Port Coquitlam to retool regulations to stop illegal basement suites

PoCo is set to tighten its zoning rules to stop illegal secondary suites in new houses and duplexes

Tri-City News
June 6, 2019

city of poco
An example of the current home building in Port Coquitlam: “Two of the three new homes shown on the above image are designed to include an authorized secondary suite conforming to current regulations,” city staff wrote in a report. | City of Port Coquitlam
Port Coquitlam is set to tighten its zoning rules to stop illegal secondary suites in new houses and duplexes.
And it’s expected to make bylaw changes for living spaces below the floodplain — a move that would affect about 2,200 properties.
The proposed amendments for floor area ratio (FAR) exemptions; developments below the flood construction level; and cooking, laundry and bathroom facilities in dwelling units came before the city’s committee of council last week.
The planned amendments will go before council next Tuesday, with a public hearing to follow at a later date should council grant first reading.
Laura Lee Richard, PoCo’s director of planning and development services, told the committee many developers and builders are paying attention as the city looks to retool its legislation, which is aimed at public safety and to ease the pressure on infrastructure.
Splitting large basements into more than one secondary suite — following permits and inspections — is contrary to the city’s zoning regulations and the BC Building Code.
“Our neighbourhoods are not designed for these kind of spaces,” Richard said, adding area are facing street parking crunches as more people move into affordable accommodations.
Coun. Laura Dupont said the zoning amendments pertaining to floodplain levels are “long overdue” as waters continue to rise with climate change, and living spaces below the floodplain prone to flooding.
Under the proposed rules to limit FAR exemption for areas within a basement, the current exempt basement area would go from:
  • 1,007 sq. ft to 604 sq. ft for a small lot;
  • 1,952 sq. ft. to 1,171 sq. ft. for a large lot;
  • and 1,980 sq. ft. to 1,080 sq. ft. for a duplex.
In short, the change would require that any floor area that exceeds the exemption of 0.15 times the lot area must be counted.
As for building below the floodplain elevation, the city plans to restrict the number and size of non-habitable rooms; crawl spaces also won’t be able to have windows or external door openings.
And the city intends to limit cooking areas, bathrooms and laundry facilities to the principal residence and one secondary suite only.
Coun. Darrell Penner said he would like bylaw officials to take more proactive enforcement to crack down on current illegal secondary suites. 

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