Reality of secondary suites

Secondary suites aren’t going away, so it’s appropriate that the City of Chilliwack is looking at ways to manage them.

One of the worst-kept secrets in suburban Chilliwack is the presence of secondary suites.

They’re often called in-law suites (or granny suites), because the only way they’re legally allowed to exist in most neighbourhoods is if they’re occupied by a family member.

But everyone knows there aren’t that many extended families in Chilliwack.

In fact, the suites are what most real estate agents call them: mortgage helpers.

Even a decade ago, long before Chilliwack’s soaring housing market, the suites were an attractive option for buyers looking to lessen the sting of a new home purchase.

Not only did they provide relief for the home owner, they provided a rental opportunity for people who couldn’t afford to buy.

That reality was formalized in Garrison Crossing, where new zoning was specifically crafted to allow coach homes and secondary suites. The move came at the urging of Canada Lands, who saw the initiative as a way (in part) to provide low cost accommodation for students attending Canada Education Park.

Fast-forward to today, where the median price for a home has doubled in the last three years, and the need for “mortgage helpers” is even more urgent.

City hall has recognized this reality and is moving to regulate a practice that has existed under the table for far too long.

Details are still vague, but the new rules promise to address issues like parking and infrastructure planning.

There are still more questions than answers. But the first step is to acknowledge a reality that has long been impossible to ignore.

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