Letter to council regarding occupancy bylaw

February 21, 2020
Mayor and Council
District of Saanich
770 Vernon Ave,
Victoria BC,
V8X 2W7

Sent via email to council@saanich.ca

Dear Mayor and Council,

Re: Unrelated occupants and Zoning Bylaw, 2003, Amendment Bylaw, 2020, No. 9608.
We write in regard to the proposal to amend the unrelated occupants provisions of Zoning Bylaw, 2003.
The Community Social Planning Council (CSPC) is an independent, non-partisan, and organization that
represents thousands of citizens across the region. Many Saanich organizations and individuals are
members. We are an informed voice on social issues in BC’s capital region. By fostering social innovation
and integrated action on social, cultural, economic and environmental conditions the Council supports
the creation of sustainable communities. Two of our four priority work areas are housing affordability
and sustainability.

There is strong evidence that increasing housing density creates more affordable housing, and reduces
climate and other environmental impacts. We support the proposed change in the number of unrelated
occupants permitted in section 5.20 and the definition of “family” in the Zoning Bylaw, 2003, from four
to six. As noted in the staff report of 1/24/2020 entitled “Zoning Bylaw- Unrelated Occupants:”
“Small scale communal living arrangements have existed in neighbourhoods throughout Saanich
for many decades. Given the current availability and cost of rental housing in the Region, a
measured increase in the number of unrelated tenants allowed in a single family dwelling may
be warranted.”

We agree that strategies for additional density should be pursued, over and above the density levels
afforded by single family dwellings. There is clearly a housing gap in Saanich for low- and middle-income
individuals, seniors and students; we are in the middle of a regional housing crisis. The Community
Social Planning Council (CSPC) has released a report on the challenges of the tight rental market for
renters and how it is forcing individuals into unsafe, substandard or unaffordable situations that are
impacting on health (https://www.communitycouncil.ca/Renter%20Survey%202018). Beyond that, the
CSPC conducts the Point in Time count for the region and has been concerned about students that are

We understand the concerns that some residents hold in relation to parking, noise and property upkeep,
as well as concerns about landlords carrying out unpermitted construction to add profitable sleeping
2 quarters to their properties. We respectfully suggest that the appropriate way to address those issues is
directly, by enforcing rules related to those matters.

We understand that resources are required in order to enforce those rules, and the suggestion that
placing a limit on the number of occupants in a home can indirectly address some of the concerns.
However, as acknowledged in the staff report of 1/24/2020, increasing the number of allowable
unrelated persons would reduce the number of instances of non-compliance with occupancy rules,
thereby offsetting resource demands. Moreover, as noted in the report, there is no statistical data that
enforcement of occupancy rules serves to successfully address nuisance or parking concerns.

Further, the bylaw is unfairly discriminating as it does not place any limits on occupancy for related
persons meaning that those issues of parking, noise, etc. This rule discriminates on the basis of marital
and family status. While a legal review of the bylaw is beyond the scope of this submission, we note that
the BC Human Rights Code (s.8) prohibits discrimination on the basis of marital status and family status,
and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (s.15) prohibits discrimination on both enumarated
and analogous grounds, one of which is marital status. Whether or not the bylaw itself is unlawful, the
fact that it is discriminatory should give Council cause for significant concern.
Saanich previously had a limit of six unrelated occupants and this motion merely returns the limit to the
previous level.

In light of all of the above, we recommend that Council:
● Adopt the amendment to return the number of unrelated occupants permitted to six;
● Instruct staff to enforce relevant rules related to nuisance, parking, etc., (subject to the existing
policy of prioritizing resourcing complaints related to health, safety, environment and
infrastructure over nuisance concerns between neighbours);
● Instruct staff to monitor the demands on resources over at least a two-year period following the
amendment, and report back to Council; and,
● If needed after the two year review, allocate additional budget to hire bylaw enforcement

We thank you again for the opportunity and for your consideration of this submission.

Yours truly,
Diana Gibson
Executive Director