Surrey group fights crackdown on illegal suites, says housing space trumps parking woes
People fear Surrey bylaw's plan to hit Clayton Heights with $500-per-day fines will oust families
More than a thousand people have signed an online petition urging the city of Surrey not to crack down on secondary suites in the Clayton Heights neighbourhood — just to solve parking problems.
About 175 notices were sent out last month to homeowners, warning they will be fined $500 dollars a day starting in February if they have an illegal suite.
The group Clayton Homeowners for Equitable Community Planning says the move would displace families at a time when there is a critical shortage of rental housing in Surrey.
The group acknowledges a lack of street parking has been a problem in Clayton Heights for years but members say evicting families isn't the answer.
"Our petition is our way of gauging in the community people's interest in finding a way of resolving the parking issue in Clayton in such a way where people aren't ousted or evicted from their homes," said Richard Von Sychowski, who is a homeowner and landlord in the area.
"Our goal is to partner with the city."
The group hopes to address council in the near future.
Hundreds of people in the community have made parking complaints to the city over the years and many say illegal secondary suites are the biggest problem.
Carmen Mason — who heads up a community Facebook page — says illegal suites are also putting a strain on community services and contributing to overcrowded schools.
"Some landlords are renting out the tops, the bottoms and their coach homes," she said.
"Had the coach homes never been built, had the suites been built to spec and if they had just been able to have one suite, they would have on site parking and the schools would have been able to protect themselves."
Mason and Von Sychowski agree the parking issue would improve a great deal if people in the community used garages for their vehicles instead of storage.
The city launched an initiative in 2014 to encourage people to park in their garages but Von Sychowski says it's unclear if the program was successful.
"We don't see any type of data coming out of the city that would actually help quantify what those numbers are and how big of an impact on the problem it would have if there was some sort of initiative to move these cars off the street and into the garage," he said.
Von Sychowski would also like to see the city consider a permit parking system, similar to the one used in Vancouver's West End neighbourhood.
Mason says things need to improve right away because the current system isn't working.
"The tenants either have to leave or the landlords have to figure out how they're going to move forward with this," she said.
"The residents who bought their dreamhomes here, that have their children going to school here, they have to be protected as well."