Council Chambers were packed during the Jan. 20 meeting while council and residents discussed the issue of unrelated occupancy limits. (Teale Phelps Bondaroff/Twitter)

Restrictions on unrelated occupants dominates Saanich council meeting

Saanich council sends issue of unrelated occupancy limits to public hearing

Saanich council discussed unrelated occupant restrictions and little else during Monday night’s meeting.

The agenda for the Jan. 20 meeting was jam-packed. Council was set to hear from many members of the public on a variety of issues – including the zoning bylaws that govern unrelated people who live together – before voting.

After going over what Coun. Zac de Vries called “housekeeping,” council heard from the public on all agenda items.

Afterwards, the councillors only had time to address the contentious issue of unrelated occupant limits which was brought to council in early 2019 and the rest of the agenda was pushed to the next council meeting on Jan. 28.

In discussing unrelated occupants, staff presented council with several options for moving forward. De Vries motioned to have his fellow councillors consider treating related and unrelated occupants in the same way while still holding both groups to the same safety standards. The motion failed in a 6-3 vote.

READ ALSO: Evicted UVic student questions Saanich’s housing bylaw

After discussing, council narrowed down the various courses of action and eventually voted to send the option of increasing the unrelated occupancy limit from four to six to a public hearing, explained Coun. Susan Brice.

While de Vries was pleased that the small increase in allowed occupants would move forward, he was “rather disappointed” that his motion failed as he sees the differentiation between related and unrelated occupants as “discriminatory.”

He noted that those against the idea blamed parking, excess garbage and noise issues – but de Vries feels these “genuine issues” can be addressed through other bylaws and enforcement rather than by blaming low-income residents who need roommates.

READ ALSO: Saanich to revisit ‘discriminatory’ occupancy bylaw

He also pointed out that unrelated people don’t inherently disturb their neighbours. He feels the concerns were “misassigned” to residents living with roommates.

De Vries noted that the roommate restrictions disproportionately affect vulnerable communities and restrict people from certain neighbourhoods. He feels that biases about unrelated occupants cohabitating are “rooted in class values from the 1970s” but can be changed by spreading awareness of the housing issues.

“People don’t have a choice – who are we to regulate who they can and cannot live with?” he said.

De Vries also pointed out that council has acknowledged the region’s housing crisis, so he’s confused why empty bedrooms aren’t allowed to be filled.

READ ALSO: UVic student society calls for Saanich bylaw changes

“There’s housing hiding in plain sight,” he said.

Brice noted that the issues residents have with unrelated occupancy limits aren’t new or unique to Saanich and that while some councillors may have strong opinions on the issue, all “must go to a public hearing with an open mind.” She can see validity in the points from both sides

De Vries feels confident that his peers will agree to increase the limit of unrelated occupants from four to six following the public hearing, but wants to continue to address Saanich’s housing issues including unrelated occupant limits more broadly in the future.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore Rotary Club raises $20,000 with Golf Ball Drop fundraiser

Nearly 4,000 golf balls poured onto Olympic View golf course Saturday

Construction slows weekend traffic at Millstream overpass

West Shore RCMP recommend Leigh Road exit instead

TRAFFIC: Saanich emergency crews responding to Pat Bay Highway collision

Incident took place at Haliburton Road intersection

Saanich race car driver shifts gears as pandemic cuts U.S. season short

Bill Okell, 65, sets sights on Canadian racing circuit for 2020

Chorus expands online options to in-person rehearsal in Langford, Oak Bay

Free, non-auditioned SingYourJoy recruits those aged 16 to 29

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

POLL: Do you agree with the decision to call a provincial election for Oct. 24?

British Columbians will put their social distancing skills to the test when… Continue reading

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Most Read