Saanich residents sweet on suites north of McKenzie

Survey shows strong support to legalize secondary suites in Gordon Head, North Quadra, Glanford neighbourhoods

The results are in and Saanich residents living north of McKenzie Avenue will likely soon have the ability to legalize the illegal secondary suites in their home.

Saanich’s 2014 secondary suites survey netted 796 responses, most in favour of allowing homeowners to acquire a legal permit for a secondary suite.

Cameron Scott, with Saanich community planning, says the strong community support means a report favouring the idea will go before council.

“Ultimately it’s council’s decision to go ahead, but the survey generally supports it being the same as the south,” Scott said. In 2009, Saanich council approved a pilot project, giving homeowners an opportunity to legalize suites south of McKenzie Avenue only.

Paul McKivett, president of the Gordon Head Residents’ Association, says his group has some concerns about the possibility of legalizing suites in his area, but overall the GHRA supports it.

“Suites are a reality for us. The concerns are how (Saanich) chooses to enforce the bylaws,” McKivett said.

Suite enforcement continues to be complaint-based. Legalizing suites gives homeowners, neighbours and the municipality more methods of dealing with problem suites.

“With vacancy rates in Victoria at less than four per cent, it would create a huge housing problem, affecting the housing stock, were we to crack down on suites. We’re not about to do that,” Scott said.

“In a perfect world, we’re kind of looking for an alignment in the areas north and south (of McKenzie). But at the same time, we’re open to suggestions for improving the regulations,” he said of the plans for north of McKenzie.

Earlier this year the News reported a total of 1,520 complaints related to illegal suites in Saanich in the past 15 years, 229 of which have been since 2010. A total of 98 suites in Saanich are currently legal, out of an estimated 9,000 throughout the municipality.

The neighbourhoods identified in the north of McKenzie area include North Quadra, Glanford and Strawberry Vale, as well as Gordon Head and Cordova Bay. The Blenkinsop valley, Broadmead and rural Saanich areas are not included in the study area.

A report is set to appear before council by late June or early July.

Saanich is also exploring the possibility of legalizing secondary suites in accessory buildings, such as detached garages and alley houses.

To see the results of the survey, visit saanich.ca/living/community/suitesnorthsurvey.html.

reporter@saanichnews.com