Richmond explores more eco-density with coach houses and secondary suites

METRO VANCOUVER — Renters looking for a suite over a garage in Richmond right now would have to settle in the city centre. But they may have more choices down the road if the city decides to allow coach houses in its residential neighbourhoods.

Richmond is the latest Metro Vancouver municipality to grapple with the notion of allowing coach houses — small 11⁄2- or two-storey units typically built above or next to detached garages — in single-family neighbourhoods to provide more affordable housing for a growing population.

Vancouver already allows coach houses along with granny suites and laneway housing, all of which are considered “mortgage helpers” or affordable suites for aging parents, young families and students, as part of its eco-density plan.

Surrey and Langley Township also allow the suites in certain areas, while North Vancouver City, Maple Ridge and Coquitlam are seeing more coach houses and granny suites in their municipalities.

In Richmond, coach houses are allowed now in the city centre in hopes of encouraging more people to use rapid transit, particularly the Canada Line. But Mayor Malcolm Brodie said he wasn’t so sure the city should allow coach houses, granny suites and duplexes to spread into single-family neighbourhoods.

Although the city legalized secondary suites in its single-family neighbourhoods a few years ago, this proposed move could allow two or three homes on one single-family lot.

Vancouver allows homeowners to have three suites on a property, while North Vancouver restricts homeowners to either a secondary suite or a laneway house. The units can only be rented — not sold. Most of them must include at least one parking space.

“I have my concerns about it,” Brodie said. “We said density was going to be in the city centre so we could preserve single family neighbourhoods.

“Densification will potentially alter single-family neighbourhoods. I want a range of housing choices for everybody.”

Richmond has been surveying the public’s views and is getting a mixed reaction so far, depending on the neighbourhood, Brodie said. Richmond expects to grow by 80,000 to 90,000 people in addition to its estimated population last year of about 193,000.

Resident Marion Smith, who has lived in Richmond since 1973, said she supports granny flats and coach houses in older residential neighbourhoods, but fears such a policy will lead to developers and speculators trying to create multiple-family rental properties.

Smith said she was worried that would cause the cost of housing to rise, rather than providing more affordable units.

“This will be a life-changing event for everyone who owns a home in these neighbourhoods,” she said. “A decision of this magnitude should be put to referendum vote.”

Residents have until Friday to respond to the city’s survey.

Source: The Vancouver Sun



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