The Victoria Residential Builders Association strongly supports garden suites, but not the requirement for a development permit as required by Saanich council. Saanich developed design guidelines and zoning criteria that should require only a building permit approval as done in municipalities such as Langford and Colwood.

Saanich says their permit process make take up to 3.5 months for a permit to build a garden suite already well-defined. This is typical of Saanich’s slow and costly permit process that contributes to housing’s high costs.

In addition, Saanich requires homeowners to occupy the property. “The registered owner of the lot must occupy either the single family dwelling or the garden suite as the owner’s principal residence.”

Esquimalt removed this requirement for secondary suites several years ago because it was “unenforceable.” Esquimalt’s old bylaw 2861 said, “(8) The owner of every Single Family Residence wishing to use part of the Building for a Secondary Suite, must provide to the Township of Esquimalt Building Official a statutory declaration indicating that either the Single Family residence or the Secondary Suite is or will be owner
occupied.”

A subsequent Esquimalt staff report says:
“15. Secondary Suites: The regulations have to be rewritten for greater clarity, eliminating regulations that were found to be unmanageable to implement (the ‘suite registry’), and unenforceable (‘owner occupancy’).
Secondary suites are an important form of housing within Esquimalt, providing affordable housing for many, additional income for homeowners (‘mortgage helpers’), and have proven to have minimal impact on
neighbours when well built and maintained.”

Section 30.6 Secondary Suites was amended deleting the requirement for owner occupancy.

The District of North Saanich has taken a similar position and owner occupancy is not required for secondary suites in that municipality.   

There is a significant need for housing in Saanich, where new housing starts have declined mostly due to obstructive rezoning/permit processes and high fees.The proposed development permit process and other regulatory obstacles create unnecessary hurdles that are costly and will inhibit the goal of providing housing diversity.