EDITORIAL : Saanich must move on carriage houses

Affordable housing has been a hot-button issue throughout the Capital Region for years. Councillors of all political stripes and across jurisdictions have lamented their inability to help bring down living costs for their residents.

Saanich council now has a chance to go beyond the rhetoric and actually bring about change that will help its residents get a better handle on housing costs that continue to spiral upwards.

A report is expected to reach the council table next week recommending Saanich study allowing garden suites on residential properties. Garden suites, also referred to as carriage homes, are detached dwellings located in back yards or above garages in residential neighbourhoods.

Carriage homes have been allowed in numerous municipalities across the province, including Victoria, and a push has been on to legalize them in Saanich for more than a year.

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

While the housing supply in Saanich has only become tighter, the proposal brought forward by Haynes has continued to gather dust.

But the new study, pegged at a cost of $45,000, could help jumpstart the issue

Saanich has allowed secondary suites by building permit on the majority of single family lots within the Urban Containment Boundary since 2014. Although the planning department is hesitant to allow garden suites on the same property as a basement suite, council needs to look at all options.

While the $45,000 cost for the study is not included in Saanich’s budget for 2017, council should consider it money well spent. All too many residents simply cannot afford for nothing to be done to address the affordable housing situation.