SURREY — Mayor Linda Hepner says the initiative to crack down on illegal suites in East Clayton is “on hold.”
This comes after the mayor met with Landlord BC and BC Non-Profit Housing Association last week.
Hepner said the groups pointed out “a lot of things that really resonated.”
“They saw this as one of the first models of laneway housing, much like Vancouver has had to resort to,” she said of coach homes. “I said that is all well and good, and I 100 per cent get it, but we don’t have what Vancouver has in a transportation system.”
Hepner asked the two groups to become advocates of a better transportation system and purpose-built housing, and they agreed.
“But in the meantime, we’re going to have to look at how we resolve what has now become a neighbour-against-neighbour issue.”
In August, the City of Surrey ordered 175 East Clayton homeowners to remove illegal suites.
Hepner said city staff are re-analyzing all the options to see if the parking issue can be resolved in another way.
“I would hope to see some other options around whether or not we can resolve some of the parking issues, and would that mitigate the other side of the argument,” she explained.
Hepner wants to examine what attempts have been utilized so far, but also wants to reconsider ideas that were previously turned down, such as a permit-parking program.
“I’ve asked transportation (the city department) to take a look at all the various options that we have tried in the past, or that we have suggested and people have not been particularly open to. While queuing worked in Grandview, it wasn’t supported in Clayton,” she said.
Hepner said while she feels “a responsibility not to put 200 families on the street,” she doesn’t know “what to say to people who say I bought here in good faith, in a single-family neighbourhood.”
“I feel a bit like Solomon,” said the mayor. “There’s a very human element.
“You have to have sympathy when this mom’s finally found a place and where’s she going to go now?” she said of one of the tenants featured in the Now-Leader’s recent Home Suite Home series. “That’s a darn good question. But is it on the backs of those that have already assumed their property was single-family zoned with one suite?”
Hepner recalled growing up in a large family.
“I had five brothers and sisters and it was not easy. We never had a car or anything. We couldn’t afford it,” she said. “We got our clothes at the church rummage sale. So I know what it is to feel a degree of struggling, but we always had a roof over our head.”
And, more recently, she’s seen her son struggle to find a rental home while renovating his home for three months.
She saw just how hard it is to find rental housing, let alone the cost.
“He had to pay an exorbitant amount, thousands of dollars,” Hepner said of her son. “So I have sympathy for those that are financially constrained.”
Meantime, LandlordBC says the area’s suites need to be “legalized immediately and the community needs to stop the finger-pointing and place people before cars.”
LandlordBC CEO David Hutniak says this is a “watershed moment.”
“The density model in Clayton Heights is the model for the future so there is a certain irony that instead of focusing on housing Surrey families, we’re focusing on their cars…. LandlordBC looks forward to working with all stakeholder to find appropriate solutions including enhanced transit and growth in new purpose-built rental housing.”
Kishone Roy, CEO of BC Non-Profit Housing Association, said in the midst of an affordable-housing crisis, it’s “important to work together to protect our existing supply of rental housing…. most of which is found in the secondary market.”