Saanich council has approved a motion to increase the number of non-related occupants living in a dwelling from four to six.
The current zoning bylaw states “…the total number of persons unrelated by blood or marriage occupying the dwelling unit, including boarders shall not exceed four.”
The motion was brought forward during last Monday’s council meeting, following another motion by Coun. Zac de Vries asking for the limit to be removed on non-related residents. It was defeated 6-3.
“I wanted to be sure we were treating people equally regardless of their relationship with their housemates,” said de Vries.
De Vries said he supports the increase but is still disappointed with the outcome.
“It still continues this legacy of exclusion and discrimination on the basis of family and marital status, which I think is absolutely unacceptable in 2020,” he added, noting that it affects students, people with moderate-to-low income and families with foster children.
Emma Edmonds is a student at the University of Victoria who was evicted from her 7-bedroom home one year ago. She was living with six roommates.
“When me and my six other roommates were evicted from our house, we shed some tears, packed our bags and proceeded to move into another illegal suite,” Edmonds said.
“That’s not because I want to live with hoards of people or I like sharing a bathroom with four girls and boyfriends or whatever, but it’s because we have no other option,” she explained, citing Saanich’s low vacancy rate and financial concerns.
After she was evicted, Edmonds went to council to bring up her concerns. Even if the bylaw is amended, she said, it’s not going to change much.
“There isn’t, all of a sudden, if we change this one bylaw, going to be this huge [number] of people moving in great numbers,” Edmonds explained. “Because we’re already doing it, we’re already sort of in this situation that we’re desperate enough that we need to live like this.”
Some homeowners have been pushing back against increases in the limit. Although they don’t want to penalize students, they are worried that more residents will mean more problems with vehicles that will lead to the degradation of the neighbourhood.
“We’re not criminalizing students, we don’t want students thrown out into the cold,” said Don Gunn, a homeowner. “We just want landlords to take responsibility for what they’re doing.”
According to Gunn, this looks like licensing and rezoning.
“If you want to run a business, and that’s what these are, these are houses that are being run as businesses… license it,” he explained. “If you want to run a multi-family house in a single-family neighbourhood, rezone it. And with those two things happening, we have some control and some means of enforcing those controls on whats going on in the neighbourhoods.”
The proposed amendments to the bylaw will go to a public hearing next.