Secondary Suites in the Capital Region

December 3, 2013

Considering a Secondary Suite?

Most can agree on two things about living in Victoria, it is beautiful and expensive. Many homeowners turn to the basement suite to help with the mortgage, which in turn provides affordable housing to renters. This relationship is widespread across the Capital Region, but what do you require for a legal secondary suite?

A majority of our regional municipalities permit secondary suites within certain zones or boundarys within their jurisdictions, and are regulated under section 9.36 of our provincial building code as well the applicable zoning bylaw.

Contacting your local planning department or visiting their websites can inform you if, and where secondary suites are permitted, and what is required.

Some of the major requirements for secondary suites would be: a maximum floor area of 90.0 sq.m. with a minimum ceiling height of 2.0 m. as well as complying with the mandatory exiting requirements. There is also a requirement for fire separations between the main residence and the suite, generally accomplished with fire rated gypsum board. Approved smoke alarms must also be installed. Additional requirements must also be met, but consulting with an architect or qualified designer can assist you with the design, and drawings for a building permit, that will satisfy your municipalities building department.

Most municipalities require off street parking to avoid excessive vehicles clogging our streets. If you are considering a suite, also consider the harmony of your neighborhood as well. Visualize your tenants coming and going daily, and design your suite with privacy in mind. If possible keep entrances separate.

An issue also to consider is sound control, which is not a requirement in the code, but worth providing. By adding sound insulation in walls and ceilings, and using furring channels with the installation of drywall can greatly reduce sound transmissions between you, and your tenants. Sound is difficult to control, and more attention spent in this regard will go a long way to creating peace and quiet.

A separate heating system is preferable, and electric baseboard heat is ideal for the suite. Sharing an existing forced air heating system requires additional attention, and cooking odors can travel between units.

A legal secondary suite can increase the value of your home, as well as provide appealing accommodation for those seeking affordable housing. Always consult your local municipality, and building department with specific requirements, and plan for the best use of space before you start.