Andy Gill was among the 100 or so Saanich residents who attended Tuesday’s open house on garden suites at Saanich Commonwealth Place. Gill would like to see Saanich legalize garden suites to create more affordable housing. But staff also heard concerns about the impact of garden suites on neighbourhoods. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Saanich invites input on garden suites

Early returns suggest support for the legalization of garden suites, but the process is far from finished.

Cameron Scott, manager of community planning, said he has generally heard more people speaking in support of the idea than against it. But he also acknowledged that he had heard concerns from residents.

They include among others the potential impact of garden suites on the character of the neighbourhoods and parking impacts. “Those are some of the main ones,” he said.

Scott made these comments as Saanich hosted the second of two open houses to seek feedback on the subject, after council tasked to study the issue.

Saanich defines garden suites as “ground-oriented detached residential dwellings located in the backyard of a property with a single-family home as its primary use.”

Other municipalities refer to them as backyard cottages, lane way houses, or carriage houses, and the literature identifies as a source of affordable rental housing.

The study has now entered the second phase, said Megan Squires, planner. She said this phase will consider various questions, starting with the level of support for legalizing garden suites.

“So if we determine that there is this a level of support within the community, the next step is to start creating those regulations to regulate garden suites,” she said.

Squires said several reasons speak for legalizing garden suites.

“First of all, it can increase the supply of permanent rental housing in our [municipality],” she said. “We know rental housing is in short supply. We know there is a demand for rental housing, so this is perhaps an opportunity to start to address that issue.”

Garden suites can also be alternatives to secondary suites, and allow residents to age in place. Lastly, it can create an industry for people, who want to build that sort of housing, she said.

One of the key questions concerns the appropriate location for garden suites.

“Does it make sense to allow them across the entire sewer service area, in all [single-residential] zones?” asked Squires. Or should Saanich restrict them to lots of certain sizes, or specific locations, like urban areas, or key transportation routes, she asked.

Other questions will focus on the heights of garden suites, their parking requirements, and their approval process, said Squires.

While Tuesday’s open house was the second of two open houses, Saanich residents can continue to fill out a survey on the subject until April 15.

Saanich will also host two pop-up displays — March 28 at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre and April 5 at Pearkes Recreation Centre. Saanich Centennial library branch also currently hosts a display, with an another display scheduled for April at a location to be determined.

The public also heard that Saanich will produce a statistically significant survey to measure public support for various regulatory measures. Staff will then produce draft regulations, which will receive additional feedback, before council will consider the issue sometime in late 2018, early 2019.

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