‘The case for strata ownership of secondary suites’ – “It will reduce the number of rental apartments, but if it also reduces the number of renters by allowing some of them to buy, what’s the problem?”

Basement space can often be converted into a suite but building-regulation issues may arise when considering strata ownership.

“North Shore realtor Dave Watt and Vancouver developer and consultant Michael Geller, are independently and in different ways starting to push for changes to happen.
Watt has written to the three North Shore councils noting that, although secondary suites are well accepted, “these are the only form housing where our governing bodies mandate that the residents must remain tenants forever.
Geller, an architect, planner, consultant and developer who’s attempting to get City of Vancouver approval to practice what he preaches with a small new housing project, says the problem tends to be zoning law, not strata law.
He hopes to replace an existing single-family home just off West 4th in Point Grey with a duplex-plus project. Each half of his new duplex would have a high-end, 800-square-foot secondary suite, and the property would also have a coach house — a total of five homes in all. And each would be sold as a separate strata unit.
“It’s a way to gently increase density,” he told me. “And it would work especially well in what I call transition zones, just off major arteries in the buffer areas between them and single-family residential areas.” …
I guessing the main argument against moving in this direction will be that it will reduce the number of rental apartments on the market. And it may. But if it also reduces the number of renters by allowing some of them to buy, what’s the problem?

– text and image from ‘The case for strata ownership of secondary suites’, Don Cayo, Vancouver Sun, 30 Jan 2013

See also:

Basement Suite In East Vancouver Sells For $590K
VREAA 24 Feb 2012

Basement Suite In Vancouver Ask Price $900K – “Currently the garage is being used as an office and storage and is included in the square footage.”
VREAA 11 May 2012

38 responses to “‘The case for strata ownership of secondary suites’ – “It will reduce the number of rental apartments, but if it also reduces the number of renters by allowing some of them to buy, what’s the problem?”

  1. Basements, ah yes. Subterranean homesick blues. Is there another group of people on earth who do the upstairs/downstairs thing quite like Vancouverites do? A 35 year loan repayment on servants quarters. A dream come true!

    Helped a friend move into a new basement ‘suite’ over the weekend. Did not meet even the most farcical of legal suite codes, first time amateur landlords were finishing painting and installing appliances whilst moving in as their infant child wailed away upstairs, clearly audible through the floor.

    • I think there were underground cities in Middle East you can visit. I believe they were inhabited once, though might be more for defense against armies. In hilly parts of China, I think there are houses/towns built into the side of big hills/mountains so you could say they are underground as there are dirt above their roofs.

      Also, doesn’t hobbits love to live in basement type dwellings??

  2. I lived in a basement suite when I was earning about $15k/yr and going to university. I dont think I even knew what a mortgage was.

  3. Somebody ought to get ahead of the curve and propose strata titled rooming houses.

    I still want to know how strata management is supposed to work with only two unequal owners.

  4. Adding an owned unit reduces the rental pool? That’s what’s been happening for 10 years now.

    Is this filed under shark jumping?

    • Ha, ha, Jesse, that’s exactly what I thought!

      And, what is the big deal with feeling like everybody and their dog has to OWN their living space! I’ve owned multiple properties and I’ve rented more (all depending on my life circumstances) and I just don’t understand the obsession with ownership. I currently rent and I suspect that I will own something again in the future (if it is the appropriate choice for my life at that time) but I have no raging desire in either direction. The anxiety people have about ownership is so weird!

  5. Yep, the great city of Vancouver. Folks living on top of garages, basements….maybe storages and parking stalls next. It’s great !!! – this city is a joke.

  6. Let me remind everyone that “basement suite” is no longer the officially approved term. They are “garden suites”.

  7. Not that strata-titling large houses is a bad idea, other cities in the world densified in this way. London is a good example of this, where flats were retrofit into larger houses as demand for smaller dwellings increased.

    I think Vancouver, realistically, is going to eventually go the same way. It already has to some degree, adding the layer of strata/ownership is formalizing the reality.

    • Houses in London are build of brick and mortar. You have a real separation from your neighbours even in a former SFH.
      In Vancouver, you pay $650k for a “ground orientation unit” made of particle boards and you get to know your neighbor’s toilet routine.

  8. This doesn’t make any sense beyond being stupid. correct me if I have this wrong, 5 years after this creation is built, the poor shmuck that lives in the converted garage is forced to pay for roof repairs to the main 4 plex because strata over rules his concerns?

    Code says every owner is allowed a parking space…ok where do you park 5 cars??? trying to get 5 people to agree on anything will be a nightmare, especially if personailties collide…

    what would fire codes be for this kind of building? wouldn’t it make more sense to build all 4 suites above ground with stairs up to the top and ground level enterances? this whole idea seems so stupid that the only way it should be allowed is if you live in China where there is a problem with too many people jammed into tight spaces. This is so bubble tragedy that looking back in ten years it will be… i can’t believe that happened. like the pencil buildings in Japan during their booming bubble.

    • Yes, pay more per month then renting (probably much more), plus have to pay for your own repairs, and common area repairs. All to build “equity” over 35 years. Final price with interest, taxes, strata fees etc. well over twice the “asking price” you thought you were paying. And don’t forget to get an adjustable rate, because interest rates can only go down from here right?

  9. A yes, the 5-unit “duplex”. Developers and planners are great with the Newspeak, aren’t they?

  10. Pingback: Linguistic Contortions From The Vancouver RE Bubble – “Unsexy” Markets and Other Dissemblage (VREAA) - "Garden suite" and "Escape velocity" added to our Bubblespeak collection.

  11. This story has already played out at the north-east corner of 8th & Macdonald…there was an old beaten up (actual holes in roof) house that had been used as a grow-op for years and the developer somehow had the house designated “heritage” so as to increase density. The lot next door was purchased (also deemed heritage) and the renos began. The two original houses were moved forward and raised, each house is now two or more suites, a duplex with basement suite was constructed in the space between the lane and the two main houses as well as a coach house right on the lane. Instead of two houses, each on a small lot, we now have multiple units, all for sale, on a crowded corner lot on a busy street. Parking for each unit was not considered a necessity because it’s near transit. Oh, and by the way, there were absolutely no heritage features retained – the two original houses were stripped to the studs and completely redone inside and out. If this monstrosity sells, it will be coming to a neighbourhood near you.

    • Naked Official #9000

      Disloyal cadre,

      Please to inform the developer my intention to buy – I am willing to pay $1,888,888.88 – but not a yuan more!

    • UBCghettodweller

      Plunk in 8th ave and Macdonald on google maps and you can see the various stages of “construction” of this place if you click around the intersection.

  12. Doesn’t seem unreasonable in a city where you can rent an outhouse for $1,100/month:


  13. Hmmm… “gentle densification”… “garden suites”…

    DearReaders… your TuesdayZen… fresh from the EmeraldIsle… where the GardenSuite dwelling WeeLeprechauns take such a dim view of ‘developers’ carving up their landscape (or worse, absconding with their pots ‘o gold)… that they’ve taken to carving up the developers…

    [DailyBeast/Newsweek] – Who Kidnapped Irish Millionaire Kevin McGeever? – The property magnate was found last week wandering the Irish countryside with “THIEF” carved in his forehead. A shocked nation is closely following the investigation—but with not much sympathy, given developers’ low standing in Ireland.

    …”McGeever, who reportedly lost 70 pounds during his ordeal, currently is being treated for malnutrition and dehydration in an Irish hospital, but extraordinary reports are starting to filter out from police sources that he was abducted at gunpoint and kept in a shipping container for the duration of his captivity by masked men, who gave him one ham sandwich a day and communicated with him only by writing notes. The Irish Independent quoted a family member as saying that on the walls of the shipping container were pictures of other developers with their names written on them and that he was told that the men in the pictures “are dead and you will be next.” Prior to his extraordinary ordeal, McGeever was typical of many “culchies,” as the Irish jokingly refer to unsophisticated ruralites who rose to prominence in the Celtic tiger era, turning a manual background in construction into an enviable property empire.”…


    [NoteToEd: ‘Back in the day’, if the Leprechauns didn’t like you… you invariably found yourself visiting an orthopaedic surgeon…]

  14. $590K for just a basement suite …. outrageous. Will there be people willing to pay for it?

  15. The most annoying thing about this type of densification is the increased vehicle traffic and shortage of parking. Yes I know the BPOE is at war with the car but still, folks are going to buy vehicles and making a SFH into 5 strata units without underground parking is a mess waiting to happen if it is repeated over and over In the same hood.

  16. Pulease, no one willingly rents this garbage, what makes this guy think people want to fork over 100’s of thousands in cash for it?

  17. Realtor behavior

    This is a total RE ponzi scheme corroborated between the officials and realtors as a last push for big bucks. Laneway houses, second suites and then basement apartemts, plots like these often takes place when people are doing money-laundering or before the burst of RE bubbles with or without the help of insiders from the bank to swindle the bank into lending out tons of money to “buyers” who cannot afford the mortgage, and who don’t mind going bankrupt afterwards such as the elderly or ppl who don’t even have real jobs, but “wouldn’t mind buying properties” way over its actual worth anyway. Any real buyers who gonna jump into the market for the over-exergerated-priced boxes / basements will be screwed big time! Canada has so much undeveloped land, the only reason for Vancouver to get hot is because of the crappy transit in the Greater Vancouver. The same people can’t afford to drive, can’t even get to work in the early morning or late at night across those bridges, guess what, no transit running!

  18. “It’s a way to gently increase density,” he told me. “And it would work especially well in what I call transition zones, just off major arteries in the buffer areas between them and single-family residential areas.” …

    This is something that I have never been able to undertstand: why do we need to “increase density” in the first place?why can’t things remain at least at the same level as they are?if it is to “develop”,why not try different areas towards east(Chilliwack,Abbotsford,Hope),but not Vancouver and suburbs, that are already overcrowded.Who benefits from increasing density?I would not say residents,but surely municipalities and councilers with vested interest in real estate, with a little help from their partners/sponsors, the developers .

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