Kelowna trying to make it easier to create secondary suites

In a move lauded by council, city hall wants to relax the rules to create more suites in single-family homes.

The City of Kelowna is looking to relax rules about creating legal secondary suites and allow them in single-family homes in all but two areas of the city.

It could be a suite deal for Kelowna home owners looking to create legal secondary suites.

In extending the sweeping allowance it created four years ago to let most single-family homes in the city have secondary suites if they want them, earlier this week council gave the green light for a series of staff recommendations to go to public hearing to further relax the rules.

The city is proposing that the requirement for a business licence to have a secondary suite be dropped, they be allowed in strata zones and parking requirements be simplified and clarified.

Those changes are on top of extending the allowance for secondary suites in single-family homes to the few parts of the city that were excluded four years ago, primarily Kettle Valley. It was excluded because it is in a separate comprehensive development zone. CD zones, along with cluster housing and some hillside developments are now included.

The extension affects about 1,000 properties and now covers virtually the entire city, with the exceptions of the Gallagher’s Canyon and Eastwood neighbourhoods. City staff said in Gallagher’s, which uses a private sewage treatment system, the system is nearing capacity and that’s why it has been left out. In the Eastwood neighbourhood,  there is a high water table issue.

Council agreed to send the changes to a public hearing, noting the sweeping allowance of secondary suites in 2012 did not result in the problems some had predicted.

“It wasn’t the armageddon that some perhaps thought it would be,” said Mayor Colin Basran. “In fact, the transition has been seamless.”

Some had feared the move would change neighbourhoods, adversely impact traffic in those neighbourhoods and lead to property values dropping if a lot of secondary suites suddenly started popping up in areas where they were not located before.

If the changes are approved following the public hearing, anyone with a single family home that wants to create a secondary suite will be able to do that by getting a building permit and meeting the usual health and safety rules for suites.

Councillors praised the plan saying it will make secondary suite easier to create, avoid public hearings for each proposal and should help the city get more affordable housing onto the market. The current vacancy rate in Kelowna is just 0.6 per cent.

“This is the way to move forward,” said Coun. Luke Stack.

The public hearing on the changes is scheduled for Nov. 15.