British Columbia

Oak Bay may legalize its estimated 800 secondary suites

Mayor Nils Jensen says secondary suites can provide affordable housing, help with mortgages and allow seniors to stay in their homes longer.

Mayor says survey found about 70% of residents in favour of legalizing them

Houses near the Oak Bay Marina. The District of Oak Bay may legalize secondary suites in the municipality and estimates it already has several hundred of them. (Jeff Gunn/Flickr)

The numerous illegal secondary suites tucked into basements, backyards, and garages throughout the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay could become legal.

The district estimates there are approximately 800 of those suites in the municipality, and council has directed staff to find a way to bring them above board.

"We found about 70 percent of our residents surveyed were prepared to consider secondary suites under certain circumstances that dealt with parking, safety and health," Mayor Nils Jensen told All Points West guest host Richard Zussman.

"Secondary suites can provide good, affordable housing for people. It can provide a mortgage helper in this day and age of very unaffordable housing in Oak Bay. And it can provide security for seniors who want to remain in their homes."

Jensen says some concerns associated with secondary suites are increased noise and density and less available parking.

Jensen says Oak Bay will look at what other municipalities in the region have done in terms of secondary suite regulations — he says Oak Bay and Highlands are the only communities that don't allow them — before developing "made in Oak Bay" regulations.

He says he's hoping people with secondary suites in their homes will come forward for an upcoming public consultation process but acknowledges some might not feel comfortable doing so.

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Oak Bay may legalize its estimated 800 secondary suites