Oak Bay residents question the latest survey on secondary suites that closed Thursday.
The survey doesn’t ask respondents whether they are in favour of the legalization of suites at all, instead sussing out ideas and exploring the pros and cons perceived by those answering. That’s the intent, said Mayor Kevin Murdoch, adding that while the question isn’t asked explicitly, there’s space for open comments on the survey.
“If people feel strongly we’d like to know the reasons, and that’s available at the end of the survey,” he said.
Oak Bay is estimated to have between 500 and 750 unregulated secondary suites. Murdoch feels regulating won’t help the housing problem, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed.
He hopes council will hear positives, negatives and various approaches with new and existing suites, from as many diverse viewpoints as possible.
A 2019 Housing Needs report noted the number of rental units in Oak Bay decreased from 2,090 in 2006 to 1,830 in 2016. It also showed that between 2016 and 2018, 133 households were built, though only nine added to the municipality’s housing stock. The majority replaced previously demolished households. The secondary suites study is seen as just one way to increase the housing stock.
“It’s worth reading the report if people haven’t,” Murdoch said. “It’s the meat and potatoes of what council is looking at.”
Find a link to the report, survey and other information at oakbay.ca/municipal-services/planning/secondary-suites-study.
Another aired concern lies in who can respond to the survey. It does have the usual technical precautions in place, for example barring mass responses using IP addresses. It does not require proof of residence.
“A lot of people have lived experience with suites, either as tenants or landlords or neighbours or experience in other jurisdictions and we want to get that experience,” Murdoch said. “I don’t care if a good idea comes from Australia – if it’s a good idea. I don’t think it’s a good idea to limit this. We’re seeking information and ideas.”
Murdoch does expect the most significant interest and responses to come from residents and those living outside Oak Bay borders. The survey closed June 3 with a report expected before council in the fall.