EDITORIAL: Secondary suites study not thorough enough

The News' editorial for April 11, 2014 on Saanich's secondary suites study

It’s about time that Saanich got around to looking at legalizing secondary suites north of McKenzie Avenue.

Dense neighbourhoods like Gordon Head and Cadboro Bay are crowded with thousands of University of Victoria and Camosun College students, all renting an illegal room or suite. And this shouldn’t be news to anyone. This affordable housing conversation dates back decades, well before Saanich launched a secondary suite pilot project in June 2010 that excluded some of the most populated areas of the municipality.

And even though most Saanich residents aren’t interested going through the formal process of legalizing their suite (only 98 permits have been issued since 2010), expanding the program is the right step to take.

The new secondary suite study has its flaws, however. Three areas of Saanich are excluded from the study.

While there are valid existing policy reasons for their exclusion, we feel Saanich should also explore legal suites in rural Saanich, the Blenkinsop Valley and Broadmead.

Illegal secondary suites already exist in those areas. Skipping those neighbourhoods won’t change that fact.

While there may not be a lot of homes in rural Saanich, students who attend nearby Camosun Interurban or Pacific Horticulture College would likely want improved housing stock near their schools. And the Blenkinsop Valley is a quick bike ride away from the university (or the nearest bus stop).

Illegal suites can be found all throughout the municipality. Providing this permitting opportunity to everyone – even in areas that aren’t entirely appropriate – brings comfort knowing that they own, rent or live near a legal suite.