John Ivison wants the Municipality of North Cowichan to review its secondary suites policies and develop a more workable fee structure for homeowners to put them in their houses.
Ivison, a former commissioner of the Vancouver Heritage Commission and a former fire protection engineer, told North Cowichan’s council at its meeting on Aug. 15 that recent zoning changes in the municipality that allows many homeowners more opportunities and flexibility in building secondary suites is a move in the right direction.
But, he said most construction of secondary suites in North Cowichan is still done without the required permits.
Ivison said this is a concern as the municipality looks to facilitate legal construction of the suites as it tries to bring more residential units on stream and generate income through the building permit fees.
North Cowichan decided last year to allow secondary suites in a number of neighbourhoods where they weren’t allowed before in an effort to come to grips with their illegal construction and to try and deal with the increasing housing crisis in the region.
“I recently decided to undertake renovations on a house in North Cowichan that we purchased, and to do this with a formal building permit application,” he said.
“This worked well until I received my tax bill for the property. My taxes went from $4,800 to more than $6,000 per year. The building is a pre-manufactured home so, in my view, this was excessive.”
Ivison said the main reason for the increases was an across-the-board doubling of service charges for water and sewerage.
“In this case, there was no change in the sewer or water lines to the house and a simple internal connection was involved to tie the suite into the existing services,” he said.
“With the current tax structure, the home owner is charged double the service charges compared to a single-family dwelling. This applies even if you have existing water and sewer services in the house.”
Ivison said the effects of the current tax structure include the imposition of arbitrary tax increases on those who choose to undertake work through the formal building permit process, the avoidance by many of the formal building permit process in North Cowichan leading to more illegal construction, and the subsequent increase of the costs of water and sewer capacity to the municipality without means of cost recovery.
“To go with a revised tax schedule based on the recovery of marginal costs will both encourage legal construction while facilitating the creation of more secondary suites and affordable housing,” he said.
“We need a more equitable system that will benefit us all.”
North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure said after Ivison’s presentation that the municipality may give some consideration to changing the tax structure on secondary suites.