Surrey cracks down on illegal suites, pushing 175 households into a punishing rental market

Click to play video: 'The City of Surrey’s crackdown on illegal suites leaves 175 families in limbo' The City of Surrey’s crackdown on illegal suites leaves 175 families in limbo
Tenants of illegal suites are caught in the middle as Surrey steps up enforcement. Nadia Stewart has details – Sep 15, 2017

Richard Smith and Jordan Maki are new parents with a five-month-old son.

With his family, the boy will soon have to move into the third home he’s had in his short life.

The family lives in a basement suite in the Surrey neighbourhood of East Clayton, an area that’s being subject to a city crackdown on illegal suites.

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It’s an action that affects tenants in 175 homes, including Smith and Maki’s.

The action set to push them into a crushing rental market where the vacancy rate for a two-bedroom suite is close to zero.

“I thought we’d have at least a year of like stress-free, OK, let’s just focus on our son, don’t have to worry about the money issue and the house issue,” Smith told Global News.

Illegal suites are being blamed for creating additional parking pressure, triggering hundreds of complaints.

“It’s unfortunate that we had to take this step,” said Jas Rehal, the City of Surrey’s bylaw enforcement and licensing manager.

“But like I said earlier, we cannot alleviate the pressures and the complaints from the neighbourhood.”

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The crackdown comes as a surprise for landlord Kelley Grainger, who said she’s been paying hundreds of dollars in secondary suite fees.

“We were told by the city that it is an illegal suite, but that we need it to register the illegal suite,” she told Global News.

“If you’re collecting taxes on it, you know about it. So it’s authorized.”

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The vacancy rate for a two-bedroom private apartment in Surrey was 0.4 per cent in October of last year, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) most recent Rental Market Report.

That was down from a two-per-cent vacancy rate last year.

Rent for such a unit was recorded at $1,006 per month, up from $954 a year earlier.

It’s a reality that Smith, Maki and their young son will have to face head-on starting Jan. 31, when they have to be out of their unit.

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