Home Business & Economy Housing Garden suites popular in Saanich

Garden suites popular in Saanich

A garden suite can only contain one dwelling unit | Can be used for family or long-term rental.

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A backyard garden suite in Saanich, BC. [District of Saanich]

Monday May 16, 2022 | SAANICH, BC

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

Aiming to achieve a flexible new form of housing affordability, the District of Saanich has found the Garden Suite Program to be highly popular.

The municipality has completed the first annual review of the Garden Suite Program, assessing the new regulatory framework and outlining considerations for improvements. In the first year (up to October 2021), 67 garden suite applications were received, of which 25 received approval.

Of the 67 garden suite applications received in the first year, 57 were for new garden suites, and 10 were for converting existing accessory buildings to legal suites.

district of saanich
District of Saanich

This news was announced today, May 16, 2022.

In this second year of the program, over 100 Development Permit applications have been received by planning, and of those, 50 have received approval.

  • The Garden Suite Program is being monitored to ensure the regulatory framework continues to perform well. A two-year review will provide a full summary of program outcomes and potential refinements.
  • To read the One-Year Garden Suite Program Review: Saanich.ca/gardensuites.

Rental suite or family use:

The Garden Suite Program is a Saanich-led initiative that aims to provide Saanich homeowners with an additional opportunity to introduce a rental suite or convert an existing accessory building into a garden suite, if it meets policy.

As part of the program, development permit approval authority is delegated to staff provided that the proposed garden suites meets zoning requirements. 

Garden suites are permitted on most single-family residential (RS-zoned) properties.

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Detached, ground-oriented:

A garden suite is a detached, ground-oriented dwelling typically located in the rear yard of a property with a single-family house as its principal use.

A garden suite can only contain one dwelling unit and can be used for family or as a long-term rental unit.

Increasing housing options:

“A key objective of our Garden Suite Program was to increase housing options by providing a clear set of regulations to homeowners looking to create a backyard cottage,” said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes
District of Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes

“I’m thrilled our original objective to supply more possibilities for multigenerational housing on existing lots or more rental housing is being realized in just its first year. Every bit counts and with over 103 applications already in, this program provides new opportunities for inter-generational housing support and aging in-place. Combined with the extensive series of additional housing initiatives now underway, this program helps us to solve the housing challenge.”

It’s been legal to construct a garden suite on an eligible RS-zoned property through a Development Permit process since the Garden Suite Program launched in October 2021. To date, 50 Development Permit applications have received approval.

One-Year Program Review highlights:

Below is a summary of feedback received and observations made during the program’s first year, and some potential areas for improvements.  

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Key feedback

  • The regulatory framework is clear and comprehensive.
  • Garden suites provide an opportunity to address intergenerational living situations.
  • Some residents would prefer the requirement for a Development Permit be removed, but the majority support the use of the Design Guidelines and a Development Permit.
  • Siting is the most common variance requested, followed by an increase in gross floor area and decreases in rear lot coverage.
  • Many property owners are interested in converting accessory buildings to garden suites.

Proposed changes

As part of receiving the one year report, Council identified improvements to address key issues. These changes include:

  • Allowing garden suites in side yards and front yards (in addition to rear yards, as currently permitted);
  • Expanding the geographic areas for garden suites to include RS-zoned properties within the Urban Containment Boundary that are not within the Sewer Service Area;
  • Adding a map in the zoning bylaw to show areas where garden suites are permitted to clarify the exclusion of the Broadmead covenant area;
  • Expanding approval authority for garden suite Development Permits; and
  • Making several minor changes to the regulatory framework to improve clarity and enhance process efficiency.