City moves secondary suite licensing bylaw forward

A bylaw to aid in the monitoring and tracking of secondary suites received first reading at City council this week.

Joyce Boon, co-manager of Inspections and Licensing, said this first reading is bringing them one step closer to a process that started almost three and a half years ago.

The proposed annual fee is $165. This number was chosen based on what it costs to run a home-based business.

“When this came forward we picked $110. Under our licensing that is what the fee is for a number of licenses. Council asked why not the same as home occupation, so we came back with $165,” said Boon.

The licenses would be renewable every 12 months regardless of the month the owner licenses the suite in. “We are recommending that this be effective March 1, 2012 with all licenses due by June 1.”

Councillor Chris Stephan wants to see provisions made for secondary suites in which family members are housed and pay no rent.

One consideration that is being made is that homeowners within 60 metres of each site must be notified of the suite use. Four hundred and fifty secondary suites have been considered at this point since 2009.

The licensing fee would result in about $80,000 additional revenue for Inspections and Licensing, which Boon said does cover the cost of the operation.

Councillor Tara Veer said she looked at the issue from a number of perspectives and that she, along with other councillors, would like to hear from the public regarding the issue. “I like the accountability for owners and tenants built in to the licensing. I also like the parts that recommend the visual cue in posting the license.”

Veer said, though, she thinks the annual cost is too high for those who have already gone through the application process. “If we do have an annual cost I think that my hope would be that if it’s the same owner we could incorporate a cheaper renewal cost.”

Councillor Dianne Wyntjes said the cost could look like a tax grab to the public and that she doesn’t see it as being a home occupation to own a secondary suite.

Councillor Buck Buchanan said there are still hiccups in the licensing proposal.

Some reservations mentioned by different councillors included questioning the fees that could be implemented to non-conforming suite owners.

“One hundred dollars a day with no cap is a very unfriendly business provision,” said Stephan. The fee Stephan mentioned is limited to no more than a $1,000 penalty and if convicted the suite owner would be liable to fines of up to $100 per day.

Councillor Frank Wong pointed out that most suite owners charge about $750 a month for rent, which they get as income so “This $165 annually is nothing.”

Wyntjes and Stephan both voted against first reading.

Councillor Lynne Mulder said the most important decision-making factor will be to hear from the public. The proposal will come back to City council on Jan. 9th for consideration and a public hearing at 6 p.m.