Friday, June 20, 2008

Just adding to the problems of housing

This comes from the Victoria News. We need to have a regional approach to the issue of secondary suites and we need it now.

More people living in the existing buildings will improve density in the neighbourhoods without adding more buildings.

More suites will also reduce the problems people are having in finding places to rent.

People keep talking about the need to build more affordable housing, how about having local governments offer planning support to people wanting to have secondary suites? The local governments could waive all the permit and building fees and offer a small tax reduction to encourage more secondary suites.

It is time for creative solutions and not a time to stop people from using wasted extra space in their houses.

Esquimalt targeting illegal suites

June 17, 2008

Esquimalt has warned 12 duplex owners suspected of housing illegal suites that they are coming to investigate.

During the past year, the municipality has brought enforcement actions against 26 other residences containing illegal suites. Landlord Diego Lauricella was the next name to be added to the list.

On Monday council ordered Lauricella's two one-bedroom suites at his Shearwater Avenue duplex be removed, after an inspector stated the units were unsafe.

Lauricella said the news is shocking as he has rented the suites for 19 years. He blames the decommissioning of his suites on a new bylaw adopted in the municipality's official community plan in March.

Before its introduction, Esquimalt turned a blind eye to illegal suites unless receiving two complaints from residents of properties within 100 metres of the alleged suite. Now one complaint from any Esquimalt resident is sufficient.

The new bylaw not only allows anyone with a personal vendetta to close down an illegal suite, but also allows single tenant to skip unpaid rent, Lauricella said.

"The landlord, you got him over a barrel because they don't want to lose their suites," he said.

Esquimalt desperately needs a policy on secondary suites, so conflicts can be solved, Lauricella said.

Secondary suites have been a hot topic on council's agenda.

With Greater Victoria's rental vacancy rate one of the tightest in Canada, at .3 per cent, the last thing councillors want to do is kick people out of affordable housing, said Mayor Chris Clement.

But safety and health comes first, he added.

Landowners of secondary suites are also avoiding higher tax payments, Clement noted.

The new system of reporting illegal suites needs to be re-examined, Coun. Hy Freedman said. As it stands he agrees with Lauricella that people not directly affect by such units have the power to close them down.

The municipality is working on a secondary suite policy. So far, it focuses on the secondary units in single family homes, not duplexes, as does Victoria's policy, adopted in late spring.

Saanich and Oak Bay are investigating legalizing secondary suites. Oak Bay has set up a secondary suite committee which includes three members of the public.

raldous@vicnews.com



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