News / Vancouver

Hundreds of Surrey renters to lose homes over parking congestion

Landlords want city to reconsider order to shut down illegal secondary suites in the Clayton Heights neighbourhood by January.

The Clayton Heights neighbourhood of Surrey is seen in this Google Street view screengrab.

Google Streetview / Metro Order this photo

The Clayton Heights neighbourhood of Surrey is seen in this Google Street view screengrab.

Concerns over parking congestion in a Surrey neighbourhood could lead to hundreds of renters being evicted from their homes by next January.

After receiving hundreds of complaints over several years, the city has sent 175 homeowners in the Clayton Heights neighbourhood a letter stating they must decommission the illegal suites in their homes by January 31, 2018.

That number could rise as the city continues to receive information from residents about more illegal suites.

“We have a common concern about parking,” said Richard Von Sychowski, one of the homeowners who received a letter, of the neighbourhood concerns. He and others have started a petition.

“What we disagree on is the way to solve that common concern. We don’t think that displacing families and forcing renters out of their home is the right way to do that.”

Von Sychowski’s tenant is a single mother who currently rents a three-bedroom unit; her children attend a nearby school.

“We have a great relationship,” he said. “They are paying well below market value. They want to be able to stay.”

Clayton Heights is a relatively new suburb designed to offer a range of housing types on smaller lots: townhouses, single family home and coach houses. It’s the kind of “missing middle” mix many urban planners and developers want to see added to Metro Vancouver’s traditional single family neighbourhoods.

But Jas Rehal, the City of Surrey’s manager of public safety operations, said shutting down the suites in houses was the only option left to the city after years of rampant congestion in the neighbourhood.

The complaints about illegal suites have mostly been parking and congestion related, although Rehal said the city is always concerned about the safety of unsanctioned secondary suites. Homeowners who rent out more than one suite must pay extra fees to the city.

The city has tried other programs, such as a campaign to get people to store their cars in their garages and off the streets, to no avail, Rehal said. 

Surrey's Clayton Heights resembles a single-family home neighbourhood in Vancouver, with small lot sizes and denser forms like townhouses and coach houses. But the neighbourhood has been plagued with traffic problems for years.

Google Streetview

Surrey's Clayton Heights resembles a single-family home neighbourhood in Vancouver, with small lot sizes and denser forms like townhouses and coach houses. But the neighbourhood has been plagued with traffic problems for years.

Von Sychowski and Greg Garner, another homeowner who has also received the notice from the city, believe there is another policy the city could try: residential parking permits, a system in place in Vancouver. Residents of neighbourhoods must pay for a permit to be able to park on the street.

Rehal said that while a parking permit system might have merits, it also comes with drawbacks, such as extra enforcement and costs to residents.

Garner rents the basement suite in his home to the nanny who helps to look after his disabled daughter.

“They’re going into a whole new rental market and their rent could double,” Garner said of the affected renters. He estimated the number facing eviction could rise to as many as 300 if the city continues sending letters out.

That’s why the city is giving homeowners six months before they need to decommission their suite, Rehal said. He said new rental supply — in both purpose-built and in homes — will be coming on line in Surrey in that time period, however, he could not provide specifics to Metro.

As in the rest of Metro Vancouver, Surrey’s rental vacancy rate is extremely low: between 2015 and 2016, it dropped from 1.9 per cent to just 0.4 per cent, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. That’s lower than Vancouver’s vacancy rate of 0.7 per cent.

A new purpose-built rental building in Cloverdale that opened this week saw 2,000 people apply for 97 units, according to the Cloverdale Reporter. Including the Cloverdale building, there have been just two purpose-built rental buildings built in Surrey over the past 30 years.

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