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Duncan finds simple solution to illegal suites
Boosting affordable rental housing, and making current illegal suites legal, is the goal of Duncan’s upcoming secondary-suite bylaw.
Councillor Sharon Jackson envisioned various types of rental places, spanning carriage houses renovated from garages, to granny suites, and basement abodes.
“If I have a basement suite or carriage house, and rent it for $500, that’s a far cry from $850.”
She foresaw “a couple of dozen” suites could initially surface from the bylaw likely to be adopted by year’s end.
“If you make it legal, people will want to build in their garage, for instance.”
Several dozen illegal rental suites exist in Duncan now, Jackson guessed.
“There’s no such such thing as a legal secondary suite in Duncan at the moment, unless it’s something grandfathered in from long ago.”
The secondary-suite concept was aired during a recent open house.
A report full of feedback is coming from city planner Michelle Geneau, Jackson explained of the affordable-housing concept simmering at city hall for several years.
“Michelle will probably make a presentation at an upcoming council meeting. Comments were positive and pro; there were some concerns around street parking.”
Secondary suites would be inspected by city staff “to make sure it’s safe and legal, so you have to ensure fire codes are respected, and things like that.”
Jackson compared any worries about a boom in rental dives to Duncan’s bylaw allowing backyard chicken coops.
“If we have 10 places with chickens, I’d be surprised.”
The bylaw would also bring those illegal suites up to snuff.
“There’d be a period of grace, and they’d have to say they have an illegal suite. I’m not exactly sure how it will work,” Jackson said.
She backs a push toward pedestrian living in and near downtown to be a byproduct of more affordable suites — dovetailing with Duncan’s drive to drop its carbon footprint.
“In our RM 1 and 2 zones, you could have a carriage or granny suite, or a basement suite — but we don’t want people renting out their attic and crawl space; we’ll do baby steps.”
Cities such as Vancouver are successfully proactive on lane homes and secondary suites, she noted.
“As aging populations are living at home on a modest income, and you can rent out a granny or basement suite, it helps seniors stay in their homes longer.”
Affordable secondary suites could also help plug holes in rising local housing demand.
“It was just the growing understanding, and working with Social Planning Cowichan, about numbers of people living in their cars, or couch surfing,” Jackson said, citing folks working at low-paying jobs, and struggles among low-income seniors.
City hall also knows rental hassles that can disrupt neighbours.
“When you have renters, you can end up with problems but you have to familiarize yourself with B.C.’s Landlord and Tenant Act,” said Jackson who is a landlord.
“I have a list of things I ask my tenants to agree to, like one car” she said, noting vital references.
“You don’t just rent sight unseen.”
Those kinds of tips are taught in House Of Friendship’s Ready To Rent program, applauded Jackson.
“People who’ve never rented, and have no references, can have a terrible time getting an affordable place.
“They’re taught how to clean a place, pay bills on time, and (organizers) set them up with places to rent.”
After all, protecting home-suite-home from bad renters is key.
“Your home’s the biggest investment of your life; if people see renters with peacocks — or crackheads — moving in, that wouldn’t be fun.”