental is the most secure and affordable form of rental housing, and new supply is needed throughout the CRD.”