Are Secondary Suites Allowed in Greater Victoria?

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The past few years have brought significant focus to the availability of affordable housing in Greater Victoria, and this has spurred many of the municipalities to review and update their existing bylaws surrounding secondary suites and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) like carriage houses, garden suites, and cottages.

The current rules differ between municipalities, with some including specific requirements for future services (for example, ADUs in Central Saanich are required to have one additional off-street parking spot that’s wired up for a future E.V. charging station.) Zoning, living space, and special designations, such as Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) status, may be specific to each community and may differ between neighbourhoods within the same municipality, so it’s best to speak with an expert to find out what can — and cannot — be done for your current or future home.

Please keep in mind – you are not alone. As your Design-Build team, we work with you to bring your dream home to life. We have significant experience working with each of the local municipalities, and we have a good understanding of what they’re looking for within the rules of the various bylaws. 

With so many communities and varying bylaws and guidelines, we felt it would be useful to put together this guide to help you find the information about your municipality. 

Some common requirements throughout the CRD:

• Owner-occupancy
• Max size: 90 m² (969 ft²)
• Max: Two bedrooms
• Parking provided
• No short-stay rentals

Central Saanich

Main site: CentralSaanich.ca

Secondary suite max size: 90 m² (969 ft²)

Central Saanich has made allowances for accessory dwelling units (such as a carriage house/garden suite), depending on the size and shape of your lot (for example, panhandle lots cannot have an accessory dwelling unit). Click here for information about secondary suites in Central Saanich and here for information about ADUs.

Colwood

Main site: Colwood.ca

Secondary suite max size: 90m2 (968 ft2) or 40% of the gross floor area of the building (whichever is less)

Colwood has been actively engaged in permitting secondary suites and ADUs, and they’ve even developed a checklist for residents to determine if their property is eligible for one or the other. 

“Suites make home ownership more affordable and provide options for renters. We want to make the secondary suite process easy for people while fine-tuning regulations to ensure suites are built safely to code, and that they don’t expose the city or its taxpayers to undue liability.” – former Colwood mayor, Carol Hamilton         

Esquimalt

Main site: Esquimalt.ca

Secondary suite max size: 90m2 or 40% of the total Floor Area of the Principal Building

Esquimalt has made recent bylaw changes to be welcoming of secondary suites and ADU (called  Detached  Accessory Dwelling Units in this region), with zoning regulations much more specific than we’ve seen in some of the other municipalities. Rules around DADUs in Esquimalt state they must be in the rear yard only, services must be shared with the main dwelling, and all wiring is to be underground.  

The Highlands

Main site: Highlands.ca

Secondary suite max size: TBD (proposed to be 90m2 as of April 1, 2023)

 

Historically, the District of Highlands has a not permitted secondary suites nor accessory dwelling units, but recognizing that there’s a need and demand, they have drafted proposed changes to the existing regulations. The new rules are expected to go into effect as of April 1, 2023, and should allow for either a secondary suite or an ADU. 

Langford

Main site: Langford.ca

Secondary suite max size: 90m2 (970 ft2

Langford is building for the future, with rules in place for secondary suites in new builds specifying safety and HVAC requirements that go beyond other municipalities. In many cases, carriage/garden suites are allowed, providing the property is zoned correctly and you are not in the City Centre. Like the rest of the communities, you can have a garden suite or a secondary suite, but not both. 

Metchosin

Main site: Metchosin.ca

Secondary suite max size: 90 m² (969 ft²)

Guest cottage/carriage house lot size: 1.98acre minimum 

The sprawling farms and forested acreages of Metchosin are open to secondary suites and accessory dwelling units, with similar requirements as other regions. Only one suite is allowed per property, parking spaces must be provided, and assuming you have a property larger than 1.98 acres, you may be able to add a Detached Secondary Suite. If your property is within the Agricultural Land Reserve, further approvals may be required. 

North Saanich

Main site: NorthSaanich.ca

Secondary suite max size: up to 90 m2 (970 sq. ft.)

Guest cottage/carriage house lot size: min .4 hectares (just under an acre) 

Out on the peninsula, you may be able to enjoy a secondary suite or a guest cottage, assuming your property is eligible, and you have a valid and current permit. The permits renew automatically every January 1st unless they’ve been suspended or revoked. If the property is sold, the new owners are required to apply for a new permit within 30 days. 

Oak Bay

Main site: OakBay.ca

Secondary suite max size: TBD

Currently, the Oak Bay district’s zoning laws do not allow for any secondary suites, but following an in-depth study to understand the needs of the community, the planning committee is developing a policy and regulatory framework to allow for secondary suites in Oak Bay. The study began in 2018, and after five phases, the District Council has endorsed ten Guiding Attributes to inform the program, which should go into effect in early 2023, following a public hearing and final considerations. 

***update*** – Councillors voted unanimously to allow secondary suites within Oak Bay.

Saanich

Main site: Saanich.ca

Secondary suite max size: TBD

Note: The allowable size of your suite or garden suite in Saanich is dictated by the conditions of your relevant zone. 

As the city’s largest municipality, Saanich has developed some surprisingly accommodating rules around secondary suites and garden suites. Suites are allowed in most urban areas of Saanich, with a maximum of two kitchens per property. The property’s registered owner must sign an affidavit stating they are living on the property, in either the suite or in the single-family dwelling. The suite is required to have a designated onsite parking space, and it has to have an energized EV outlet for Level 2 electric vehicle charging.  

Sidney

Main site: Sidney.ca

Secondary suite max size: 90m2 or 40% of the total Floor Area of the Principal Building 

In this highly walkable waterfront community, there isn’t an abundance of information regarding garden suites. However, Sidney does allow for secondary suites providing they meet the bylaw requirements. 

Sooke

Main site: Sooke.ca

Secondary suite max size: 90m2

The sprawling community of Sooke is open to secondary suites as well as small suites (their definition of ADUs), providing that the suites are livable year-round and provide for living, sleeping, cooking, sanitation, and food storage and preparation. 

Be sure to confirm that your property is zoned to allow for a secondary or small suite, else you may have to go through a rezoning application. 

Victoria

Main site: Victoria.ca

Secondary suite max size: TBD

Victoria has been a strong supporter of finding ways to increase available, affordable housing, and they have developed a comprehensive set of Secondary Suite Design Guidelines to help eligible homeowners do more with their properties. The city’s Development Services staff is also available to help you determine if your home or property is eligible for a secondary suite. 

Garden suites may be allowed, with a total maximum floor area of 37m2 (400 ft2)

View Royal

Main site: ViewRoyal.ca

Secondary suite max size: 90m2 or 40% of the total Floor Area of the Principal Building 

While secondary suites are typically allowed in View Royal, the municipality is still drafting the rules around Garden Suites and Detached Secondary Suites. If you have a secondary suite in View Royal, you are required to renew your suite permit annually. 

***Please note – these are the rules as we found them in the fall of 2022. They are intended only to give you a starting place to learn more about the rules for the various communities of Victoria. Please refer to your municipality for the most current and accurate interpretation of the rules around secondary suites, accessory dwelling units, carriage houses, or garden suites in and around the communities of Victoria. 

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