An example of a detached garden suite. (Contributed)

An example of a detached garden suite. (Contributed)

Maple Ridge seeking property owners to construct garden suites

The city continues its search for single-family property owners considering detached garden suites.

The city of Maple Ridge is in phase two of its detached garden suite pilot project.

And it wants to work with single-family property owners who are considering constructing a garden suite, also known as a laneway house, in order to explore new forms of housing options in Maple Ridge.

Brent Elliott, Maple Ridge Manager of Community Planning, said the project is intended to raise awareness of the city’s existing DGS program, which originated out of the City’s Housing Action Plan.

“(The project) is focused on trying to create opportunities for greater rental housing, more mortgage helpers, and/or more ways for local families to stay together and grow in place.”

Currently detached garden suites are permitted in Maple Ridge, but the project aims to explore the expansion of current zoning bylaw regulations.

According to Elliott, phase 1 involves four properties with the majority of owners wanting to build a larger DGS, and phase 2 will focus on projects within the city’s urban area boundary as well as smaller DGS projects.

So far, four properties have gone before council regarding their pilot project proposals and one has been defeated. The three others will continue through phase 1, and are subject to Council’s final approval and building permit approval.

Elliott explained the property located on Ansell Street in the Academy Park neighborhood was defeated due to complaints raised by the neighbourhood.

Coun. Kiersten Duncan said council also defeated the Ansell Street property due to location.

“There was some community push back and concerns. It was outside the urban area boundary, so that’s an issue for council,” said Duncan.

Duncan said most of council opposes development outside the urban area boundary because it increases servicing costs and is an unsustainable form of development.

Duncan wants to see the project happen – if it’s within the urban area boundary.

“Garden suites are beneficial in that it allows family members to live on property, grandparents can help look after children, and it can help look after the housing crisis. I think most of council agrees we’re in favour of this form of housing, but it needs to be within the urban area boundary.”

However, two of the other three proposed pilot projects are also located outside of the urban area boundary. All three properties remain subject to council’s final approval.

The pilot project is something Duncan thinks could lead to a solution for the housing crisis, but she has concerns that neighbourhoods may not welcome development, especially in the form of rental suites for low-income people.

“A lot of neighbourhoods have issues with re-development.”

Duncan explained some neighborhoods have issues with rental units, because of an unfair attachment of low-income people with criminal activity.

“There seems to be this idea that for some people, if they’ve worked hard and bought their home, then why should they see development in their neighbourhood just so someone else can move in. It’s very selfish in my opinion.”

Duncan hopes Maple Ridge accepts the detached garden suite project and can view it as a housing solution and not an issue.

“As soon as people hear ‘rental,’ there’s this idea that somehow there’s going to be crime in the neighbourhood, things are going to be untidy, and it’s really disturbing. I hope we don’t see a lot of that come up with these garden suites.”

Elliott added that he recommends anyone participating in the DGS pilot project to talk to their neighbours early on.

“This did not happen with the Ansell Street project,” said Elliott.

In 2008, the city adopted the detached garden suite program, and approximately 40 units have been built to date.

Current regulations for the units require them to be no smaller than 37 square metres, and no larger than 90 square metres, or 10 per cent of the lot area. The units are not permitted on lots with an existing secondary suite such as a basement or attic suite.

In order to expand the program and provide alternative housing solutions, the city wants to widen the bylaw regulations by piloting test garden suites that are smaller and larger than the current provisions, and by piloting a test suite that is on the same property as a secondary suite.

A smaller-sized suite would be between 20.3 square metres and 36 square metres, and a larger-sized suites up to 140 square meters or 15 per cent of the lot area (whichever is less).

The current proposed locations are at 26378-126th Ave., 23525 Dogwood Ave., 12621 Ansell St., and 10861 Morrisette Pl., with the Ansell location being defeated by council.

Elliott said phase 1 is now underway, with three of the four projects gaining council’s third reading following a public hearing on July 17.

The project estimates that once approved, construction will begin in early fall, with completion dates in spring 2019.