Regina to allow backyard suites across entire city

·3 min read
City council has voted to unanimously to permit the construction of backyard suites across Regina, Sask.  Previously, suites were only allowed in select areas through pilot projects such as these suites located on Green Apple Dr. (Matt Duguid/CBC  - image credit)
City council has voted to unanimously to permit the construction of backyard suites across Regina, Sask. Previously, suites were only allowed in select areas through pilot projects such as these suites located on Green Apple Dr. (Matt Duguid/CBC - image credit)

Regina city council has voted to allow developers and homeowners to build backyard suites anywhere in the city.

Previously, construction of backyard suites — also known as laneway and garden suites — was only permitted in three areas of the city as part of a series of pilot projects that date back to 2013.

According to a report presented to city council Wednesday, the pilot projects were generally well received.

After a unanimous 9-0 vote on Wednesday, the rest of the city may get to experience the suites soon.

The next step is for the city solicitor to write the approved changes into the bylaws and bring those changes back to council for final approval.

Focus on infill 

On top of allowing backyard suites city-wide, the motion passed by council would extend a five-year, 25 per cent tax exemption for council-approved backyard suites to residents in some areas.

The tax exemption would not be applied to the areas in blue in the map below:

City of Regina
City of Regina

The city classifies backyard suites as a dwelling unit separate from a primary dwelling on a residential lot.

They're different from secondary suites — such as basement suites  — and row buildings — semi-detached or town homes — both of which are already permitted.

How Regina got here

Regina has operated a series of pilot projects that took a cautious approach to introducing backyard suites.

The first occurred in 2013, with 11 properties in the Greens on Gardiner neighbourhood being targeted for development of backyard suites.

A year later, the city allowed the development of more backyard suites on 20 properties in the Harbour Landing neighbourhood.

In 2016, a third pilot project involved six different properties in established neighbourhoods throughout the city.

The units in the three pilot programs had dramatic differences in location, context and layout, allowing the city to get a better idea about what was viewed as acceptable and to assess public interest in backyard suites.

While not all of the properties saw backyard suites built on them, the city still views it as a worthwhile experiment, according to the report.

Feedback collected in response to the pilot projects indicates that 43 people were interested in applying for permission to construct a unit on their property in the next two years.

That figure grew to 66 people who were interested in applying in the next seven years.

City administration believe that anywhere from three to 15 backyard suites would be built per year.

What backyard suites could look like

City administration's report says backyard suites could come in two formats.

The first would look similar to what was allowed under the third pilot project: a two-storey building with the main floor serving as a garage to the main residential structure and potentially to the tenant of the backyard suite.

The second storey of the building would then serve as the residential unit.

The other option is a single-storey ground-oriented backyard suite that would resemble any other accessory building such as a garage, but would be fully equipped as a living space.

The height of any building would be limited to 5.8 metres and they'd be set back further from the laneway than in previous pilot projects.

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