Red tape keeping garage suites down, say Saskatoon builders

They were supposed to be one solution to Saskatoon’s housing crunch, but so far there’s only been a half-dozen garage and garden suites built and now developers are calling for change.

Coalition urges city hall to lower fees and get rid of some guidelines

A group of developers have banded to together to tell city council that there are difficulties building garage suites in the city and that the current rules need to change. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

They were supposed to be one solution to Saskatoon's housing crunch, but so far there's only been a half dozen garage and garden suites built and now developers are calling for change.

"I think people are just finding the process is too difficult, too clunky and it is just too time consuming," said Laneway Suites owner Jeff Natress in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.  

Navigating through the regulations is a real challenge, he said. The approval time is long, and there are a lot of rules that come along with building one of these suites, said Natress.

"Really, people kind of get frustrated with the process and kind of just give up after a while."

And, he said, the stakes are high for any potential developer.

"It's a similar cost to a small house."

Developers calling for change 

With that in mind a coalition of developers has come together to lobby the city of Saskatoon to make changes that would include getting rid of a $1900 application fee that's unique to these types of suites, and does not include the price of a building permit.
Jeff Natress is the owner of Laneway Suites and wants to see lower fees and streamlined regulations for garage and garden suite development in Saskatoon. (CBC)

Also a problem, Natress said, are some of the unique rules.

"If you've got a small house you can't build a garage suite, somebody's got a big house they can build a garage suite so it is not really fair to those with small houses."

The bottom line for Natress and other developers is that it shouldn't be easier to build a standalone house then it is to build a garage or garden suite. The evidence that change is needed, he said, is in the numbers — just a half dozen developments since 2014.