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Below-market rental secondary suites on the way for Delta?

The provincial pilot program is set to launch this April 2024 to support the delivery of as many as 1,000 affordable rental units per year for three years
The City of Delta has more than 2,800 dwellings with a secondary suite occupancy permit. kalhh/Pixabay

The B.C. government last week announced that more affordable housing options are on the way for people as eligibility for the upcoming Secondary Suites Incentive Program (SSIP) is being expanded to 16 regional districts.

The three-year pilot SSIP was introduced in September 2023 and is set to launch in April 2024 to support the delivery of as many as 1,000 affordable rental units per year for three years.

The province explained that the SSIP will provide approximately 3,000 homeowners with forgivable loans up to $40,000 to create a new secondary suite or an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on their property. To qualify, the units must be rented below market rates for at least five years.

The SSIP also applies to all 161 incorporated B.C. municipalities.

It remains to be seen how many Delta homeowners will take advantage of the funding program and build a suite that has a below-market rental rate.

The city currently has more than 2,800 dwellings with a secondary suite occupancy permit, with approximately 75 percent of those authorized suites located in North Delta.

Delta’s Housing Needs Assessment found that about 75 per cent of the city’s rental stock is provided as secondary rentals, such as suites in detached homes.

According to the report, “Of those who rent, most rent secondary rental units like basement suites. Research shows that, in B.C., secondary rental units typically have higher rent rates and lower vacancy rates than purpose-built rental. Relying so heavily on the secondary market means more renters are spending more of their income on housing.”

The province last fall gave Delta a housing target of 3,607 new housing units in the next five years. A recent planning department report notes that the Housing Target Order does not include definitions for below-market rentals or units with on-site supports.

“At this time, staff understand that below-market rentals are intended to be rented at affordable rates based on BC Housing’s Income Limits, and that units with onsite supports are intended to provide transition housing for people experiencing homelessness. Further guidance may be forthcoming from the Province,” that report notes.

The province also provided guidelines for unit sizes and tenures, but that breakdown is not mandated.

According to the breakdown, the city should consider adding an additional 1,199 units of market rentals as well as 830 units of below-market rentals.

The City of Delta has proposed strategies to increase the number of rental units, outlined within the city’s Housing Action Plan approved by council in late 2021. The actions outlined are based on the findings of the housing needs assessment.

The action plan notes that the housing affordability challenges experienced by renters generally require more intervention than the challenges experienced by owners.

As far as ADUs, Delta council currently only approves them through an Official Community Plan amendments and rezoning procedures. Delta’s current OCP and zoning bylaw allow for secondary suites, including suites in duplexes, but generally do not allow other forms ADUs such as detached garden suites or coach homes.

However, provincial housing legislation requires municipalities by this summer to update their OCP’s to permit ADUs on single-family lots as-of-right. According to the planning department, it would open up a broader range of housing options for those requiring it, such as seniors, adults with disabilities, students seeking independent living arrangements, and others.