Kamloops council gives secondary suites the green light

Once bylaws are finalized, suites will be permitted in about 93 per cent of the city, effectively removing the rezoning process now in effect

Sweeping changes are being made to way the City of Kamloops regulates secondary suites.

Following a public hearing on Tuesday night at Sandman Centre, council approved amending its zoning and business licence bylaws to allow secondary suites in more areas of the city and charge $67.20 to homes in which landlords do not reside.

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The city will allow secondary suites (above-ground, basement and garden) in single-family dwellings in all urban neighbourhoods, impacting about 93 per cent of the population from Aberdeen to Juniper to Westsyde. It effectively removes the rezoning process, which includes a public hearing.

Coun. Kathy Sinclair initiated the idea at city hall.

“To me, this is a concrete action that will help put that density that we talk about in KamPlan into place,” Sinclair told KTW following council’s decision.

Council voted unanimously to support the changes, but the decision did not come without other ideas.

Coun. Mike O’Reilly suggested relaxing the parking rules. Three unstacked (meaning side by side) parking stalls are required, which O’Reilly called a “barrier” that could prevent residents from legalizing their suites. He suggested only two side by side parking spaces be required.

“For me, this bylaw is a lot about making suites safer via legalization and helping with affordability,” O’Reilly said. “I think we need to encourage people to legalize as much as we can.”

Staff have said parking is among top concerns from residents when it comes to allowing more suites in the city. Council heard it would be better to make gradual changes, with re-evaluation down the road. In the end, only councillors Dale Bass and Bill Sarai supported O’Reilly’s idea and the proposed amendment died.

“We’re testing the waters here,” Mayor Ken Christian said in speaking against the amendment.

From the public during the hearing came still more ideas — none of which amounted to changes to the city’s plans. Former city councillor Tina Lange spoke as a landlord with multiple rental houses.

The city will charge a business licence fee of $67.20 to landlords for homes in which they do not live. The city said the fee aligns with those charged to bed and breakfasts and is similar to that in other communities. But, as Lange pointed out, landlords with multiple homes will be required to pay that fee for each house. She suggested the fee cover up to five houses or be reduced to $20 for each additional home.

“Landlords don’t make buckets of money,” Lange said.

Another resident suggested the city look at splitting the title on carriage suites, while others wondered why the city excluded lots with frontage less than 50 feet. If densification is the end goal, some asked, why not open it up completely?

Staff explained, however, the lot size was chosen in order to accommodate parking and a minimum front yard landscaping requirement of 40 per cent. Homeowners with small lots, however, could still go to the city and request a variance.

Meanwhile, one resident said he had concerns about increased noise in his neighbourhood — more doors slamming and cars running, for example — and increasing the city’s carbon footprint as a result of spreading secondary suites throughout Kamloops.

Several residents lauded the city, including one man who said the changes would allow young people the opportunity to get into the housing market.

“I really believe that a lot of millennial are priced out of the market right now,” he said.

The plan will now go to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for approval. City planning manager Jason Locke said the city requires approval for any zoning changes within 800 metres of a controlled access highway.

An enforcement policy is also due in council chambers next month.

BC Assessment has identified about 3,000 residential suites in the city, with only a small fraction of them legal. The city has said it will not proactively enforce illegal suites. Enforcement will remain on a complaint basis, including for life-safety issues. Instead, the city will encourage legalization. The city will be working on a legal suite registry and app to identify legal suites for renters.

Through the summer, staff will also create an awareness campaign to communicate secondary suite rules more clearly to the public.

Sinclair said the city needs to make the process more user friendly.


Many questions and answers at forum

Short-term rentals not part of suite update

Council looking at ways to legalize suites

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