City of Saskatoon to review bylaws after lackluster uptake of garage suites

Are garage suites gaining popularity in Saskatoon?
Have garage suites gained popularity in Saskatoon since being approved by city council in May 2014? Wendy Winiewski looks at how many have been built since then and any issues that may have come up.

It’s been nearly four years since bylaws were written to allow for garden and garage suites in Saskatoon.

Jeff Nattress was the first to build, completing construction in 2015. Once complete, Nattress decided to move in and rent out the main house at the front of the lot.

READ MORE: Saskatoon’s first garage suite approved

“The location is great and we just kind of like being secluded up in the back yard up in the tree tops,” said Nattress.

Jeff Nattress in his 800 sq/ft garage suite.
Jeff Nattress in his 800 sq/ft garage suite. Wendy Winiewski / Global News

But Nattress is one of few living the lifestyle.

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“We’ve had a total of eight building permits issued for garden and garage suites,” said Lesley Anderson, manager of Planning and Development with the City of Saskatoon.

The City’s infill target is 25% of all new construction. In 2007, that goal was accomplished but since then infill projects are on the decline. In 2017 12.1 per cent of new builds were infill.

Graph showing Saskatoon’s infill rates.
Graph showing Saskatoon’s infill rates. City of Saskatoon

Garden and garage suites are making little impact in terms of density.

“If you leave a neighbourhood with no new development you won’t see a lot of reinvestment in those neighbourhoods,” said Anderson. “You might not see new families coming in and those families help support the schools and the stores and those neighbourhood amenities.”

Crystal Bueckert designs infill dwellings. She designed Nattress’ home.

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Crystal Bueckert, Building Studio’s principle designer said people are interested but restrictions are too tight.
Crystal Bueckert, Building Studio’s principle designer said people are interested but restrictions are too tight. Wendy Winiewski / Global News

“The process is a bit onerous,” according to Bueckert.

Bueckert said hundreds of other people have begun the design process with her but haven’t followed through. Bueckert believes tight rules, such as set back distances for the upper level, are to blame.

“You’ve got the roof over the second floor and the roof over the main floor. So you’re adding roof costs, you’re cantilevering structure,” Bueckert explained. If the garage level and the second floor were able to be stacked on top of one another, that additional cost would not exist.

READ MORE: Saskatoon landlords urge caution when building garage suites

Another consideration, is servicing.

“You have to run services to it so water and sewer and electrical and gas and so there is costs with those but it’s not much different than building a regular house,” said Nattress.

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Trenching those services cost Nattress $10,000 of his $230,000 build.

It’s a grand total stakeholders are hoping declines after the city reviews the bylaw this spring.