British Columbia

Megahome owner says there are many reasons people choose to build large homes

As Richmond considers stricter rules on home building, megahome owner and builder, Sam Sandhu, says that different types of families have different needs.

Sam Sandhu built his 5200 square foot home 20 years ago to house his extended family

Sandhu's home in Richmond. (Sam Sandhu)

Richmond homeowner Sam Sandhu built his 5200 square foot house 20 years ago and has faced years of criticisms for the size of his property but those concerns have lessened over the years, he says, because even larger homes are being built now. 

But this influx of so-called megahomes has led one Richmond city councillor to say complaints about massive structures are coming in from residents who have concerns about the loss of older, smaller homes. 

"They are just overwhelming, they do feel like castles or mansions. When your neighbour has lost their privacy, lost their sunlight and lost their sense of community and character, it's too big," said Counc. Carol Day said.

Sandhu says that history can give us a lesson. "When the first European settlers came here, you could interpret that they had megahomes in comparison to the people living here originally."

Why people build big

He says that many factors are at play when considering why families choose to build homes of this scale.

Sam Sandhu is a Richmond builder and homeowner who says if all city bylaws are followed, people should be able to build the homes that fit their families needs.

"I grew up in England, and lived in a very small house and worked very hard and wanted to fulfil my dream in a sense that I could have a bigger home. Plus the reason for my particular house was my parents were living with me, so it suited our family better as a family unit."

Sam's two adults sons live with him, and he is expecting that his recently married daughter and her family will be moving in. He is happy he can provide the opportunity for them to save money before buying a house of their own.

"Everyone has their own wants and needs. When wealthy people bring their wealth, you can't dictate how they behave," Sandhu says.  

Rules are being broken

Counc. Day says the major issue now is that owners and builders are breaking the rules.

"A room that is 5 feet high and has a window on the floor isn't going to stay that way, so we need to catch those changes as they happen, because ultimately that doubles the height of that room and the square footage, and makes the house no longer compliant with our zoning and bylaws." Day said.

As a builder himself, Sandhu insists that no one is breaking bylaws when they submit their plans and their plans are approved.

"In any profession, there is always a few people who exploit rules. The majority of people are honest," Sandhu said. "My lot is roughly 70 by 150 and there is nothing about the house that did not meet all of the zoning bylaws."

Sandhu's house (right) beside his neighbour. He says that more and more families are choosing to build bigger homes that suit their wants and needs. (Sam Sandhu)

Sandhu says that what is happening in Richmond is happening all over the Lower Mainland.

"There is a very simple solution. In Richmond what is happening is there are no new subdivisions, it's just existing houses being torn down and rebuilt. That can easily be resolved by rezoning each neighbourhood, so people are entitled to have what they want. They should have a referendum on each neighbourhood and council sanctions that."

The public has until July 15 to offer their input on these homes which Richmond council will consider when deciding whether or not to adopt stricter rules.

To hear the full interview click: Richmond homeowner says megahomes can be justified.