City of Kamloops looking at new ways to bring illegal suites into the fold - InfoNews

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City of Kamloops looking at new ways to bring illegal suites into the fold

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December 09, 2016 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - With a university, a low vacancy rate and a hot real estate market, the city is looking at a new way to deal with rental units in people’s homes.

There’s a large, but unknown, number of secondary suites in the city, according to a city report. Jason Locke, the city’s community planning supervisor believes the vast majority are illegal suites; those are suites that haven’t been approved or inspected by any regulatory body. 

As an extra part of the city’s Official Community Plan review, currently underway, council will be looking at changing zones and allowing secondary suites on more properties, Locke says, which would make it easier for people to register the suites.

“Currently we have a policy in the OCP that allows secondary suites in a few select zones,” he says. “What we’re taking to council is would council consider opening up suites city wide.”

This would make it easier for people to register suites that are already on the market, since they would have to go through a process with city administration instead of applying for a permit and having to present their case in front of the mayor and councillors. Kelowna recently passed a similar change.

With a vacancy rate at around 1.1 per cent, a fluctuating number of university students requiring cheap and temporary living space and a growing population estimated to reach 120,000 by 2037, housing is becoming an issue for Kamloops, like most other population centres in B.C. Locke thinks several large housing projects currently in the planning stage will help relieve the pressure. but he is also looking to those other communities to see how they are dealing with secondary suites, or how it’s been dealt with in the past.

It’s difficult to guess how many illegal suites are currently operating and where they are, though early research suggests there’s many more than legal ones, based on searches of websites like Craigslist and comparing that to how many are permitted. However, it’s inexact since a homeowner could decide to rent out a room or basement area and simply find someone through word of mouth.

If the suite has no permit, it means it hasn’t been inspected for safety, which Locke believes is the biggest concern, as people may be living in unsafe spaces.

“Health and safety is the priority,” he says.

However, a bigger issue in some ways is parking. To get a permit for a secondary suite, a landlord has to have an additional parking space on their property for the new renters. In many places this can cause problems, and is one of the reasons the city doesn’t allow secondary suites on cul-de-sacs, Locke says. Currently city administration is still looking for a solution to that problem, which he believes is the most common sticking point for the city’s secondary suites.

Currently the city isn’t proactively searching for illegal suites, as it would be too time consuming, instead operating on a complaint based system.

“There is a risk that if a neighbour complains and an inspection happens you’d have to comply,” he says.

That would likely mean either bringing the suite up to code and getting the permit, or closing it down and having the city come back to confirm the space is no longer for rent.

While council discussed the issue at a recent Official Community Plan workshop meeting, Locke plans to bring the issue back to council with more research and potential solutions in the new year.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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