Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

The B.C. government’s secondary suites incentive program (SSIP) has expanded to 16 regional districts, including the Regional District of Nanaimo.

The three-year pilot program launches April 17 and in total will allow 3,000 homeowners to receive forgivable loans of up to $40,000 to create a new secondary suite or an accessory dwelling unit on their property. Units must be rented below market rates for at least five years.

To be eligible, homeowners must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents, live on the property as their primary home and have a combined gross annual income of all homeowners on title of less than $209,420, among other requirements.

The program was initially announced in fall 2023 for municipalities.

“We’re expanding the secondary suite program as part of our Homes for People action plan to support the supply of affordable long-term rentals in even more areas of the province so more people can access below-market housing in urban and rural areas alike,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing, via press release.

In Electoral Area B, the Regional District of Nanaimo handles building permitting while the Islands Trust oversees land-use planning and zoning for the Gabriola Island Local Trust Area.

According to the Ministry of Housing, local trust areas that fall under qualifying regional districts are eligible for SSIP starting in April, including Gabriola. Planned projects must meet relevant regulations for the jurisdiction, including applicable zoning.

Gabriola Island’s land use bylaw allows secondary suites on lots 2.0 ha or larger, including in the Small Rural Residential (SRR) and Large Rural Residential zones (LRR), according to Islands Trust regional planners.

The Gabriola Housing Society would like to see local trustees explore how SSIP could be applied to Gabriola as many residents struggle to secure affordable housing.

“We would encourage them to look at it seriously,” Wayne Mercier, a board member for the housing society said.

Mercier said there are unused densities on the island where suites could be constructed. A program such as SSIP that would make it easier to build suites “sounds in general like a good idea,” Mercier said, adding that few incentives to build suites could be a factor as to why some densities go unused.

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