At a public hearing last week in Victoria packed full of outspoken Gen Squeeze supporters, city council voted unanimously to permit garden suites in municipal zoning. This has the potential to pave the way for more diverse and secure rental options in the city, where rental stock is at a historic low.
Congratulations are in order for those who spoke up at the hearing, supporters who sent letters of support, and to city council! It’s encouraging to know council members felt inspired to take this bold step forward, when there’s so much work left to do.
Opening up Victoria to build more garden suites won’t solve the housing crisis, but it’s one of many bold policy changes we need to comprehensively tackle the problem.
So what are garden suites, and why do they matter?
Sometimes referred to as coach houses, carriage houses, laneway suites, etc., garden suites are small, detached, ground-oriented units located in the rear yard of a single-family detached dwelling.
Two years ago, Victoria released a housing strategy and set up a special affordability task force that recommended permitting garden suites in zoning and delegating approval authority to city staff. This would simplify the lengthy, costly process, and eliminate the need for residents to obtain approval directly from city council.
Garden suites increase housing diversity and choice, and can improve housing affordability for both renters and homeowners. For renters, these private accessory buildings can serve as a unique and autonomous housing option. For homeowners, the addition of a garden suite to the property can produce secure rental income.
They can also provide increased privacy over secondary suites or multi-unit housing, and allow neighbourhood densification that doesn’t require tearing down heritage homes, helping maintain the character of a community. They’re housing options that will stick around long past the typical length of time someone owns their home. As one gentleman at the hearing put it, “Even after we’re gone, that suite will remain in the rental market.”
One speaker described wanting to build a garden suite so that they, the grandparents, could move into the smaller suite and have their kids and grandkids move into their main house, keeping the whole family together and reducing basic costs of living and childcare.
Only 18 garden suites have been built in Victoria since 2011:
- Before the changes, it cost homeowners about $4,000 in application fees, and took six-eight months to go through the application process
- With these changes being approved, it will now only cost about $200, and will take just three-four weeks to apply
- 6,744 single dwellings in Victoria are zoned to permit garden suites should they meet the full requirements
Gen Squeeze in action
110 Gen Squeeze supporters backed council on this important move by writing personal letters, and seven Gen Squeeze all stars joined us at the council hearing to share their personal stories and speak up for their peers.
Nice work everyone!
To City of Victoria staff who provided Gen Squeeze with critical technical information and kept us apprised of hearing updates.
Our next step is to encourage Victoria and other CRD municipalities to ask the province to apply the 15 per cent foreign buyers’ tax to our region, too (it’s already in place in Metro Vancouver). There’s some resistance out there, but our best analysis suggests there’s no good reason not to. Stay tuned for more information.
See more wins
We’ve been on a roll lately. Learn about our recent campaign successes:
Let’s do more
We want to restore housing affordability for renters and owners — forever.
You can help by becoming a Gen Squeeze Member: