Secondary Suites in Oak Bay are again a hot topic. Unfortunately there are many misconceptions.
The glaring one is that suites are not legal in Oak Bay – yet they have been legal since the 1940s when they were allowed in order to house the Pacific War effort. The stipulation is that they must be ‘boarding suites’ not ‘family suites’ (no full kitchen). All councils since the ‘40s have left this rule because it restricts property owners from turning a single family house into the equivalent of a duplex (or triplex).
Another misconception is that a suite helps first time buyers qualify for a mortgage. This is not the case in Oak Bay where a cheap lot is a million dollars, which puts housing beyond the limits of subsidized mortgages.
Another is that we need more suites because of students. UVic has now been granted the funding to build thousands of new student units on campus.
Another is that we need more suites as affordable housing. This defies logic. Why would anyone build affordable housing on the most expensive lots in the CRD. Instead they will be offered on the internet as vacation rentals.
Another is that as soon as ‘family suites’ are legalized then existing owners will rush to build them. This hasn’t proven true in Victoria or Saanich because when built to code, each suite may cost well over $50,000.
The most insidious is that suites are a good source of rental housing. Suites are just a band-aid to the true problem, which is that not enough rental apartment buildings are being built because there are such huge profits to be made from building condos instead.