Saanich residents will now be able to share a home in groups of up to six unrelated occupants.
Unrelated occupancy, the number of people not related by blood or marriage allowed to share a home, has long been a contentious issue in the District. Following an all-day public hearing on Saturday, June 20, council voted 6-3 in favour of a motion to increase the municipality’s unrelated occupancy limit from four to six – Couns. Nathalie Chambers, Judy Brownoff and Susan Brice voted against the change.
Municipal staff confirmed that as of June 21, enforcement of the existing bylaw limiting unrelated occupants to four will be stopped.
— Devon Bidal (@devonscarlett) June 20, 2020
The public hearing began at 10 a.m. on Saturday with dozens of residents weighing-in on the bylaw amendment recommended by municipal staff to allow six unrelated people to live together. Speakers addressed council via conference call until just after 3 p.m. Nearly 430 written submissions were also delivered beforehand.
During the hearing, some residents voiced concerns about increasing the number of people permitted in a home as they felt it would exacerbate existing problems with parking, garbage and noise and possibly cause new ones such as overcrowding and unsafe living conditions.
Others argued that limiting the number of unrelated occupants allowed to share a home is unfair as it makes rent unaffordable for many, forces students and low-income residents into unsafe or illegal living conditions and keeps these community members from putting down roots in the municipality.
Once public input was closed, council debated the matter. Councillors acknowledged the concerns raised by speakers on both sides of the issue and pointed out that further work will need to be done to address the need for more student housing and parking issues on residential streets.
Coun. Ned Taylor drew attention to the fact that in Saanich, parking tickets are voluntary – meaning they don’t have to be paid – but said the District is working with police to change this. Haynes noted that the municipality is already working with the province and local post-secondary institutions to bring more student housing to the region.
Taylor added that the issues raised by those in opposition should be addressed directly with other bylaws rather than by limiting the number of people who can share a home.
Residents can view the public hearing video footage in its entirety on the District of Saanich website.