Saanich council officially brought the district into the garden suite era Monday, voting unanimously to approve a bylaw amendment that allows for construction of the detached rental buildings in homeowners’ back yards.
There are distinct rules around building a suite in one’s yard, however. Among them, only applications from owners of RS-zoned properties on sewer service will be accepted, and the property owner must live in either the house or suite. The units may also not be strata-titled or sold separately, and short-term accommodation such as AirBnB or bed and breakfast rentals is not permitted.
“As housing in our region becomes increasingly difficult to find or afford, looking for ways to increase options is key,” Mayor Fred Haynes said in a release. “Garden suites will allow our growing families and others to adapt to changing living arrangements, loved ones to age in place, and provide opportunities for new residents while gently increasing the amount and diversity of rental housing in the region.”
While council discussions had previously happened on the merits and challenges of allowing garden suites in Saanich – the public hearing on the matter happened Sept. 15 – Coun. Nathalie Chambers made a final plea at the Oct. 5 meeting to residents who may be considering such a structure.
“The garden suites are going to be removing biodiversity and we do not have our biodiversity strategy done yet,” she said. Until that is completed, she added, “take an extra eye for biodiversity while you’re installing your garden suites … think about the birds and bees and frogs …”
Haynes reassured council the terms of reference for the garden suite amendment contain “quite an extensive body of work from staff to ensure that biodiversity is protected.”
To find out more about the process of constructing a standalone garden suite, visit saanich.ca/gardensuites.