Garden Suites

What's New:

Step Code Changes

In December 2022, the Province will release a new version of the BC Building Code that will require all residential buildings including garden suites to meet Step 3 of the BC Energy Step Code. This is a change from Step 2 that small houses including garden suites have had to meet up until this code change.

The code change will apply to any project that submits a building permit application on or after the date that the new code is released. A specific release date is not yet known, but it is expected in December 2022. Updates will be provided here when the updated code is released. 

Please visit the Energy Step Code webpage for more information.

Garden Suite Program Review

On April 21, 2022, Council’s Committee of the Whole considered a staff report on the Garden Suite Program Review. The report presented Council with an overview and update on the garden suite program, considered revisions to the Garden Suite Policy and Design Guidelines, and sought direction to adjust fees for better cost recovery. The full report can be found here.

If you are considering a garden suite, then it is recommended that the section of the report entitled “Design Challenges” be considered in the design of your garden suite as staff will be taking direction from this report.

The basic application fee for garden suites will change from $1000 to $2000 with additional fees for applications that require Council review for variances or non-compliance with design guidelines. These changes to the fee structure require an amendment to the Land Use Procedures Bylaw.

The Council Motion of May 5, 2022 endorsing this report can be found here. Note that Council amended from the fee structure that was proposed in the staff report.

The engagement as directed by Council will be undertaken when the Draft Garden Suites Policy and Guidelines are available for public review.

What is a Garden Suite?

A garden suite is a legal, detached, ground-oriented rental suite located in the backyard of a property with a single-family home as its primary use. Garden suites are designed to be long-term rental housing; they cannot be strata-titled or utilized as short-term rental (such as AirBnB). Garden Suites require a delegated development permit (a development permit approved by staff), and all necessary building permits.  

Creating a garden suite is another option for introducing a rental suite on your property where a secondary suite does not already exist. Property owners may convert an existing accessory building if it meets policy guidelines, or build something new.

Where are Garden Suites permitted?

Eligible locations for a garden suite in Victoria include all properties that contain only a single-family detached dwelling and are appropriately zoned (most single-family zones except for small lot zones permit garden suites). The proposal must meet all requirements of the Zoning Bylaw Schedule M – Garden Suites and should incorporate the design guidelines contained in the Garden Suite Policy and Guidelines. Properties that already have secondary suites, or an existing duplex, are not eligible.

Neighbourhood Plans may contain specific policies regard garden suites in conjunction with other housing types.  Please refer to your Neighbourhood Plan to determine applicable policies. An additional application would be required to construct a garden suite that does not comply with the restrictions specified in Schedule M.

I want to build a Garden Suite. What do I need to do?

  1. Check to see if your property is eligible for a garden suite:

  2. Review the Garden Suites Policy and Guidelines.
  3. Review your project for compliance with the Tree Preservation Bylaw. If the siting of the garden suite or any servicing to the garden suite impacts bylaw-protected trees on your property or a neighbouring property, an arborist report may be required.
  4. Contact Development Services to discuss your plans and the requirements for your application.

  5. Fill out the Delegated Development Permit Application for Garden Suite. The application form lists all documents required for your application. When you have all the documentation together, you are ready to submit your application.
  6. Submit your application and all the supporting documentation to Staff will contact you to arrange payment and advise of any missing information.

  7. City staff will review the application for compliance with regulations and policies. This may involve site visits on the subject property. The applicant will receive a written summary of requirements to complete the application.

  8. Revisions may be required for compliance with the Garden Suite design guidelines or the Zoning Regulation Bylaw.

  9. Once your Delegated Development Permit is approved, contact Permits and Inspections to obtain the necessary permits to allow for construction.

  10. When all permits are in hand, you are ready to build.