October 17, 2017 5:18 pm

Crackdown on Clayton Heights illegal suites on hold — for now

Complaints around a lack of parking have largely driven the debate over illegal suites in Clayton Heights.

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A planned crackdown on illegal suites in Surrey’s Clayton Heights neighbourhood is on pause, at least for now.

Tenants of at least 175 suites were warned by the city in early September that they would have to vacate by Jan. 31, after the city said it was unable to find a solution to repeated parking complaints in the neighbourhood.

Landlords that defy the order could be on the hook for a $500 monthly penalty.

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READ MORE: Surrey renters concerned over illegal suite evictions to converge on city hall

The debate over the crackdown has become highly emotional, and now Surrey city council says it’s putting the plan on hold while staff produce a new report on the issue.

Acting Mayor Judy Villeneuve said council wants to be crystal clear on the situation in a debate she asserts has become characterized by misinformation.

“What council wants is further clarified information, so the bylaw department has put the initiative on hold until we receive that report,” she said.

WATCH: The City of Surrey’s crackdown on illegal suites leaves 175 families in limbo

“And I understand too that the transportation division is re-looking at some of the initiatives that they had discussed with the community to try and resolve some of the parking issues. But we’re also having to deal with our fire department, for example, to make sure that the suites are safe and up to code.”

Villeneuve said that report should come back to council by Nov. 12 at the latest, but that it’s unclear whether it could stop the evictions or affect the original Jan. 31 move-out date.

The city is also serious about holding landlords that are violating the city’s bylaws to account, Villeneuve said.

READ MORE: Petition asks City of Surrey to stop eviction of families living in illegal suites

Landlords are allowed to have one legal suite, but some in the neighbourhood have been abusing those rules and renting to several tenants, she said.

“We’re dealing with small homes with multiple suites in them that may not be up to fire code with the number of people living in them.”

As for tenants worried about finding a new home in such a tight rental market, Villeneuve said council is sensitive to their concerns and will help with finding new housing if necessary.

“Clearly, as a city council, we’re not going to put people on the street,” she said. “So if people are having to move because of the situation, either because it’s illegal or unsafe, then we will make sure that they have accommodation they can move to.”

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