Surrey’s East Clayton area has been plagued by parking problems for years. (File photo)

Surrey’s East Clayton area has been plagued by parking problems for years. (File photo)

Surrey to halt Clayton evictions, legalize illegal suites city-wide

But, the city insists no new multiple suites will be tolerated

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.

See also: HOME SUITE HOME: The faces of Clayton’s illegal suite crackdown

See more: Surrey cracks down on illegal suites in Clayton

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.

The city also intends to embark on a communication plan to ensure residents understand the new rules.

“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.”

Hepner noted the illegal suite issue has been around “as long as I’ve been at city hall, so 32 years at least.”

“It’s been decades in the making. It started in areas where larger homes came it, and nothing was done at the time, and it’s about time this council did something that made everyone rest easy.”

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.”

Hayne said for him, the issue centres around reducing the number of illegal suites in Surrey “so that we can have the types of liveable communities that they were planned to be. So we don’t have so many portables at our schools, so we don’t have so many parking issues and don’t have our roads so jammed up.”

Hayne suggested the city create incentives for developers to construct purpose-built rental stock, noting almost none has been built in Surrey for 25 years.

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.

See more: Clayton suites need to be ‘legalized immediately’ says Landlord BC

See also: Surrey Council asks staff to work with tenants in illegal Clayton suites

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.

Clayton resident Greg Garner was one of the landlords who received a notice to remove his suite.

Garner said he is “relieved that the city has decided to stop these evictions.”

“I am also happy that city will look at legalizing these basement suites, although I believe they have already done so by collecting my secondary suite fees,” he said Tuesday. Garner is referring to the City of Surrey allowing him to register two suites in his home and collecting fees on both, despite the bylaw saying only one is allowed.

“Last night at the city council meeting there was no mention of parking complaints and only that mayor and council are concerned about tenant safety. I am also concerned about the safety and security of tenants,” Garner said. “I would not have my nanny living downstairs if my suite was unsafe. I believe that my suite would meet BC Building Code standards as it has its own heating system and a fire safety door. It’s a beautiful place to live.

“I look forward to this process moving along,” Garner added, “and I am happy that the city is showing that they are in touch with the realities of today’s housing market and not shutting down suites based upon flawed parking complaint data.”

But Cloverdale Community Association President Mike Bola took to Twitter to air his concerns Tuesday morning.

“Legalizing secondary suites is challenging and costly,” Bola wrote. “For example building codes will require separate ventilation systems and sprinkler systems, plus requires a zoning application. Nobody will remove drywall, redo electrical wiring and plumbing because the cost will be huge.”

Bola added that “landlords created this problem on their own to make extra money” and they are now “punishing their tenants.”

“Legalization in existing houses will not be cheap or easy,” he said.

Mayor Linda Hepner said in October that the city has what may be the lowest vacancy rate it’s ever had, at 0.4 per cent.

“I think that’s contributing to our homeless count,” she said at the time.“In the midst of our haste to solve the parking problem, we have now confronted, and have, an enormous housing problem.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Transit Police officer and another driver were injured on Nov. 4 in a traffic crash while the officer was responding to another officers call for help catching a man who escaped custody. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating Surrey crash that injured transit cop, another driver

Crash happened 11 p.m. Nov. 4, at 128th Street and 93rd Avenue in Cedar Hills

Friends and family of murder victim Paul Prestbakmo wore memorial masks outside Surrey Provincial Court Jan. 14, 2021. (From left) Family friend Tyler Whitley, sister Angela Prestbakmo, childhood friend Jimmy Slater, brother Steve Prestbakmo, Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Roxanne Charles and sister Liz Prestbakmo. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Two accused in 2019 South Surrey murder were ‘really angry,’ pacing at party: witness

‘We had this really strong gut feeling that something was really wrong’

Semiahmoo Rock
Record-setting 10 Semiahmoo Rock players selected in B.C. junior lacrosse draft

Kaleb Borg is the highest Rock player selected, going in the second round to the Coquitlam Adanacs

Music therapist Felicia Wall in the music room at Phoenix Society in Surrey. (submitted photo)
Eclectic album showcases songs recorded by Surrey residents in recovery

Project at Phoenix Society took about six months to complete, with help of music therapist

Surrey RCMP is looking for witnesses and video after a fatal crash in Newton on Christmas Day 2020. Police say the driver left the scene before officers arrived at the 6700-block of King George Boulevard. (Photo: Curtis Kreklau)
Surrey RCMP seeking witnesses, video of fatal Christmas Day crash

Woman was killed in the 6700-block of King George Boulevard

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government announces creation of B.C.’s first anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

The Fraser Valley Regional Library board of directors recently finalized its budget. (Black Press Media files)
Fraser Valley Regional Library budget not enough to keep up with booming population

Almost $5 million of books, DVDs, and ebooks to be purchased in 2021

Most Read