In her letter, Ms. Mears list three reasons why she supports regulation of secondary suites in Oak Bay: safety for tenants, present lack of legitimately required municipal revenue (and the ongoing related servicing costs), and to provide “missing middle housing” assuming it can be done with “gentle” but not “over” densification.
To obtain these objectives we need evidence as to the number and location of all existing secondary suites. Unfortunately, experience in other municipalities has shown that few people come forward to register their suites. For example in 2018 Saanich reported, after eight years of voluntary suite registration, the number of legal suites (a few hundred) appear far below the actual potential (some 9,000). That is about a three per cent registration. Causes would include the avoidance of taxation and compliance with building codes. Without this information the first two of her objectives cannot be met. As well it would be impossible to determine which areas can add suites and still be only “gently” densified.
The start-up and continuing costs of even a well-designed regulation system, but with revenue from few takers, could still cost the municipality money (at least $100,000 – the promised suite “business plan” will give a more accurate figure). However, evidence suggests that a properly regulated process could more than pay for itself through registration fees and taxation.
Fortunately, suite information could easily and inexpensively be obtained when collecting municipal taxes. A section on the signed homeowner form should require each homeowner to declare whether their home has or does not have a secondary suite. A substantial fine would be applicable to those who do not respond accurately. This registration of all current and future suites is an essential foundation for the successful design of secondary suite regulations.
Ms Mears’ reasons for supporting secondary suite regulation requires mandatory registration first.