By Lyonel Doherty
Carriage home rules are being reviewed with the idea of encouraging more of these dwelling units in the Town of Oliver.
Council debated the issue at a recent meeting that touched on possible zoning amendments to make carriage house provisions more flexible.
Currently, the bylaw defines carriage home as a dwelling unit located within an accessory building or structure on a residential property. This means it must be developed as part of a garage, workshop or shed.
But this definition could be amended to permit a carriage home as an accessory use (stand-alone unit) not located in a building.
Contract planner Chris Garrish said approximately 20 building permits have been issued for carriage homes in Oliver since 2012, which represents an average of three per year.
Council is also looking at revisiting the minimum floor area for carriage homes. The current requirement is that no dwelling be less than 45 square metres, but Garrish said the Town could allow smaller units.
“Tiny homes” represent another issue being considered by council.
Garrish said when people approach him about tiny homes on their property, what comes to mind is recreational vehicles.
• Read more: Town looks at new priorities
The planner noted it’s not uncommon for people to use RVs as tiny homes, but the fact is Oliver’s zoning bylaw does not permit RV-type dwelling units except in campground zones.
However, if someone wants to put one of these units on a foundation and connect to local water and sewer, they could meet the requirements and building codes, Garrish pointed out.
Councillor Dave Mattes said the Town’s zoning bylaw states that a carriage house has to be above a garage or attached to the house by a breezeway.
But Mattes expressed his concern that council might eliminate the breezeway provision, resulting in two houses permitted on one lot. He does not support this idea.
But Councillor Petra Veintimilla said she supports two homes on one lot if all the rules are in place and it makes sense aesthetically. She noted the additional dwelling unit is a mortgage helper and provides accommodation at a better rate.
But Mattes said if that is the route council chooses, why not just allow subdivision on a separate lot, so you end up with two lots and two houses rather than two on a single lot.
“I don’t know of anywhere where they allow two separate houses on one lot . . . I don’t think they exist anywhere.”
But Veintimilla said requiring subdivision to accommodate two homes defeats the purpose of affordable accommodation and helping with the mortgage.
• Read more: Town checks off priorities
But Mattes said you can still have two separate houses and use one as a mortgage helper.
“Having two houses on one lot goes against affordability because it makes the property more expensive,” he pointed out.
Mayor Martin Johansen said he would support two houses on a single lot as long as there are conditions on size.
Garrish said carriages houses emerged from secondary suites. Under the Town’s bylaw a suite can be a maximum of 40 per cent of the floor area of the principal dwelling, he pointed out.
He noted that a secondary suite is basically a duplex – two dwelling units in one structure.
Councillor Aimee Grice said when she thinks of a breezeway or a garage, they are almost loopholes to have that secondary unit, so why not remove them and have more opportunities for affordable housing?
• Read more: Controversial rezoning passes for duplex
But Mattes stated if you leave it all on one lot you have affordable rentals, not affordable housing. He added that eliminating the breezeway requirement will not prompt people to rush out and build carriages houses.
Regarding tiny homes, Mattes said they would definitely be considered if they weren’t on wheels. He said council could look at another zoning where there are smaller lots for these smaller houses.
Veintimilla expressed her support for these dwellings.
“I see these little homes and carriage houses as adding character to neighbourhoods, if they’re done right.”
Grice agreed, saying they are stylish right now, adding they might bring some “millennials” to Oliver.
Council agreed to discuss the matter further as part of its housing needs assessment.