Strathmore talks suite options

The Town of Strathmore introduced discussions regarding legislation for garden and garage suites in town, during the Feb. 14, Committee of the Whole meeting.

Kate Bakun, planner with the Town of Strathmore, introduced the discussion before the committee. Should the town implement clear regulations for the construction and management of garden and garage suites, new types of housing may begin to be offered in the local community.

Administration suggested via the public meeting agenda, this type of legislation will allow for the support of a variety of housing needs, as well as to help combat the local lack of housing availability.

“Currently, our land use bylaw only regulates garden suites under section 3.25. These suites can be developed in the R2X district, but only on specific lots,” said Bakun. “One of our main challenges in this topic is the lack of a clear forecast for housing affordability nationwide. Prices and mortgages rise daily, contributing to a housing crisis.”

A garden suite refers to a structure separate from the primary dwelling on a property, in the rear yard, which includes barrier-free access, and seamless integration with an adjacent sidewalk, on- site surface parking, main and secondary dwelling entrances, garages, and other access points between both dwellings.

A garage suite may be located at either the front or rear of a property, and are not subject to the same access and separation restrictions placed on garden suites. The condition placed on a garage suite, is that it must be attached to a garage unit.

Bakun added a public engagement survey took place, Sept. 2022, with 257 individuals interviewed. The majority of responders were on board with the idea of either having garden suites on their properties, or seeing them developed in their neighborhoods.

Regulations in similar and surrounding municipalities commonly include land use regulations, requirements for landlords, and requirements for buildings.

“The main principles we should consider when creating regulations are land use regulations, building codes and safety standards, parking, permit and application processes, property taxes, landscaping and tree protection, orientation, layout and privacy, sustainable building design, energy and material efficiency,” said Bakun.

She added some of the strengths or incentives for garage and garden suites for property owners would be a supplemented income, increase of property value, flexibility in use, and support for affordable housing.

Inversely, some of the weaknesses of the idea include legal and regulatory hurdles, initial investment costs, maintenance, privacy concerns, and potential tenant issues.

Following a question period and discussion, there was no indicated date set by the committee for a draft of regulations to appear before council.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times