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Surrey votes to allow secondary suites city-wide

General Angela Calla 27 Jul

METRO VANCOUVER – After decades of debate, Surrey has decided to permit homeowners to have one secondary suite in all single-family homes in the city, following an Ipsos Reid telephone poll in which 63 per cent of those surveyed supported the idea.

The move, which received unanimous approval at city council Monday night, brings Surrey’s secondary suite policy into line with that of most municipalities in Metro Vancouver. Delta is expected to go ahead with a similar policy.

Up until now, Surrey has allowed secondary suites only in predetermined zones in the city, mostly in Newton. Yet the city has its share of illegal suites, which are estimated to number as high as 19,000.

Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve, who chairs the city’s social planning committee, said the illegal suites have provided affordable housing in the city, as well as mortgage help for new homeowners.

Legalizing the suites, she said, will allow homeowners to offer accommodation to extended families or renters, while ensuring they provide parking spaces and pay their fair share for utilities and taxes.

Homes with secondary suites result in added costs to the city’s water, sewer, and garbage services.

“Hardly any rental housing has been built in Surrey in the past 15 years,” Villeneuve said. “Our goal is to is to provide lots of [different] housing so everyone can live … and have a roof over their heads.”

According to the Ipsos Reid poll, 63 per cent of 1,200 people polled in a random telephone survey said they would support the move, mainly because it would provide more rental housing, make home ownership more affordable and increase density in neighbourhoods without changing the area’s character.

But support varied according to location, with 65 per cent in favour in the Newton/Fleetwood area compared with just 57 per cent in south Surrey.

The main reasons for opposing the move are related to parking issues, general congestion/crowding, traffic congestion and concerns about equitable payment of property taxes and utility charges.

City staff recommended that council endorse the policy subject to conditions, which included prohibiting multiple suites in a house, requiring the registered owner of a home with a secondary suite to live on the premises and requiring homes to provide parking and pay appropriate utility fees to offset the added costs of city services.

The random telephone survey, conducted between June 28 and July 6, has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points. A web-based survey, which polled more than 1,500 people on the city’s website from June 28 to July 1, found levels of support were lower, with 55 per cent in favour.

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