The report entitled THE ROLE OF SECONDARY SUITES: RENTAL HOUSING STRATEGY – STUDY 4 published by the City of Vancouver’s Community Services Group is about a year old but nonetheless contains some interesting data on the state of Vancouver’s secondary suite rental accommodations. Here are excerpts from the executive summary:
The market-rental housing stock is usually divided into two segments – the primary or conventional rental stock, consisting mainly of purpose-built rental apartments, and the secondary rental stock made up of rented houses, secondary suites, individually rented condo units, and units in multiple conversion dwellings and SROs. Over the last three decades, the secondary rental sector has played an increasingly important role in meeting rental housing demand. This increased role reflects the decline in the construction of new purpose-built rental and the redevelopment and conversion of the existing rental stock.
Using 2009 BCA data, this report estimates that there are at least 25,000 properties with secondary suites in the city’s single-family zoned areas. The proportion of properties with suites ranges from 6% in Oakridge to 59% in Grandview-Woodlands. On the west-side as a whole, less than one in five properties have suites; on the east-side, almost one in two properties have suites. Six local areas on the east side account for three quarters of the city’s single-family zoned secondary suite properties.
It’s a fascinating report, highlighting how the concept of secondary suites is starting to percolate more and more onto the west side of the city and into the hearts and minds of city planners who realize that the term “single family home” is becoming outdated. We can look at all RS-zoned properties with secondary suites. It looks like a Vision/NPA civic election voting map LOL.
A few key facts and insights I picked up in the report:
- Data claim only 21% of homes built in the 1990s have secondary suites. (p13) Hogwash. There is something wrong with the data.
- There is some natural resistance to secondary suites on the west side because homes are generally of older vintage. That is, it’s less desirable to tear down an older structure that has been well-maintained but not suitable for suiting.
- The City is coming to terms with its dirty little secret: people are living in illegal basement suites and their permit officers purposefully turn a blind eye to properties with obvious basement suites installed but without the proper permits in place. According to the permit application data, about 20% detached properties are being fitted with legal suites, yet over 60% of new stock have basement suites. The City is well aware of this and looks poised to start the thin edge of the wedge into the dirty underbelly of the City’s basement suite accommodation.
- “Council also approved a post-occupancy inspection program. Under the program, all new single-family houses are inspected a year after being approved for occupancy. Properties found with unauthorised suites are required to either apply for permits or to close the suites. Despite the changes, the proportion of single-family houses being built with approved suites has remained low.”
I commend the City of Vancouver for making this report public and shows, at least to me, they are aware of the problems illegal suites pose to the quality of life in the city, accelerated depreciation of neighbourhoods with slum housing, and (not least I’m sure) the chance for expanding their permit and inspection business unit!
Feel free to post your Vancouver secondary suite stories, good and bad, in the comments section: have you ever dealt with home inspectors overlooking secondary suites? What’s your most bizarre secondary suite experience, either as landlord, renter, or acquaintance?