Saanich is now taking applications for garden suites on properties that meet specific guidelines. (Fred Haynes/Twitter)

Applications open for Saanich garden suites

No Airbnb, short-term rentals allowed

The District of Saanich is now accepting applications for garden suites and, assuming all guidelines are met, approvals could be granted in just a few months.

On Oct. 5, council gave final readings to several bylaw amendments to allow garden suites – detached rental structures located in the backyard of a single-family property – provided the property owner has a permit and the site meets the criteria laid out by the municipality. Garden suites are now legal in Saanich on most RS-zoned properties within the sewer service area provided the lot is a minimum of 400 metres-squared and at least 12 metres wide.

Mayor Fred Haynes noted that there has already been a “huge interest” in garden suites from the community. Garden suites are “part of the mosaic” of solutions to address the need for rental housing in the district, he said.

The detached dwellings are a cost-effective housing option that will allow inter-generational families to live on the same property, let seniors age in place, supplement mortgages and create new, diverse rental spaces, Haynes said. He noted that if garden suites are added to even a fraction of Saanich’s approximately 30,000 single-family properties, there will be a sizable influx of affordable housing.

“As housing in our region becomes increasingly difficult to find or afford, looking for ways to increase options is key,” Haynes said in a release. “Garden suites will allow our growing families and others to adapt to changing living arrangements, loved ones to age in place, and provide opportunities for new residents while gently increasing the amount and diversity of rental housing in the region.”

Currently, garden suites are permitted for long-term rentals – meaning Airbnbs and bed and breakfasts are not permitted – and cannot be built on properties that already have a secondary suite.

Coun. Nathalie Chambers made a final plea at the Oct. 5 meeting to residents who may be considering such a structure.

“The garden suites are going to be removing biodiversity and we do not have our biodiversity strategy done yet,” she said. Until that is completed, she added, “take an extra eye for biodiversity while you’re installing your garden suites … think about the birds and bees and frogs …”

Saanich property owners can expect a straightforward garden suite application process that will take one to two months for municipal staff to approve as long as all the guidelines are met, Haynes said. According to the district, applicants need a Development Permit, a Building Permit and possibly a Tree Permit before building. Applications are handled by staff rather than council but applications that require a variance permit need council approval.

A pre-application questionnaire is available on the district website at saanich.ca/gardensuites along with an application process guide.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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