Welcome to Oak Bay. The District is moving closer to a solution that regulates secondary suites and have released the results to the public engagement phase. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Survey shows Oak Bay divided over secondary suites

‘Oak Bay has never been affordable and should be kept that way,’ among concerns

It doesn’t matter that 11 of the 13 Capital Region municipalities permit secondary suites. What matters is that if Oak Bay permits them, it will be in a way that makes it accessible, according to Mayor Kevin Murdoch.

Oak Bay council received the public engagement results for secondary suites in late May and the results are mixed. Oak Bay’s ongoing study and public engagement around the regulation of secondary suites is part of a greater review of housing, Murdoch said. The engagement results show once again there is a balanced approach from the community, who offset their latent support with concerns.

READ MORE: Saanich looks to ease restrictions on secondary suites

“There are jurisdictions having problems getting existing suites to come forward and conform to the standards, so a big question for us is how do we get them to that state,” Murdoch said. “If [owners] are not coming forward then we can’t count them and that’s not healthy.”

As of now, an Oak Bay homeowner cannot obtain a building permit to build a separated suite (there is some debate as to exactly what constitutes a suite versus a boarder unit, as it is not specified in the bylaws).

Other questions that remain are what the timeframe should be to allow people to come into compliance, and exactly what legally can be relaxed and what can’t, to encourage as many suite owners to come forward, Murdoch said.

A staff report estimated that a quarter of Oak Bay’s 18,094 population (2016 census) are renters, and that half of renters and 14 per cent of homeowners spend nearly a third of their income on shelter. The average rent in Oak Bay was $1,315 per month in 2018, with a vacancy rate of 2.2 per cent (up from 0.5 per cent from 2017). Meanwhile the average house price in Oak Bay is $1.2 million for a single family home and $558,500 for an apartment. They also estimated there’s about 500 to 800 unregulated secondary suites in Oak Bay at this time.

READ MORE: Secondary suites a hot topic ahead of Oak Bay election

Using local planning experts Urban Systems, Oak Bay ran a survey from April 24 to May 13 and held an open house on April 24 at the Oak Bay Rec Centre.

Early analysis parsed the responses into positive and negative themes. About 96 of the positive comments encouraged Oak Bay to consider regulating secondary suites out of a social responsibility to provide diverse and affordable housing for the region. Among the pros listed were added tax revenues, walk-ability, and the ability to better protect and use the existing housing stock.

Multiple respondents suggested that permitting secondary suites would allow more of the youth who grew up in Oak Bay to be able to return.

About 89 of the respondents conveyed opposition to the permission and regulation of suites. “Density is a bad thing that adds stress on the community,” the report reads. The leading opposition themes are that overcrowding, parking problems and the character of Oak Bay are at risk with secondary suites.

“Oak Bay has never been affordable and should be kept that way,” it also reads.

Thus ends Phase 2 of the project. A more refined report will be brought back to the public for community consultation, possibly in June, with the goal of preparing a draft policy framework and strategy by September and a final strategy for council to accept by October.

Oak Bay’s planning department was unable to respond to additional comments by deadline.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich looks to help restaurants increase capacity with outdoor seating

District working to ensure restaurants can make the most of summer weather, mayor says

Saanich farm stands can stay open

Council amending bylaw to allow for temporary use permits

Colwood art centre shuts its doors indefinitely

Board members look for new location when feasible, continue online

Greater Victoria guide dog walk turns to virtual physical challenge

Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides is May 31 with an online twist

Greater Victoria’s first BC Cannabis Store could open at Saanich shopping centre

Store application for Uptown Shopping Centre headed for public hearing

B.C. records no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in weeks

Good news comes despite 11 new test-positive cases in B.C. in the past 24 hours

JK Rowling publishes first chapters of new story online

Book will be a fairy tale for kids and benefit those particularly affected by the pandemic

Tahsis opens its gates to visitors to save local economy

Seasonal local businesses that rely on tourism hope to survive despite drop in tourist numbers

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

BC Corrections to expand list of eligible offenders for early release during pandemic

Non-violent offenders are being considered for early release through risk assessment process

Fraser Valley driver featured on ‘Highway Thru Hell’ TV show dies

Monkhouse died Sunday night of a heartattack, Jamie Davis towing confirmed

Island city cancels plan for homeless camp; exploring alternative option

The plan heard strong objection from neighbouring residents and businesses

B.C. visitor centres get help with COVID-19 prevention measures

Destination B.C. gearing up for local, in-province tourism

Most Read