It is now legal to construct a garden suite with a permit in Saanich. They are permitted on most single family residential (RS-zoned) properties inside the Sewer Service Area. Properties in the Broadmead area have pre-existing covenants on title that do not permit garden suites.
Garden suites are detached, ground-oriented dwellings located in the rear yard of a property with a single family house as its principal use. A garden suite can only contain one dwelling unit.
This new housing form will contribute to the amount and diversity of rental housing available in Saanich. Garden suites can be used for family or as rental units, but cannot be strata-titled, sold or used for short-term rentals (e.g. for an Airbnb or Bed and Breakfast). An owner must live on the property with the garden suite in either the single family dwelling or the garden suite.
To be eligible for a garden suite, a residential lot must meet the following basic eligibility criteria:
- The lot must be in an RS zone
- The lot must be in the Garden Suite Area (Sewer Service Area) [PDF - 1 MB]
- The lot must be a minimum size of 400 m2
- The lot must be a minimum width of 12 m
- The principal building on the lot must be a single family dwelling
- There cannot be a secondary suite on the property
In addition to these basic requirements, there may be other considerations that could affect the eligibility of your lot for a garden suite such as the lot coverage or a statutory right-of-way. Additionally, some properties, such as those in Broadmead have covenants do not permit the construction of a garden suite.
It is recommended that you review the pre-application questions [PDF - 1 MB] in Guide A and discuss your project with a planner prior to making an application.
For information about your property (e.g. location, zoning, lot size and width) visit SaanichMap.
It is recommended that you spend some time investigating the pre-application questions [PDF - 1 MB]. The information gathered will help you identify potential issues and prepare your submission.
A Development Permit (with Variance) allows for variances to zoning requirements (see Schedule H of the Zoning Bylaw [PDF - 13 MB]). If your application does not meet the zoning requirements, you may apply to Council for a variance. Variance applications may not vary the density or use of land. Council is the decision-making authority.
Converting an existing accessory building into a garden suite
It may be possible to convert an existing accessory building into a garden suite. The process, however, is different from the construction of a new garden suite and may require additional steps to complete the necessary applications.
To determine whether conversion of an existing accessory building is an option, you will need to:
- Determine if your existing accessory building complies with the zoning and design regulations, and what alterations or variances may be required.
- Work with a Registered Architect, Licensed Home Building Inspector, Licensed Residential Builder or other professional with experience in home building/design to complete a Building Code Assessment Report [PDF - 241 KB]. This will allow you to determine how your accessory building must be modified to meet the BC Building Code for residential use.
Application form and submission documents
- Development Permit Application for Garden Suites
- Template - Neighbour notification letter [PDF - 95 KB]
- Template - Project data table: [DOCX - 117 KB] or [PDF - 194 KB]
- Template – Project design summary [PDF - 86 KB]
- Guide A: Application Process [PDF - 6 MB]
- Guide B: Regulations [PDF - 2 MB]
- Guide C: Design Guidelines [PDF - 37 MB]
- Guide to Adaptable and Accessible Designs [PDF - 625 KB]
- Zoning Bylaw, 2003 (including Schedule H) [PDF - 13 MB]
- Appendix ‘N’ - Official Community Plan Bylaw – Garden Suite Design Guidelines [PDF - 36 MB]
- Building Code Assessment – Converting an Accessory Building to a Garden Suite [PDF - 241 KB]
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What permits do I need to build a garden suite?
You will need a Development Permit and a Building Permit. You may also need a Tree Permit, if trees will be impacted by your development.
How long will the permit process take?
If you submit a complete application it will take approximately 1.5 to 3.5 months to receive a Development Permit. A Building Permit will take approximately six weeks to obtain.
How do I find the size of my lot?
SaanichMap is an online mapping tool that allows you to access information about your property such as zoning, and lot size and width. You can also use SaanichMap to find out if your property is inside the Sewer Service Area and/or in the Streamside Development Permit Area.
My property does not fit the standard layout. Am I allowed to site a garden suite in the front or side yard?
Garden suites are permitted in the rear yard. If your application does not meet the zoning requirement for siting, you can apply for a Development Permit with Variance. Council would be the decision-making authority.
I am considering building a garden suite on my property. What should I do first?
The first step is to determine if your property is eligible for a garden suite.
The second step is to spend some time investigating the pre-application questions [PDF - 1 MB]. It is recommended that you contact Engineering to discuss servicing for your property.
The third step is to create a dimensioned site plan to help you visualize the possibilities for a garden suite on your property. You can do this yourself, or you can contact a licensed builder or building designer to assist you.
Who can help me prepare my plans for a Development Permit for a Garden Suite?
We recommend you work with a building designer or licensed builder to prepare your plans. If you’re looking for someone to work with, you could try:
- Asking your friends or family for recommendations;
- Searching online for local building designers and/or licensed builders; and/or
- Reviewing applications posted to Saanich’s current applications page to find the names of local companies.
Will I need to upgrade my plumbing when I construct my garden suite?
To meet the BC Building Code, at minimum you will require a 3/4 inch (19 mm) water service for your single family dwelling and garden suite. You will need to work with a professional plumber or mechanical engineer to determine if a 3/4 inch (19 mm) water service is adequate for the number of plumbing fixtures (existing and proposed) on your property.
Can I have both a garden suite and a secondary suite?
No. You have the option of either a secondary suite or a garden suite on your property, but not both.
Can I subdivide a garden suite from my lot?
No. A key objective of the garden suite program is to provide permanent rental housing on existing RS-zoned lots. Subdivision of a garden suite from a lot with a single family dwelling is not permitted.
Am I allowed to rent my garden suite as a short-term rental?
Short-term rentals such as AirBnb, and Bed and Breakfasts are not permitted in garden suites. Garden Suites are for long-term rental only.
What is a Title Search and why is it needed?
A Title Search is a record issued by the land title office setting out the particulars of a title to land, generated from information contained in the land title register at a specific point in time. The Title Search lists the property owner(s), the legal description of the parcel, and any charges, liens, and interests registered against the Title.
You need to provide a Title Search to show ownership, and to identify any encumbrances. Copies of any encumbrances (e.g. covenants, statutory rights of way, easements) are needed so that staff can determine how they might impact your proposal for a garden suite.
How do I get a Title Search?
You can get a Title Search online from the Land Title and Survey Authority of BC.
Remember that the Title Search must be current within 30 days of your application date. In addition, all registered owners on the property title must be listed on the application form and provide their signature.