EDITORIAL: Garden suites get to root of housing crisis

Saanich residents seem generally supportive of allowing garden suites to take root in the community. That support, of course, could likely vanish when residents actually face the prospect of one of the suites overlooking their own backyard.

A pair of open houses in recent weeks showed many in the community are receptive to the idea of the suites, which Saanich defines as “ground-oriented detached residential dwellings located in the backyard of a property with a single-family home as its primary use.”

Saanich residents can make their opinions known through an online survey at saanich.ca until April 15.

District planner Megan Squires said the survey and open houses will help determine the level of community support, with staff beginning the process of crafting regulations if sufficient support is identified. She said garden suites can address several issues in the community.

“We know there is a demand for rental housing, so this is perhaps an opportunity to start to address that issue.”

While the survey and public displays will offer insight on the community’s thinking, the real challenge lies ahead when (and if) garden suites begin to sprout up in neighbourhoods around Saanich. If the past is any guide, many of the suites will likely draw vocal opposition from neighbours.

The push for affordable housing options is all well and good, until it has a direct impact on our own living conditions. The success or failure of this initiative will rest with the political will of council. Our political leaders must determine if Saanich intends to tackle the housing crisis gripping the region head-on, or simply entertain options that won’t ruffle any feathers. Conditions will no doubt need to be placed on garden suites, governing issues such as size, location and parking requirements – but the district should recognize them as an idea whose time has come.

Garden suites can open the door for more affordable housing in Saanich, but the key will be resisting the cries of NIMBY, or perhaps more appropriately in this instance, Not In My (neighbour’s) Back Yard.

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