Saanich is pushing ahead with a study that could lead to the legalization of garden suites

Saanich to study potential legalization of garden suites

Saanich is studying whether garden suites could help increase the supply of affordable housing.

“For my money, I’d like to see us move forward with this study,” said Coun. Dean Murdock. “For a lot of people in this room, it cannot happen soon enough and I think there is an awful lot that we will learn from it.”

While Murdock downplayed expectations, he said garden suites represent another form of legal affordable housing, which could greatly benefit Saanich.

While several councillors echoed this point, they disagreed about the regional scope of the study.

Council, after considerable debate, voted to focus the study on Saanich’s sewer service area rather than the urban containment boundary as proposed by the study’s terms of references.

The service sewer area covers an area that is about three per cent larger than the urban containment boundary.

Mayor Richard Atwell had proposed the extension. Murdock supported Atwell’s suggestion along with Coun. Susan Brice and Coun. Leif Wergeland. Coun. Colin Plant, Coun. Fred Haynes and Coun. Vicki Sanders opposed, albeit it for different reasons.

While Sanders supported the study, she warned against over-stepping the urban containment boundary. “It is a good compromise, but I feel so strong about the urban containment boundary, whether it is three per cent or three feet, I don’t support going anywhere beyond the urban containment boundary.”

Plant and Haynes meanwhile wanted to include all of Saanich including rural Saanich in the study.

Haynes, who had proposed the idea, said Saanich would be guilty of poor governance if it did not study of feasibility of garden suites in rural areas. “There is no harm in having a full set of information, and if we ignore rural Saanich, we are ignoring all of the information,” he said. “If not in the midst of a housing crisis, when?” he asked.

Plant agreed. “Our residents are asking us to look,” he said.

Atwell however stressed that expanding the scope of the study would also expand its costs. It would also see Saanich expand energy and effort in areas, where garden suites would not be likely in any case, he said.

“It has been a year to get to this point, and we need to focus on the area, where it is most likely to happen,” he said.

Funding for $45,000 study from Saanich’s strategic reserve fund.

With this study, Saanich is moving in the direction of other municipalities, who have already legalized garden suites. Coun. Leif Wergeland urged staff to look towards their experience to help speed up the process.

Council made this decision after hearing from housing advocates, residents and community association leaders, who urged to push ahead with measures to improve the supply of affordable housing in Saanich.