A house divided: Saanich homeowners, renters split over relaxing rental rules

Dated: February 6 2019

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A house divided: Saanich homeowners, renters split over relaxing rental rules

Homeowners concerned extra renters will mean more noise and less street parking

The District of Saanich on southern Vancouver Island is considering whether to change its bylaw that restricts the number of unrelated adults living in the same house to four. (Google Streetview)

It was a full house at a District of Saanich council meeting Monday night as homeowners debated how full a house should really be.

More than a dozen residents turned up to talk about a bylaw that allows only four unrelated people to live together in rental properties in the municipality north of Victoria on Vancouver Island.

Council plans to reconsider the bylaw, but most speakers did not want it changed.

Homeowner Carol MacDonald outlined concerns with increasing the number of unrelated adults who could live in a house in Saanich. (saanich.ca)

"We often hear about renters' rights and landlords' rights. What about homeowners' rights?" asked Carol MacDonald, one of the speakers at the meeting. She asked what would happen if council allowed 10 adults to share a home.

"We would have 10 students with potentially 10 vehicles. Ten adults who potentially enjoy a good, noisy party… Ten busy students with little time nor desire to engage in property maintenance."

The bylaw became an issue after University of Victoria student Emma Edmonds told council last month that she and her six roommates were being evicted for being afoul of the law.

Council planned to briefly discuss the issue and ask staff to present a list of options for further consideration, but spent a considerable amount of time listening to about 15 people who spoke on the matter. The majority were homeowners concerned about — or dead set against — the change.

The house formerly rented by Emma Edmonds and six other roommates in the community of Saanich on southern Vancouver Island. Edmonds says the house had plenty of space and each tenant had a bedroom.(Emma Edmonds)

Edmonds attended the meeting and called it frustrating.

"If we change the one bylaw, it's not going to make it a crazy renting-fest like I think people are scared of," Edmonds said.

"Everyone [at the meeting] will get up to speak and say, we really sympathize with you and we did the same thing at your age. But now we don't like it."

Staff to take longer look at potential changes

Mayor Fred Haynes said he was not surprised by the interest in the bylaw and wanted to reassure residents that any proposed change would receive public input before council makes a decision.

He said  Monday's meeting showed that residents have real concerns about problems with parking, noise and safety that could come from loosening the rules on home rentals.

It also showed a generational dynamic at play: older homeowners with very different concerns than younger renters.

Edmonds, top left, and her roommates before eviction. (Emma Edmonds)

"This isn't the older generation versus the younger generation," Haynes added. "This is a collective issue for our whole community."

He said that another result of Monday's meeting is that staff will take a deeper look at its recommendations to council and report back in possibly two months.

Edmonds said it was disappointing that more young people didn't show up. She plans to give council what she calls a fuller picture of  support for affordable rentals in Saanich.

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Steven Axford

Steve Axford grew up in Victoria, BC and has always been active in his community. Steve is a Victoria Cougars Hockey Team alumni as well as a Victoria Shamrocks (intermediate) alumni. During his time....

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