Victoria gives the go ahead to garden suites

WATCH: Victoria council votes unanimously to make building garden suites easier and cheaper for homeowners. Isabelle Raghem has the details. 

Carrie Charlesworth has been trying to get a garden suite built in her backyard for the last two years, to have her mother living nearby.

“She currently lives with my sister next door in half a duplex, and on her own can’t afford to give the money to my sister. It’ll be nice to have her with us, and in a smaller room,” explains the Vic West homeowner. 

But a long list of zoning applications and requirements has made for a slow process.

Charlesworth says she was thrilled when Victoria council voted unanimously Thursday night, to do away with the rezoning process and subsequent public hearings. 

“It was awesome […], we can just get on with it.”

Since 2011, only 18 garden suites have been built in Victoria, far fewer than cities such as Vancouver.

The rules state that the suites cannot be sold individually and cannot be used for short term rentals, for AirBnb for example.

While some have raised concerns about the lack of input neighbours will have in the process, advocates say the change was needed.

“Whereas a generation ago on the home-owning front, it might take the younger Canadian about 5 years to save a 20% down payment for a home , today in Victoria it takes 16 [years]. So we need to pull out all of the stops to address this housing crisis,” says executive director of Generation Squeeze, Eric Swanson. 

Swanson says while the change doesn’t solve the crisis, he says it’s an important step.

“Getting hundreds, potentially over a thousand garden suites online in the next few years will be a big win for renters and for new homeowners who may need a mortgage helper.”

According to some real estate experts, it’s not just young renters who may benefit from the more relaxed process.

“Seniors are under the crunch with rising cost of expenses,” says pres-elect of the Victoria Real Estate Board Kyle Keer, “for seniors this may allow them to stay in their homes longer they build a suite and it gives them a bit of safety and security to know someone isn’t in their home.”

For Carrie Charlesworth, this means her mom won’t have to go into a seniors home.