Gibsons looking to expand secondary-suite eligibility

The Town of Gibsons’ planning and development committee is recommending work begin on a zoning bylaw update to allow secondary suites in more types of homes.

Previously, secondary suites could only be built in single detached homes and could not exceed a certain size, but in a report to the committee’s Jan. 14 meeting, director of planning Lesley-Anne Staats said changes to the provincial building code have removed those restrictions.

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In a background document about the building code changes, provincial officials said, “Allowing the construction of secondary suites in more building types helps to create more affordable housing units while still providing an acceptable level of health and fire safety to occupants.”

Staats said if council approves zoning changes to match, Gibsons could now allow secondary suites in row houses of duplexes “as an effort to remove barriers and to allow the creation of more affordable housing.”

Staats also mentioned that while a property owner wanting to add a secondary suite is supposed to get a building permit and adhere to the building code and Town bylaws, there are some existing secondary suites in the Town that were not built following those requirements.

Committee members said they were in favour of the approach, as long as certain issues are considered.

Mayor Bill Beamish, for example, wanted to ensure that  “additional secondary suites will not be used for short-term rentals.”

Coun. David Croal said he had the same concern. “We’re sitting on the horns of dilemma. On one hand it looks like the ice cream truck just arrived with this incredible potential for increasing rentals in the community, but how to police it is a really big concern.”

Croal also raised the issue of parking. “In some of the older neighbourhoods there isn’t the capacity to have off-street parking, but there is capacity to have the suite. There is a potential problem there with where the cars [of people living in the suites] are going to park.”

“I really support this move by the provincial government, because what it does is put a mortgage helper into everybody’s home, which is great,” said Coun. Aleria Ladwig, the committee chair.

Other issues committee members said should be addressed in the updated bylaw included form and character regulations to ensure adding a secondary suites doesn’t create a de-facto duplex by, for example, having identical side-by-side entrances.

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