During the month of August, the City of Surrey sent notices to homeowners of 175 illegal suites in East Clayton. Owners have six months to comply. (File photo)

Petition launched against Surrey’s crackdown on Clayton suites

More than 800 sign petition calling move ‘inequitable’ and ‘inhumane to the families who will be impacted’

Residents are fighting the City of Surrey’s efforts to decommission illegal suites.

A petition has been launched against the city’s move to have 175 homeowners remove their illegal suite by Jan. 31, 2018. The city’s crackdown is part of an effort to relieve parking congestion in Clayton Heights.

The city says daily fines of $500 will begin in February if illegal suites remain. Legal action is also a possibility, the city adds.

As of Tuesday morning, 812 people have signed the change.org petition, which calls the decision “inequitable” and “inhumane to the families who will be impacted and will not solve the main goal of alleviating parking woes in the area.”

Click here to see the petition.

The petition states decommissioning the suites will result in “a potential increase in homelessness as families seek to find housing in a market with low vacancy rates” and an “increase in rental rates due to increased demand and decreased rental stock.”

It suggests alternatives to ease parking struggles, including an increase in garage usage across the community; a parking permit program; marking parking zones to improve efficiency; adding parking in “green zones”; and creating a tax for all multi-suite homes to help pay for parking initiatives.

Greg Garner is one of the 175 landlords to receive letters telling them to decommission their suite. He said he is one of 60 homeowners who connected on Facebook who are “not interested in making families homeless,” adding it’s “absolutely unconscionable” to evict people over parking issues.

“In some cases we have young families, single parents, elderly persons and caregivers who, if we evict them, may end up homeless as there is a well-documented housing crisis in the Lower Mainland,” said Garner.

“This eviction will further add to this problem and will allow for unscrupulous landlords to drastically increase rent. This eviction will have a dramatic negative effect on the entire Lower Mainland rental market. This will also negatively impact businesses in the Clayton area.”

Richard Von Sychowski is another one of the 175 homeowners slapped with letters telling them to remove one of their suites.

He – like Garner – is paying a fee on his tax bill for two suites, despite the city’s bylaw only legally allowing one.

Von Sychowski also suspects the city is targeting landlords who have declared their suites.

“The problem we have here, of course, is all the other suites that were missed or didn’t volunteer their information, they’re under the radar and renting out their suites,” he said. “How can you enforce an initiative that isn’t equitable and fair?”

At the core of the issue is parking, said Von Sychowski, adding there has to be a better way than “unnecessarily displacing people.”

Von Sychowski referenced a city report that contained a survey of 6,000 people. Of those surveyed, 580 responded and the two main factors contributing to parking were illegal suites and improper use of garages.

Von Sychowski said he’s requested data on how many people park in their garages, and how many vehicles are attached to the suites, but hasn’t heard back.

Furthermore, he questions whether the city has evidence these evictions will make any difference.

“If you go down this path, how do you know it solves the problem? You don’t have data based on the two leading factors. What if we evict people and it doesn’t solve the problem? What if we can look at solving this issue by looking at garages?… If you don’t have the data, let’s evaluate the issue before we evict people.”

“Stop, and evaluate the problem further before making these knee jerk reactions,” he added.

“That’s what it feels like.

“I think if we can curb the (parking) complaints and solve the parking issue then the city would lay off. The city if smart enough to understand there’s a housing shortage…. If we could solve the problem and not evict people, are people interested in exploring that?”

In a larger context, Von Sychowski said if the city is going to crack down on enforcement, it should be city-wide, not just in certain areas.

Von Sychowski said the group plans to appear before Surrey City Council as a delegation this month to make its case against the displacement of people in Clayton.

Von Sychowski said Surrey’s bylaw manager Jas Rehal told him another 125 people would be getting letters to remove suites, bringing the number to 300.

But Rehal said “we don’t know the exact number yet. We are assessing that.”

The city says this a “serious initiative” after failed attempts over several years to solve the parking problem after the East Clayton area built out in 2012.

Soon after the area developed, the city heard complaints that parking demand exceeds supply and illegal suites are a main culprit.

Compact garage sizes have also pushed many vehicles to the streets.

And, while it’s only legal in the City of Surrey to have one suite if you live in the home, many of the homes were built with a suite as well as a coach home. The city allows homeowners to rent one or the other out, but some continue to rent both.

There have been 298 parking complaints in Surrey’s Clayton neighbourhood so far this year.

amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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