Pitt Meadows moving to legalize secondary suites

Possibly more than 500 illegal dwellings in city

The City of Pitt Meadows is finally moving towards legalizing garden suites as it considers a bylaw to make the currently illegal dwellings legit.

Besides Burnaby, Pitt Meadows is the last Metro Vancouver municipality where the suites – either attached to a house or built separately on the same lot – are not allowed.

Data gathered from census data as well as garbage and hydro consumption suggests there may be as many as 550 illegal suites in the city.

Pitt Meadows has only 92 “in-law” suites registered.

“We have a commitment to provide for rental housing and suites are a way of providing it without substantially changing the look and feel of a neighbourhood,” said city director of operations Kim Grout.

A survey of city residents done in 2009 found more than 70 per cent supported secondary or garden suites.

Garden suites can be used by seniors who want to stay close to their kids in the main house.

They can also be used for young adults seeking a cheaper place to live, while the rent can help the homeowner with the mortgage.

The zoning bylaw making secondary suites legal will likely be in place by fall.

In the meantime, city staff will begin checking their list of “in-law” suites to make sure they are in compliance and will send letters to other homes which have unsanctioned mortgage helpers.

“As we become aware of them we will be reaching out,” said Grout, adding there is also an onus on owners with illegal suites to bring them into compliance.

All suites in use, regardless if legal or not, will be required to pay additional utility fees.

Property owners with legal ones will get a 40- per-cent discount while those who fail to register them will be pay double the single family utility rate.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean would like more enforcement, especially for those homes with “in-law” suites, which can only be occupied by family member.  “I’m sure we have grandmothers living in some of them who are now 120 years old,” said MacLean at committee Tuesday.

“If you hire somebody to go out and actively search out every illegal suite, you would automatically pay for that manpower and everybody would be on the same page. They would all be legal.”

Suite dreams

•Under the proposed program, homeowners who would like to build a suite or those who already have a suite would need to apply for a business license.

• The minimum lot size for any garden suite is 5,993 sq. feet.

• Properties which apply for secondary or garden suites must be owner-occupied.

• Suites can be between 355 square feet and 968 square feet or 10 per cent of the lot and must provide one additional parking space.

• Boarding or child care uses will not be permitted in the suites.

For more information, visit pittmeadows.bc.ca.