Solving the Illegal Suite Issue
The City of Surrey has been grappling with the issue of illegal suites for 35 years. The problem is not unique to our city, but the situation and its consequences are exacerbated by our rapid growth and lack of transit.
Residents are permitted to have one rental unit per home, and as of the end of March, Surrey had 25,286 registered secondary suites and 1,033 registered coach houses. Properties with a suite pay $552.41 annually, plus water and sewer consumption fees, to pay for the additional use of City services.
But, the reality is that Surrey is home to thousands of unregistered suites and homes with multiple illegal suites, and this is wreaking havoc on some of our neighborhoods. The problem has led to on-street parking nightmares, serious fire and building code hazards, as well as frustration over nuisance activity and people not paying their fair share for services.
This year, the City introduced a $1000 fine for unregistered suites, which has led to an increase in registrations. But, we need to be doing more. We need to increase the fines for non-compliance, expand targeted enforcement, and implement parking permit zones.
Enforcement is typically complaint-driven. We have bylaw officers specifically dedicated to the issue, but we need to strengthen the team and they need to be aggressively enforcing our bylaws. We also need owners to start properly screening their tenants and taking responsibility for the actions that take place under their roof.
I have put forward a proposal to begin a pilot permit project for street parking and opening up school parking lots for local residents in neighbourhoods which are experiencing parking shortages.
We should also be lobbying senior levels of government to provide grant funding to applicants to help them bring their suites to up safety and building code standards.
As a City, we need to provide a range of housing choices for residents, while ensuring neighbourhoods aren’t negatively impacted. Many of the people living in these suites are students, low income families, or aging parents who want to remain independent, but need support. A secondary suite also makes homeownership affordable because they provide a valuable source of income.
The secondary suite issue in our city is a complex problem. But, I believe that if we create more affordable housing options, increase education about the laws, and enhance targeted enforcement, we can make our communities more livable and finally get Surrey’s illegal suite issue under control.