City councillors voted at the July 14 council meeting to legalize existing secondary suites that agree to go through an inspection.
Following the new 2014 zoning bylaw, new secondary suites in single family homes in certain residential zones are already recognized in Port Alberni but in order for owners of illegal secondary suites to have had them recognized, they would have needed to tear down their existing suite so that a full inspection could be carried out.
According to City Planner Scott Smith, paving a way for existing secondary suites to be legalized would benefit the city, both by creating more safe housing at an affordable price and by allowing the city to now tax those suites.
As a benefit to the owner of the secondary suite, they would be able to charge more for the suite as well as be able to ensure that their insurance policy was not voided by the presence of the secondary suite.
“The authorized suite process is that where there is an existing secondary suite, people could apply for us to come in and we would inspect all the things that the city is visually able to inspect and make sure all basic life and safety [requirements] are met,” said Smith.
While the newly authorized secondary suites would be completely legal, to the owners would have to inform potential renters that not every part of the building code is met by their secondary suite.
“Because we wouldn’t be able to see all parts of the construction without them ripping all the walls out and us seeing everything, we would require that they put a notice on title saying that while not every part of the building code is met by this structure, the basics and the health and safety [requirements have been met] and therefore we’re prepared to recognize this as an authorized secondary suite in the city.”
While Smith said that the city has yet to receive any applications, city staff are ready to process any authorization applications that come in.