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Surrey to consider legalizing illegal suites, suspending evictions

Click to play video: 'Frustration over Surrey crackdown on illegal suites'
Frustration over Surrey crackdown on illegal suites
WATCH: Frustration over Surrey crackdown on illegal suites – Oct 23, 2017

Hundreds of Surrey tenants facing eviction may win a reprieve this week.

A new report going to Surrey city council on Monday calls for the suspension of a crackdown on illegal suites while the city develops a new policy to either legalize or eliminate the city’s un-permitted rental stock.

LISTEN: Surrey councillor Bruce Hayne speaks to the proposed new policy

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The city had ordered tenants of at least 175 illegal suites in the East Clayton neighbourhood to vacate by Jan. 31, a move driven largely by complaints over parking in the area.

READ MORE: Crackdown on Clayton Heights illegal suites on hold — for now

Read next: Rent control: What tenants should know as rental prices surge across Canada  

The city pressed pause on that enforcement in October after public outcry that included a petition signed by nearly 3,000 people.

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

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

Critics have argued that evicting tenants and eliminating rental stock during a housing crisis would be unfair.

The latest numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) show Surrey has a rental vacancy rate of 0.6 per cent.

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

Under Surrey bylaws, landlords are allowed to have one legal suite, but the city has argued that those rules are being abused by property owners who are renting to multiple tenants.

The new report from the city’s director of public safety calls for a one-year freeze on illegal suite enforcement, and for Surrey to develop a new citywide Multiple Suite Compliance Program.

“This is an issue that’s happened over a very long period of time and so the solutions to it aren’t going to just come overnight,” said Surrey Councillor Bruce Hayne.

LISTEN: A frustrated landlord in Clayton Heights has new information from the city about parking complaints

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The report recommends opening a path for landlords to legalize multiple rental suites that meet the B.C. Building Code and city zoning bylaws and shutter suites that do not comply.

Under such a policy, landlords would also be notified of additional fees for multiple suites, collected to help pay for the extra stress tenants put on neighbourhoods’ infrastructure, according to the report.

But while the report recommends legalizing existing multiple suite rentals, it also seeks to shut the door on future units — proposing to grandfather existing suites, and ban new ones.

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

It’s not clear exactly how many illegal rental units are in the Surrey, however the city says it has registered at least 2,395 properties with multiple suites.

Since 2010, the city says it has received more than 11,000 complaints in relation to multiple suites along with associated parking and congestion issues.

Hayne said, “I think there’s absolutely opportunities to work for instance with the school district that has empty school parking lots all night long or things like that. I think we can do things more creatively that are going to, in the short term at least alleviate some of these issues.”

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