Saanich could be launching a formal study into garden suites as early as next week.

Saanich to study garden suites

Study into carriage homes costing $45,000 to be considered by council Sept. 11

A report is recommending Saanich study garden suites – also known as granny suites or carriages houses – as a permanent form of rental housing to deal with the need for more affordable housing. But the same report is also recommending against allowing secondary suites and garden suites on the same lot.

“Garden suites are an opportunity to add to the choice and supply of permanent rental housing within the District of Saanich’s established single family neighbourhoods,” said Pam Hartling, planner, in a memo to council. “They also require careful consideration to ensure compatibility with the neighbourhood context.”

Garden suites are detached dwellings found in backyards of single-family homes. While they tend to be at the “higher end of the housing affordability spectrum,” they expand “housing choice, offer potential for ground-oriented family housing within established neighbourhoods, and provide other social benefits such as the opportunity to age-in-place,” said Hartling.

Saanich does not currently permit such suites, but two surveys found some but not conclusive levels of support, hence the study into whether they could become a permanent form of rental housing within the Urban Containment Boundary only.

Coun. Fred Haynes first pushed the idea in August 2016 in collaboration with Coun. Leif Wergeland.

“The lack of available suites presents a crisis for the families and individuals seeking housing opportunities in Saanich,” Haynes said at the time in 2016. “The barriers are created by tight supply. Enabling detached suites can help. The need for rental housing requires us to act now.”

The proposed study comes with a proviso. “The scope of the work is to develop proposed standards for detached garden suites as an alternative to secondary suites (one or the other, but not both) on single family lots,” said Hartling.

Saanich has allowed secondary suites by building permit on the majority of single family lots within the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB) since 2014, said Hartling, adding council could direct staff to explore allowing both a secondary suite and a garden suite on the same lot.

“The advantage of this approach is that it could result in a greater number of dwelling units,” said Hartling. “The drawback is that it could result in considerable neighbourhood impact and privacy concerns. Staff do not advise this at this time. It could be revisited in the future.”

The recommended study would come with a cost of $45,000 and is currently not within the district’s 2017 financial budget.

Hartling’s memo recommends the funding to come from Saanich’s strategic initiative contingency fund. Council will consider the memo at its next meeting Sept. 11.

If Saanich were to legalize garden suites, it would follow several B.C. communities, including Victoria.