Next month, the public will get a chance to weigh in on proposed policy changes with residential suites.
Kamloops council has sent to a public hearing changes to the zoning and business licence and regulation bylaws, which would allow residential suites in more areas of the city and impose a fee and good neighbour agreement on landlords who do not live at their respective rental properties.
Enforcement will be dealt with by council at a later date.
Removing red tape is intended to increase rental housing amid low vacancy, provide mortgage helpers as housing prices rise, sensitively infill the city and improve tenant health and safety. City planner Carmin Mazzota said allowing secondary and garden suites in most urban areas, save for some restrictions, would eliminate the rezoning process, which costs residents $1,500, takes up to three months and requires a public hearing.
Proposed changes also aim to address the issue of absentee landlords, requiring a business licence fee of $67.20, similar to that of bed and breakfasts, and good neighbour agreements with landlords who do not live at their rental properties. The good neighbour agreement would help the city deal with issues of noise, nuisance and unsightly property. Those two issues (zoning and business licensing) will go to a public hearing at the Valley First Lounge in Sandman Centre on June 25.
Meanwhile, council put a hold on the issue of enforcement — which has the potential to impact countless illegal suites in the city — until after the public hearing.
BC Assessment has identified about 3,000 residential suites in Kamloops, with only a small fraction of them legal. Citing minimal changes, staff maintain enforcement of illegal suites would remain complaint-driven, unless identified during an inspection or emergency. In that case, homeowners in appropriate areas would have the option to legalize or decommission the suite, while homeowners in zones that do not permit residential suites would be required to decommission the suite.
Coun. Arjun Singh expressed concerns about “frivolous complaints,” wishing to maintain a minimum two complaints specifically from within the neighbourhood. City staff explained certain issues have arisen in the past, wherein staff’s hands were tied waiting for another complaint, noting discretion could have been used.
“We want to be reasonable,” city development director Marvin Kwiatkowski said.
Coun. Denis Walsh expressed concern about impacts on illegal suites, noting it could make the housing problem worse if they were forced off the market. However, staff stressed the intent is not to start cracking down.
“That’s not at all what the focus of this is,” Mazzotta told KTW.
Council requested a report that includes the previous policy and new policy on enforcement. Staff plan to subsequently develop a how-to guide for residential suites, including building requirements and regulations, as well as an online mapping tool for homeowners with legal suites. Those homeowners can market their suites via the tool and tenants could use it to identify legal suites for rent.
For more information, go online to https://letstalk.kamloops.ca/Suites.