Council Motion (Tues 8-Mar): Making Legalizing Secondary Suites Easier in RT/RM Zones


Cover of a CoV 2009 study on secondary suites

Agendas for City Council are now online for next week: Regular Council (Tues 8-Mar), Public Hearing (Tues 8-Mar), and Standing Committee (Wed 9-Mar). The Regular Council meeting has a few items related to housing. The first two are a “Character Home Consultation Update” (presented by Gil Kelley, General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability, and “Permit and Development Process Update” (presented by Kaye Krishna, General Manager of Development, Buildings and Licensing). They will be important.

The third significant item is a motion by Councillor Adriane Carr that could quickly help ease rental housing in Vancouver, potentially by a large number of units. Citizens can write to with comments. There is a chance the topic will moved to the next day Standing Committee (Wed 9-Mar). Text of the motion is copied below, with our bolding for emphasis.


2. Making Legalizing Secondary Suites Easier in RT/RM Zones
MOVER: Councillor Carr
1. Secondary suites provide an important source of affordable rental
accommodation that is generally supported by City policy;
2. Many character pre-1940 homes, particularly in RT and RM zones on Vancouver’s
East Side and inner city, have been converted to three suites (main floor, upper
floor, and basement) over the years, especially during the 1940s when the War
Measures Act over-ruled municipal housing by-laws to encourage the creation of
additional suites to relieve housing shortages, which has resulted in many legal,
non-conforming up and down non-strata rental duplexes with unauthorized
basement suites;
3. Many of these multi-suite conversions occurred before the BC Strata Act in the
1960s and have remained as affordable rental suites rather than being
converted to condos;
4. In the event that the City becomes aware of an unauthorized basement suite in
the RT and RM zones, it requires closure of the unauthorized suite where those
zones do not have provisions for retention under their zoning schedules, thus
resulting in the loss of affordable rental accommodation;
5. Three suites are allowed in homes in RT and RM zones, however legalizing an
existing unauthorized basement suite requires going through a Multi-Family
Conversion Dwelling process which requires upgrading to current building code
standards and entails very high costs that generally necessitates recouping of
those costs through stratification of all the suites and thus results in the loss of
affordable rental housing;
6. The City’s Secondary Suite Program enables the building of a secondary suite in
a single-family home under more relaxed rules in terms of adherence to
building code standards and thus entails far lower costs than the Multi-Family
Conversion Dwelling process.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Vancouver City Council direct staff to pursue
changes to appropriate by-laws and policies so that existing houses in RT and RM zones
that have one or two existing unauthorized secondary suites be considered by the City
as grandfathered existing legal non-conforming suites under the Vancouver Zoning
By-law and Building By-law, and administered under the Secondary Suite Program for
health and safety.
* * * * *




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