From, Realtor Terry Black
After a period of consultation and deliberation approximately two years ago HRM revised the Land Use By-Laws to allow Secondary Suites. Effectively this means that a property owner with a single-family home, a duplex, or a townhouse anywhere in HRM can legally add another living unit. For many years apartments in these types of homes were nicknamed an “in-law suite”. They technically were not legal.
As with some other aspects of our city there were different rules that applied to properties of similar type from one area to another. A confusing array of regulations applied depending on where a home existed. As if to acknowledge the bizarre application of regulations in some cases city officials seemed to turn a blind eye toward properties with in-law suites. Other times an owner was required to remove it or add a two-way unlocked doorway between the main home and the in-law suite (unless the total number of bedrooms allowed was exceeded).
In a time when housing is desperately needed HRM have opted to allow for more housing density. As with any change there will be those who support the change and those who oppose it. Regardless of opinion the change has been made and Secondary Suites are popping up in HRM. No doubt some neighbouring property owners won’t like the addition of a new structure and/or additional neighbours. I’ve said for years that the only change I like is in my pocket.
A Secondary Suite is a charming name for an apartment. There are 2 types: included in the main house or detached from the main house. A detached type is called a Garden Suite. Personally, I think of a Garden Suite as more than an apartment because it is a standalone structure. However, it cannot be sold separately from the main house unless the lot could be subdivided. A daunting process and one that I hope HRM don’t make easier.
A Suite added under an existing roof is allowed to measure up to 80 square meters in size of finished living area whereas a Garden Suite up to 90 square meters. In peninsular Halifax and in downtown Dartmouth Garden Suites can be no larger than 60 square meters of finished living area but can have up to 30 more square meters finished living area on a second level.
If you are considering adding a Secondary Suite there are pros and cons. Follow-up articles will touch on these. For now, if you are considering adding one to your property maybe watch the movie Pacific Heights. It starred Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine and Michael Keaton. It should be mandatory research for anyone considering to become a landlord.