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Nearly eight years later, Oak Bay’s secondary suite policy will go to a public hearing

The municipality is among the last in the capital region without such a bylaw

By Ryan Hook
September 8, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Nearly eight years later, Oak Bay’s secondary suite policy will go to a public hearing

The municipality is among the last in the capital region without such a bylaw

By Ryan Hook
Sep 8, 2022
Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Nearly eight years later, Oak Bay’s secondary suite policy will go to a public hearing

The municipality is among the last in the capital region without such a bylaw

By Ryan Hook
September 8, 2022
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Nearly eight years later, Oak Bay’s secondary suite policy will go to a public hearing
Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily

Oak Bay Municipal Council will meet Thursday night to hear the public debate a long-delayed policy on secondary suites. The municipality is among the last holdouts without such a bylaw.

So far, the municipality has endorsed 10 principles for the policy, including that secondary suites be incorporated in all zones, that no minimum lot size be required to have a secondary suite, and that bylaw owner occupancy is a requirement to provide a secondary suite, among others

The most hotly contested issue, though: parking. 

For months, council debated whether to require a parking spot for homeowners providing a secondary suite. Council eventually decided on a policy direction that requires homeowners to supply a parking space, and if not, provide storage for electric bicycles or electric scooters, complete with charging infrastructure.

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Council voted 5-2, with Couns. Andrew Appleton and Cairine Green voting against. Green called the principle “convoluted,” arguing it’s an expensive and “onerous”  process. In June, UVic students, Greater Victoria Acting Together, the Camosun College Students Society, and the Oak Bay Climate Force, pressed council to adopt a motion that would see the requirement lifted, and have no spots required for the secondary suite.

Policy is a long time coming

While a secondary suites study was initiated in 2018, consultation goes back even further. As part of the newly elected council’s Official Community Plan in 2014, the district conducted a community survey, which found 78% of Oak Bay residents were in support of secondary suites.

Those in support believe it could make a difference for students at UVic and Camosun, as well as seniors on fixed incomes. In June, UVic Students’ Society representative, Izzy Adachi, told council that legalizing suites will be important in protecting tenants’ rights.

“Failure to implement a bylaw will not stop illegal suites,” she said. “And for students, some of whom are just out of high school or from out of town or different countries, they might not know better and we're leaving them vulnerable to bad landlords.”

In its draft strategy, council acknowledged the existence of illegal secondary suites, estimating that the municipality has between 500 and 750 “unregulated” secondary suites, according to its Housing Needs Report.

Mayor Kevin Murdoch said at a council meeting in June that he believed legalizing secondary suites would not increase the supply; rather, the infill housing strategy will. 

“One of the biggest issues is that we don't have the right housing for the right people at the right time in their life right now,” Murdoch said. The goal of infill housing, he said, is to allow “people to move, migrate, and be in the right housing form for the right stage of their life, in a way that is reasonably affordable.”

Still, some residents are getting frustrated with how long the process is taking; and others living in illegal secondary suites are simply tired of living without basic amenities.

Meanwhile, Oak Bay resident Eva Eaton wrote to council in July hoping that the hearing could be scheduled for after the election in October.

“The issue of secondary suites is extremely complicated and any decisions on this issue will have long-term consequences,” Eaton wrote. 

Nearly eight years after that initial survey, the public hearing in Oak Bay is a long time coming. It runs parallel to Victoria’s contentious Missing Middle public hearings—and if those hearings are any indication of the level of discord over Oak Bay’s own housing policy decisions, it could be a long hearing.

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Ryan Hook
Food, Arts & Culture Reporter

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