Surrey City Council voted Monday night to halt its crackdown on illegal suites and instead, look at legalizing them.
This comes after much controversy surrounding the city’s crackdown on illegal suites in East Clayton.
Staff have been directed to suspend enforcement action on illegal multiple suites and instead develop a comprehensive city-wide “Multiple Suite Compliance Program.”
It’s expected to take a year to develop the new program.
However, the city insists that no new multiple suites will be tolerated.
And suites that cannot be legalized and adhere to the BC Building Code requirements will be forced to decommission.
“One of the things we really wanted to do was strike the balance between bringing suites into compliance while not abruptly displacing families and residents,” Mayor Linda Hepner told the Now-Leader on Tuesday morning.
“At the end of the day, we will be focusing on legalization, on relocation monitoring and on prevention. So those sort of three elements.
“We do have to develop over the course of these many months, what does that program look like? That will require education and working with the owners of those suites so they’ve been given every reasonable effort to come into compliance.”
During Monday night’s city council meeting, Hepner said she wants to determine “what else we can do as a council to better enable the future construction of suites, because we all know that secondary suites are here to stay and we just want to make sure they’re also safe for the people that are living in them.”
“In the meantime we are lifting the heavy weight of eviction from those that were earlier surprised by letters from the city until we have a more comprehensive policy of compliance,” she added. “But I also want to assure homeowners who have purchased and expect houses around them to be compliant that we are working through this diligently in order to assure them of compliance in the mid-term or the long-term.”
Councillor Bruce Hayne noted the only way to legalize secondary suites is through a zoning process.
“The only way to legalize second suites is through a zoning process and currently we don’t have that zone in the city,” said Hayne Monday night. “Certainly, we could look that at that in certain areas of the city.”
A very important piece of the equation, he noted, is the BC Building Code.
“As soon as you get into a two-suite situation in a house, the BC building code requires sprinkler systems and so on…to retrofit them into existing houses, I think homeowners will find them to be prohibitive.”
Council’s decision comes after the city sent notices to homeowners of 175 illegal suites in East Clayton last August, giving them until Jan. 31, 2018 to remove their multiple suite or face fines and even court action.
But after public outcry, Mayor Linda Hepner said the crackdown was “on hold” in October.
While it has previously only been legal in the City of Surrey to have one suite if you live in the home, many of the homes in the Clayton neighbourhood were built with a suite as well as a coach home. The city allows homeowners to rent one or the other out, but some continue to rent both.
The city reports there are just shy of 2,400 multiple suites currently registered in the city.
There has been both praise and concern about council’s Monday night decision.