Six months after Surrey adopted a bylaw requiring all secondary suites to be legalized, 59 people have applied for permits.
As of three months ago, out of the estimated 20,000 suites in this city, only one homeowner had applied for a permit to have his extra dwelling legalized.
After more than 30 years of grappling with the issue, on Dec. 13, 2010, Surrey enacted legislation allowing one secondary suite per home throughout the city.
Surrey views secondary suites as a necessary form of affordable housing stock. Part of the new legislation is intended to bring existing secondary suites up to current B.C. Building Code standards, so the units will be safer.
Mayor Dianne Watts said it takes time for staff to get the word out to people about the new requirements.
“There will be a time lag, and we keep moving forward and making sure that secondary suites are listed,” Watts said, adding there’s a whole “education piece” to the introduction of the bylaw that is currently being implemented.
A corporate report to council is expected in the next few weeks, she said.
When asked what action has been taken against the estimated 4,000 homes with multiple suites, Surrey City Solicitor Craig MacFarlane said 261 files had been opened since Feb. 7 of this year.
Those homeowners were sent a registered letter letting them know they had to shut down, the timeline dependent on whether there were tenants in the building or not.
MacFarlane said the majority of those 261 have been shut down.
The city operates with a focus on compliance, he said, adding there have yet to be any fines issued or homeowners taken to court.
That leaves an estimated 3,700 homes with multiple suites, and more than 16,000 with single suites.
Officials with the city say it will simply take time.
In Delta, about half of the suites have been dealt with.
Of the 3,400 homes with suites, about 1,500 homeowners have signed statutory declarations claiming a relative is living in the suite. Those will be addressed later, as it’s believed those suites will be safer than others.
Another 200 have begun the inspection process.
The process in Delta started in January. That municipality has sweetened the pot by offering suite owners a $300 reduction in their secondary suite utility fee when they legalize. Delta is also waiving the permit fee to the end of this year.
All of the Delta suite owners have until Jan. 31, 2012 to comply before fines of $200 a day are imposed.
In other cities, multiple suites are shut down as soon as they are discovered.
More information about Surrey’s secondary suite bylaw and the process of legalizing suites can be found at http://bit.ly/leaToR and Delta’s can be found at www.corp.delta.bc.ca/suites.