Garden Suites & Coach Houses

Garden Suite Policy Review – 2022 Update

In 2015, when the Town’s Garden Suite Policy was first adopted, emphasis was placed on the importance of monitoring and evaluating the program over time, with a view to adjusting the policy parameters if necessary.

Accordingly, planning staff conducted two surveys in 2021, with the first survey aimed at collecting feedback on the program from residents who had been granted development permits for a garden suite and the second survey designed to gather input from the general public.

On July 12, 2022, staff presented the results of those surveys to Council, along with a recommendation that Garden Suites policy updates reflecting the community feedback be prioritized in 2023 budget considerations.

View PowerPoint Presentation to Council here. (High-level overview of results.)

Read the related 07-12-2022 Staff Report, which includes key survey findings here.

Attachment A – Garden Suite Owners survey results

Attachment B – Gibsons Wide Garden Suites survey results

Attachment C – Copy of Garden Suites Owners Survey

Attachment D – Copy of community-wide Garden Suite Survey

The recommended policy directions, as presented in the staff report are:

  1. Expand the garden suites areas as outlined in the Discussion section of the report;
  2. Replace the Form and Character Development Permit requirement with regulations in Zoning Bylaw 1065;
  3. Refine regulations to improve neighbourhood fit as prioritized in the survey feedback;
  4. Review development and utility fees to improve and balance incentives for infill development; and
  5. Address infrastructure implications of garden suite development on lanes (e.g. garbage collection, stormwater management, utility connections, mapping locations for on-street parking).

Next steps may include:

A. Drafting comprehensive garden suites policy update including form-based bylaw regulations, and/or
B. Phased updates to garden suites policy as time and staffing permit.

The public will be consulted further as part of the bylaw update process.

Background: Garden Suites/Laneway Homes

Garden suites were adopted into the Town of Gibsons Zoning Bylaw on April 7, 2015. This webpage provides some information about garden suites and the process to obtain permission to construct them. Detailed information is provided in the Garden Suites Guide.

What are garden suites?

Commonly referred to as coach houses or laneway homes, garden suites are small detached dwelling units that are usually found at the rear of a property. Garden suites are primarily rental suites and can come in a variety of forms. Garden suites are usually accessed through a lane.

Why garden suites?

Garden suites use existing infrastructure, providing a sustainable and economical way to increase and diversify the rental housing stock. They provide housing for a variety of people, including those who would like to downsize, relatives of homeowners, aging parents and renters who would like a detached dwelling rather than a condo or basement suite. Rental income also provides a “mortgage helper” for homeowners.

Is there a specific area that garden suites are allowed?

Yes. Garden suites are only allowed in some areas of the Town of Gibsons. This is due to the prevalence of laneways in some areas of the town and the direction of the Official Community Plan.

What is the process to develop a garden suite?

First, you must own property in a Garden Suite Designated Area to be able to build a garden suite. View a full-sized map of designated areas here. Once you have confirmed this, there is a two-step process for developing a garden suite:

1. Apply for a Development Permit for Form and Character

Submit an application to develop a garden suite to the Town. The application will show the proposed design, form and character in response to the Official Community Plan’s design guidelines for garden suites. The proposal will also need to address the setbacks and height requirements for garden suites, as outlined in the Zoning Bylaw.

Once the application is complete, the proposal will go to the Advisory Design Panel (ADP), to assess if the design fits with the guidelines.

The ADP sends its recommendations to Council, who ultimately decide whether to issue the Development Permit.

2. Building Permit

If a Development Permit is issued, the applicant can now apply for a Building Permit and begin construction.
OCP Development Permit Guidelines for garden suites
Can I build a garden suite?
Need more information?

If you have a question regarding garden suites, please contact the Planning Department at 604-886-2274 or send us an email with “Garden Suites” in the subject line.

Garden Suite Policy Review (History)

In 2015, when the Town’s Garden Suite Policy was first adopted, emphasis was placed on the importance of monitoring and evaluating the program over time, with a view to adjusting the policy parameters if necessary.

Since its inception in April 2015, 15 development permits for garden suites have been issued, with 12 garden suites built and 2 under construction.

In July 2020, an overview of the program to date was undertaken. Read the related staff report 2020-07-28 here.

In Q1 2021, planning staff surveyed the residents who had been granted development permits for a garden suite.

In April 2021, a survey designed to collect feedback from the general public was launched and ran for approximately three weeks.

Feedback from both surveys will help staff to identify opportunities to streamline the application and review process, strengthen policy to ensure that garden suites fit well with the needs of our community, and identify suitable areas for expansion of garden suite development.