More secondary suites proposed in regional district

The Regional District of Nanaimo board will see a proposal at its January meeting that could allow for secondary suites in electoral areas.

The idea for secondary suites, which are not currently recognized as a dwelling in any of the electoral areas, was first broached in 2011 when the board approved a housing action plan. Greg Keller, Regional District of Nanaimo senior planner, said feedback from a subsequent community engagement process has been largely positive with a lot of people expressing support.

“We’ve heard from a lot of folks that the reality is they already exist in neighbourhoods and it would be nice for the RDN to formally allow secondary suites as affordable rental housing but also as a mortgage helper for a homeowner,” Keller said.

According to the draft proposal for the secondary suites program, both detached and attached suites would see the secondary suite classification.

Detached suites would see minimum site area specifications with 800 square metres for lots with community water and sewer servicing available and 8,000 square metres for any other case.

There would be additional restrictions on home-based businesses on parcels of land less than 8,000 square metres.

Bed and breakfast businesses would not be allowed on lots with secondary suites.

The provision also calls for two additional off-street parking spaces, although there would be no requirement for owner occupancy.

The proposal would also see a process for owners of existing secondary suites to have their dwelling identified as such via the building permit process. Keller said the regional district thought that was important given the fact there are likely many secondary suites in electoral areas already.

“We want to try and work with property owners in recognition of the fact that [their dwelling was] probably built at a time when maybe the requirements were different or it might be a little bit of a challenge for folks to retrofit their existing construction,” Keller said. “So we’re proposing a system that would hopefully make it less onerous and focus on what’s really important – the health and safety aspects of construction to make sure that secondary suites are safe.”

The secondary suites program, if approved, would apply to electoral areas over which the Regional District of Nanaimo has land-use jurisdiction – Area B (Gabriola) would not be included as the Island Trust has authority over land use.

Keller said the proposal would be presented at the meeting on Jan. 28 in the form of a pair of zoning bylaw amendments, with first and second reading being given.

Following that, the regional district would go back to the public for further input and then hold a public hearing, the time and date of which is still to be determined.

For more information, a draft of the secondary suite proposal can be found at and comments can be e-mailed to

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