A garden suite is a legal, detached, ground-oriented suite in the backyard of a single-family home. Garden suites are designed to be long-term rental housing. They cannot be strata-titled or used as short-term rentals (such as an Airbnb).
Creating a garden suite is a way to have a rental suite on a property that doesn’t have a secondary suite. Property owners may convert an existing accessory building if it meets policy guidelines or build something new. Creating a Garden Suite requires a delegated development permit and all necessary building permits.
Garden Suites are permitted on all properties with only one single-family detached home, and which are appropriately zoned. Most single-family zones permit garden suites, except for small lot zones. Properties that already have secondary suites, or an existing duplex, are not eligible.
The suite must meet all requirements of the Zoning Bylaw Schedule M – Garden Suite [PDF/241KB]. It should also incorporate the design guidelines contained in the Garden Suite Policy and Guidelines [PDF/495KB].
Some Neighbourhood Plans contain specific policies about garden suites. Please refer to your Neighbourhood Plan to determine applicable policies. An additional application is needed to construct a garden suite that does not follow the restrictions in Schedule M.
To build a garden suite, you must consult the relevant policies and guidelines and obtain a development permit. The process is as follows:
- Check that your property is eligible for a garden suite.
- Review the rules of your zone by consulting the Zoning Regulation Bylaw, specifically Schedule M – Garden Suites
- Contact Development Services if you are unsure if your property is eligible for a garden suite
- Review the Garden Suites Policy and Guidelines [PDF/2.1MB].
- Review your project for compliance with the Tree Protection Bylaw. If the siting or servicing of the garden suite impacts bylaw-protected trees, you may need an arborist report.
- Consider how the garden suite will be serviced. You will need this information for your to get a Building Permit. It is recommended to locate the proposed connection locations from the property line to the proposed garden suite.
- Contact Development Services to discuss your plans and the requirements for your application.
- Fill out the Garden Suite Delegated Development Permit Application. The application form lists all documents needed for your application. When you have all the documentation together, you are ready to submit your application.
- Submit your application and all the supporting documentation to email@example.com. Staff will contact you to arrange payment.
- City staff will review the application for compliance with regulations and policies. This may involve site visits to the property. The applicant will receive a written summary of requirements to complete the application.
- Revisions may be required for compliance with the design guidelines or the Zoning Regulation Bylaw.
- Once staff approve the Delegated Development Permit, contact Permits and Inspections staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can help you get the necessary permits to allow for construction.
When all permits are in hand, you are ready to build.
Step Code Changes
As of May 1, 2023, the B.C. Building Code requires all residential buildings, including garden suites, to meet Step 3 of the B.C. Energy Step Code. Before this code change, small houses including garden suites had to meet Step 2.
Please visit Energy Step Code for more information.
Garden Suite Program Review
On April 21, 2022, the Committee of the Whole considered a staff report on the Garden Suite Program Review. The report:
- presented an update on the garden suite program
- considered revisions to the Garden Suite Policy and Design Guidelines
- sought direction to adjust fees for better cost recovery
It is recommended that you consider the report section “Design Challenges” in the design of your garden suite. Staff will be taking direction from this report.
The application fee for garden suites will change from $1,000 to $2,000 . There will be additional fees for applications that need Council review, for example if variances are proposed, or non-compliance with design guidelines. These changes to the fee structure require an amendment to the Land Use Procedure Bylaw. Note the fee structure in the is amended from the fee structure proposed in the staff report.