LETTER: Duplexes could lead to strata evictions

Re: Oak Bay on verge of approving its second duplex. It must have been reporter’s intuition which caused Travis Paterson to write the article about a seemingly innocuous rezoning of an Oak Bay duplex.

Note the public hearing and deadline for submissions has been delayed until June 24. Although the official notice says that the reason for the rezoning is to make the duplex legal conforming so that it can be renovated and expanded, the quotes which Travis supplied point to a worrying trend. A trend of strata evictions from the vital supply of affordable child-friendly rentals provided by Oak Bay’s two family dwellings. Every tenant should take heed.

Those quotes included the owner admitting that the true reason was to strata the building. Once a duplex is stratified each half can be sold separately and all rentals are lost. Another quote was from Coun. Andrew Appleton which pointed out the loss of rentals.

The threat that strata plans pose to affordable child-friendly rentals dates from 1966 when, unlike other provinces, B.C. allowed two family dwellings to be stratified.

Owners soon realized that the two halves could sell for up to 50 per cent more than the whole, giving them a strong financial incentive to evict children. At that time, as now, there was shortage of affordable child-friendly rentals, so our council wisely removed the RD1 and RD2 two-family zoning categories from our zoning bylaw to thwart strata evictions, and that has been the status quo ever since. All two-family dwellings became legal non-conforming so council had to approve of any significant changes.

READ ALSO: Survey shows Oak Bay divided over secondary suites

In 2014 the director of planning restored the RD1 two-family category in order to enable the spot zoning of a new duplex on Estevan, the first in 50 years. He and the developer assured council and community members that the new building would provide needed rentals, that it would not be stratified, and that RD1 could only be used by that spot zoning.

In 2017 the Estevan duplex was stratified, and now another duplex is applying to rezone to RD1. So much for assurances. They don’t close loopholes, even one which surreptitiously reversed the 50-year-old status quo.

This year councillors Appleton and Tara Ney, and the new director of planning have been hurrying the study of secondary suites, using the justification that the supply of affordable rentals must be protected and expanded.

READ ALSO: What is ‘affordable housing?’

Will they now hurry to thwart strata evictions? Appleton and Ney could easily make and second a motion to council that, under the RD1 two-family dwelling zoning description, a line be inserted which forbids strata plans. This would be a quick and balanced solution. RD1 could still be used for new rental duplexes and to allow the rezoning of existing duplexes so they can be renovated, and children would once again be protected from strata evictions.

Steve Bowker

Oak Bay

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