Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Oak Bay Secondary Suites Report - "Lets think about it some more"

Corey Burger has posted the final report on Secondary Suites by the Oak Bay committee on the issue.   The upshot of it is the following:

The Committee is of the view that Council should continue to review the issue of legalizing secondary suites. While only a slight majority of surveyed residents favour such a move, it appears that others may support suites if proper protections and restrictions are in place to deal with expected negative impacts.
The Committee feels that a more comprehensive and informed public discussion led by Council could allow a consensus to emerge. Oak Bay currently has many hundreds of secondary suites scattered throughout the community. Ways must be found to deal with these existing suites and the potential for new suites in renovated or newly constructed homes.

Talk about waffle.

The reality is that Oak Bay is dealing the existing situation in such a way as to defacto grant secondary suites by refusing to enforce the bylaw that does not allow them.   Oak Bay has access to the information that will show them where all the secondary suites are through the BC Assessment records on the houses.   They have access but they refuse to act.

The problem with this is that they cause law abiding people to act outside of the law.  It is bad to have a law on the books and not enforce.   Widespread breaking of a bylaw is corrosive to civil society.   It also causes stress to people who rent out such a suite and have trouble dealing with breaking a bylaw.   It causes resentment in the minds of people that do no break the bylaw.

The biggest problem is that is allows for sub standard housing and no recourse to protection for the renter.   If you are renting in illegal suite that is not up to code, you can be evicted immediately with no protection of any sort.

Oak Bay has to make the suites legal through a registry and then require all of them to be up to code.  It then needs to seek out all the suites that do not register and impose a large enough fine to scare the crap out of anyone that is renting out an illegal suite, plus require the landlord of that illegal suite to provide six months free accommodation to the tenant in a legal dwelling.

I have never heard a good reason for having a ban on secondary suites.   All local governments should allow secondary suites unless there is a very compelling reason not to - I can not think of any compelling reason.

This committee report simply highlights how Oak Bay continues to be the CRD's brownest community and the local government least willing to address climate change, affordable housing, and livable communities.   Oak Bay also carries none of the regional weight on industrial lands and offers virtually no commercial space. They do not even have a single gas station.   They simply have never pulled their weight and based on this report are still unwilling to act in a responsible manner and acknowledge that there is a world beyond the tweed curtain.
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