Are Garden Suites Allowed in Victoria?
A garden suite is a small, separate, ground-oriented rental suite which is situated in the backyard of a single-family detached home. Garden suites are projected to be long-term rental houses and can’t be used as a short-term rental like those listed on Airbnb. To construct a garden suite, a delegated development permit is needed along with the other supporting building permits.
Building a garden suite offers a rental suite or an in-law accommodation alternative on your property if no secondary suite exists. Landowners have the option to turn an existing attached building into a suite if it passes policy guidelines, or they can completely create something new. To build a garden suite, property owners must get the approval to do so by following an application process. See below for an overview of that process.
Where are garden suites allowed?
Permitted areas for garden suites include properties with a single-family detached house that are suitably zoned, which means most single-family locations except for small lots. The proposal for building a garden suite must meet all of the requirements under the Garden Suite Policy and Guidelines and must also integrate the design guidelines that are enclosed in the policy. Properties with existing secondary suites or duplex aren’t permitted.
Applications for a garden suite will be taken into consideration on a site-by-site basis, mainly to see if the property has a single family house as the main use and is appropriately zoned. Properties that are over 6,000 sq. ft, corner lots and double-fronting lots offer better chances of developing a garden suite.
Steps in Building a Garden Suite
- Study the Garden Suites Policy.
- Contact and discuss with the Development Services Division of the Planning and
Development Department to check if your property is appropriate for a garden suite application. Be informed with the requirements along with advice and information from the staff, and remember a legal survey plan is needed to determine the accuracy of possible development statistics.
- Meet and talk with the City Neighborhood Planner concerning your neighborhood. They will help you assess the rezoning process and forward you to important contacts on other departments of the city before formally starting your rezoning application.
- Start with rezoning application.
Garden Suite application requirements are purposely made to be applied on all qualified zones. But given that the city has various property sizes and configurations, unique lot conditions and the presence of pre-existing accessory buildings, existing accessory buildings requirements may not be achieved. However, staff may take into consideration the approval of Garden Suite with the following circumstances:
- Existing Garage Conversions
If a property has an existing accessory building or garage, a Garden Suite may be permitted inside a structure that goes beyond the standard requirements as long as:
- The accessory building was not altered and it was built with all the right permits
- The accessory building is totally upgraded and meets all building code requirements for residential use
- “Plus Sites”
Plus Sites are properties that fall under the following criteria:
- A corner lot
- A lot with two street frontages
- A lot with rear yard laneway access
- Lots greater than 557 square meter or 6,000 square feet in total area
Under the “plus sites”, there is an option to increase a Garden Suite’s floor area to a maximum of 56 square meters or 600 square feet. The extra floor area may be taken into consideration if the homeowner can demonstrate that it will not have an undesirable impact on shading, privacy or overlooking neighbouring properties.
- Protected Trees
In cases where the area of a Garden Suite is extremely restricted with the existence of protected trees that are listed under the Tree Preservation Bylaw, a height alteration may be taken into consideration to lodge a sleeping space provided that it has:
- The Garden Suite’s maximum floor area doesn’t go beyond the normal requirements
- The sleeping space floor area doesn’t go beyond 50 percent of the ground floor area
- Design actions are made to alleviate shading or overlooking concerns on neighbouring properties
Note to Applicants
- A complete rezoning application must be submitted.
- It is recommended that the proposal is discussed with your adjacent neighbours before detailed plans are developed. Integrating input in a proposal may aid in addressing possible problems that neighbours may encounter.
- It is recommended that applicants review their initial proposal with the City’s Engineering and Public Works Department to fully recognize the possible servicing costs and also with the City’s Planning and Development Department to fully recognize the process and requirements of rezoning. Applicants must also take into consideration the features associated with having utilities in the Garden Suite such as cable, internet, and phone line.
More information about the rules and regulations about building a Garden Suite in Victoria BC can be found online here.
When you’re ready to build a custom home or a garden suite, contact the professionals at LIDA Construction.