City Coming to Terms with Vancouver Secondary Suites

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of the city and into the hearts and minds of city planners who realize that the term “single family home” is becoming outdated.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?

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[…] average number of sales for January 2011, as monitored at VCI by VHB. [Jan 2011 sales 1876, sell/list 38.9%, MOI 6.0; Mean for 2001-2010 1732, sell/list […]

Peter Pan

I'm looking for feedback…

Rental income could be easily taxed if there was a small tax deduction for residential rent. Here's how to design it…

1. Allow residential renters to deduct 10% of their rent off their income tax. It could be structured as a non-refundable tax credit.

2. Renters would have to keep receipts to prove payment. This eliminates "cash" deals fueling the underground economy.

3. Renters would have to disclose the name of the person/corporation to whom they pay rent. This would allow CCRA to "match" deductions with income. Thus, ensure taxes are paid on that rental income.

4. The amount refunded to renters would be small compared to the income tax collected. Compliant landlords would have nothing to fear since they already pay income tax.


Well, nothing entitles amateur landlords to tax-free income, even if it is to support their grotesque mortgages. The professionals already do it by the book, they don't need the hassle.

Patiently Waiting

@N: Well, as I said earlier, he sold the house several months after my report. Enough time for the CRA to have taken action against him which probably caused he him to have to sell. So, in fact, he is no longer the landlord of that property. I don't know if he has other properties, but the CRA probably does now. Oh yes, other beneficiaries of my report were the surrounding home owners. Its a large, well-built 1950s house that had been the jewel of the block. I learned that the neighbours were upset with the physical deterioration of the house and several loud parties held by the drunken, bullying upstairs tenant. He was stinking-up a nice, family area. At one point we lost electricity for a day. The landlord forgot to pay the electrical bill. He never even gave… Read more »



I don’t think it has much impact on landlords and tenants. The guy getting busted for taxes is unlikely to make him a better landlord nor to take him out of the landlord business.

Oh sure he will. How will he pay his mortgage then?


This is great, I’m being voted down by the pro snitching for revenge crowd. Who’d have thought that such people existed?


I am one of them. Sometimes I don't have the patience for karma and I have to help it along 🙂


"When someone like my former landlord gets busted we, as individuals and society in general, benefit from it. Every abused tenant, honest taxpayer and honest landlord." I don't think it has much impact on landlords and tenants. The guy getting busted for taxes is unlikely to make him a better landlord nor to take him out of the landlord business. It just likely to make him mean. And at the same time, it's likely to make you mean. When we do something hostile to another person, we have to justify that hostility, and in doing so, we have to create a model of the world in which it is a good thing for people to hurt each other. That makes us fearful and defensive. The overal impact, especially on ourselves, is negative. Now, if I misunderstood and you were saying… Read more »


@Absinthe: So desperate he can't even be bothered to post a picture with his listing?



This is great, I'm being voted down by the pro snitching for revenge crowd. Who'd have thought that such people existed?


@Stooping To New Lows:

Yeah, you are probably right. Got a little carried away with the untempered rebuttal.

Not claiming I did a postdoc which is nothing to brag about.

CRO capacity in China, that you can take to the bank.

Stooping To New Lows

SD92129 Say Nice. Anonymous internet chest beating. Maybe I clawed my way through graduate school or maybe I got a full ride all the way from day one of undergrad to the last day of my postdoc. We will never know. __________________________________________ Dude, relax. I think you actually showed YOUR low self esteem with your all over the map counter rant – cab drivers, warm bodies in China, etc – really? And trying to one up him with a reference to your supposed post-doc? Really? I believe Gradumacated was talking about getting through grad school quickly if you want to make serious money. I would agree with him. Pissing away multiple years as a research lackey does no one any good. It is best to get in, get the full ride, and move one, as it is more appealing to… Read more »


@Gradumacated: Nice. Anonymous internet chest beating. Maybe I clawed my way through graduate school or maybe I got a full ride all the way from day one of undergrad to the last day of my postdoc. We will never know. One thing is for certain: you are a doctorate with low self-esteem. Are you even practicing your discipline? Does pissing on graduate students make you feel better? Thanks for painting them all with the same brush (of the wrong colour in my opinion). Sounds like university did not did not expand your mind, but taught you to run your mouth. Sure, a lot of projects may appear to be fluff, but the big prize goes to the companies and organizations that can see the diamond in the rough and do the translational research to reap the rewards. First hand experience… Read more »



people will treat you the way you treat them. your landlord removed you from his place right? you were upset, you reported this guy to the taxman. noone, beside the landlord and the taxman, would know for sure if your former landlord delared or hid his rental income. Did you get laid off at EBay soon after? Karma returns!

Now here comes the swearing!

fixie guy

#107 Gradumacated Says: "My professional experience is that the more education one has, the tighter the blinders, and the less useful they are. Hence the old adage that business and academia do not mix."

And how is Tsur Somerville doing?



There is always hope. First it was the US housing crash. And then it was rising interest rates. After that, it was high oil prices. And then the economic meltdown. And then it was the Olympics. And then the HST. And now, it's the March 2011 change to mortgage rules.

Maybe, just maybe…


Sales are staying pretty strong. See if that remains after March 18.

Patiently Waiting

@N: I like to think of it as enlightened revenge. I actually snitched a couple of years after the fact because I wanted some distance and needed time to think about the larger consequences.

When someone like my former landlord gets busted we, as individuals and society in general, benefit from it. Every abused tenant, honest taxpayer and honest landlord.


Craigslist find – Urgent 3 bds apartment for rent

It appears they're cutting the price to $950 from $1200. Although it's a bit hard to say.

Squamish is seriously overbuilt. I've been watching the listings get increasingly desperate.



"MoI at this sales pace 5.27"

Low sell:list, but MOI dropping – I guess there were *lots* of expires at the end of January?



"Yeah, I sense that we may see something like what we saw last April, with high sales *and* high listings as both sides rush to get a piece of the action before the CMHC clock strikes midnight on the 18th of March."

I don't think so. Reducing the maximum amortization by 5 years is quite a small difference. I think something like $34/month per $100,000 borrowed?


"Boom! Welcome to spring, 2011.


Yeah, here. What about it?


Here are the median sales and listings totals for February from 2002-2009.

median 2859 4115 69.5%

So, 60% is slightly worse than typical. No one should be getting the vapours over the first day of the month's number.


@Anonymous: who said bearish? My 'boom' was referring to *both* the sales and the listings. Get a grip.


: Boom! Welcome to spring, 2011.


60% list sell ratio is a bearish boom?

Wow, standards have dropped already for 2011.

I guess the crash of 2011 really is going to be the crash of 2020 at this rate.

Best place on meth

When the headline is worded like this, it makes us sound third world.