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Cranbrook Secondary Suites to Align With BC Building Code Changes

The City of Cranbrook will look to fall in alignment with the B.C. Government’s standards for secondary suites as they undertake a review of City bylaws to ensure consistency with the new BC Building Code.

Cranbrook City Council previously requested that staff look into implementing a secondary suite program by preparing necessary amendments to city policy to allow for secondary suites in single-family homes in the community. Getting that direction from Council in October, staff has since learned that the new BC Building Code regulations are coming into effect as of December, which significantly impacts secondary suites.

“Over the past year especially, we’ve approved a number of secondary suites and we always refer to the Fire Chief and the building inspector to make sure they are up to code,” said Mayor Lee Pratt. “Now, there is a process underway by the provincial government to set down some parameters regarding secondary suites.”

Some of the proposed changes by the B.C. Government to the BC Building Code would eliminate any size restrictions, including the 90 square metre maximum or having the floor space less than 40% of the habitable space of the building. Other changes would also allow for secondary suites in buildings with more than one dwelling unit or occupancies, such as side-by-side duplexes or townhouse-style buildings that have a vertical fire separation. Previously, secondary suites were only permitted in single-family dwellings.

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Given this recent information, Cranbrook City Council directed staff to align their bylaws with the new BC Building Code amendments.

“We had instructed our staff to look into putting together a proposal and a criteria of secondary suites so what we said is we will wait until the B.C. Government comes out with theirs and theirs is going to be based on the building code and that’s the direction we will most likely go too,” Pratt told MyEastKootenayNow.com.

Proposed changes to the BC Building Code would completely redefine what a secondary suite is, below shows the current definition of a secondary suite.

  • The BC Code currently defines a secondary suite as, “a dwelling unit
    • having a total floor space of not more than 90 m² in area,
    • having a floor space less than 40% of the habitable space of the building,
    • located within a building of residential occupancy containing only one other dwelling unit, and
    • located in and part of a building which is a single real estate entity.”

Below shows the proposed definition change for a secondary suite.

  • The proposed definition is that a secondary suite means, “a self-contained dwelling unit located within a building or portion of a building
    • completely separated from other parts of the building by a vertical fire separation that has a fire-resistance rating of not less than 1 h and extends from the ground or lowermost assembly continuously through or adjacent to all storeys and spaces including service spaces of the separated portions,
    • of only residential occupancy that contains only one other dwelling unit and common spaces, and
    • where both dwelling units constitute a single real estate entity.

Below shows a table of the proposed changes to the BC Building Code that would potentially impact Land Use:

Provision Current Building Code Proposed Building Code Changes
Total Floor Area of Secondary Suite A secondary suite shall have
a total floor space of not
more than 90 m² in area.
No limit to floor space of a secondary suite.
Percentage Distribution of Secondary Suite’s Floor Space to Habitable Space of Building A secondary suite shall have a floor space less than 40% of the habitable space of the building No limit to the percentage distribution of the secondary suite to the habitable space of the building
Building Types Where Secondary Suites are Permitted A secondary suite shall be located within a building of residential occupancy containing only one other dwelling unit. The building may contain other dwelling units or occupancies that are horizontally adjacent; they may not be located above or below each other
Real Estate Entity A secondary suite shall be located in and part of a building which is a single real estate entity. No change; the secondary suite and the principal dwelling unit in the house constitute a single real estate entity; the secondary suite may not be strata-titled or otherwise subdivided from the principal dwelling unit.

Cranbrook City Council unanimously approved for staff to make the necessary amendments to City bylaws to remain consistent with the new BC Building Code regulations for secondary suites, and prepare for the implementation of a secondary suite program in 2020.

More: Secondary Suites & BC Building Code (City of Cranbrook)

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