June 17th, 2017

With the vacancy rate at an estimated 0.5 percent, the City of Victoria has finally taken a reasonable approach to providing some relief to the current rental crisis by eliminating the rezoning application that was previously required with a garden suite. The rezoning process was a lengthy, costly, public debate on whether building or land use changes can be made on your property. It involved consultation with your local community association, your neighbours, the planning department, and then went before council to be debated and voted on, ultimately deciding whether it should be allowed or not. That 6-9 month delay and the heavy upfront costs spooked everyone off the garden suite idea and forced them to look at whether a basement suite was a better investment, which explains why so few were ever built in the first place.

The new process calls for a Delegated Development Permit Application which is reviewed and approved by city planning staff and does not require community or council consultation (it’s good to get your neighbours on board though). With a very reasonable application fee of $200 and an estimated process time of 3-6 weeks, it looks as though Victoria is serious about providing some relief to renters.

In regards to garden suite design, the City of Victoria has put together a fantastic guide showing what is possible (Link). Typically, if your lot is zoned as a standard residential lot (R1-B or R1-G) and you have favourable building placement, you could be eligible to build a garden suite up to 600 square feet in size.

It’s great to see Victoria move forward with this. In my opinion, they are the trailblazers in terms of policy in the CRD, and I hope that Saanich and other municipalities follow close behind.