Toronto

Brampton expected to ease rules on secondary suites to address affordable housing shortage

The city of Brampton is also grappling with a booming population and a lack of affordable housing units, so its city council is expected to vote Wednesday on loosening restrictions on homeowners who want to build and rent out secondary units.

The hope is to add more affordable housing, bring basement apartments up to safety codes

Brampton city council hopes changes to rules around secondary suites will encourage residents to register their units. (Shannon Martin / CBC Toronto)

Toronto''s housing market might get most of the headlines, but the city of Brampton is also grappling with a booming population and a lack of affordable housing units, so its city council is expected to vote Wednesday on loosening restrictions on homeowners who want to build and rent out secondary units.

"I think people have no understanding about what Brampton has become," said Mayor Linda Jeffrey.

"If you haven't been here lately, you wouldn't understand how big of a city it is."

About 600,000 people call Brampton home, a number that's expected to shoot up to 900,000 in the next decade.

The wait list to get supportive housing in Peel is six years, according to the mayor.

Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey wants to make it easier for people to register their secondary units, whether occupied by family members or tenants, so the city can plan better communities. (Shannon Martin/CBC)

"We have the same issues they have in Toronto," she said. "It's affordability."

City council voted to allow secondary suites subject to a number of restrictions just two years ago.

But now, In a move to help ease some of the pressure, councillors are expected Wednesday to approve the relaxation of some of those restrictions, among them:

  • Parking: the width of a parking space will be reduced from 2.7 metres to 2.6 metres. This maintains the requirement for three on-site parking spaces, but allows a little more space to park two cars side-by-side on the driveway of detached and semi-detached houses.
  • Unit size: secondary units right now must be smaller than a principal dwelling by a specific percentage relative to the house size. Now they only need to be smaller than the principal dwelling, with no restrictions on size, so long as this rule is followed.
  • Registration fee: the initial $200 registration fee will now be waived for some units.

Secondary units in detached houses, semi-detached houses and townhouses were only approved by the city relatively recently, in 2015. Right now, to be considered legal, a homeowner must register with the city.

In a statement, the city of Brampton said as of June 2, it had 2,574 two-unit dwellings registered. Of those, only 216 were registered under the new process introduced in 2015.

The mayor admits the numbers don't tell the whole story.

"I think none of us have any idea how many basement suites there are in Brampton," Jeffrey said

Realtor: 'A human issue'

Realtor Sukhjot Naroo has a guess  —  he believes as many as 100,000 people in Brampton may live in basement units.

"They are not accounted for," he said. "This issue is a human issue."

Naroo was part of a committee that helped advise the city on secondary units, and welcomes the changes.

He says 75 per cent of his clients want to add legal suites to their new homes.

"They want it desperately so they can pay the mortgage," he said. "They don't mind spending a few dollars here and there to get it done the right way."

Realtor Sukhjot Naroo says he's seen home prices double in Brampton in the last two years. In response the majority of his clients want to add secondary units to help cover their mortgages. (Courtesy: Sukhjot Naroo)

A matter of safety

Peel Regional Coun. Martin Medeiros hopes that by waiving the $200 registration fee, more people will register their rental units or suites occupied by family members.

He also says the city could do more to make it easier on homeowners, especially when it comes to getting units up to fire safety codes.

"Maybe we can provide some tax breaks or tax grants [to] allow a homeowner to make the changes," he said.

Peel Regional Coun. Martin Medeiros says 'basement apartments are an extremely important part of the affordable housing mix' in Brampton. (Shannon Martin / CBC Toronto)

About the Author

Shannon Martin

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Shannon is an award-winning reporter with CBC Toronto. She was part of the core team that launched "No Fixed Address", a hugely popular series on millenials renting and buying in Toronto. In 2016, Shannon hosted a special live broadcast on-air and on Facebook simultaneously from Toronto Pride, which won top honours in the Digital category at the RTDNA awards. Contact Shannon: shannon.martin@cbc.ca or find her on Instagram at @ShannonMartinTV.

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