Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Province offers $35K to build 'granny flats'

Program funds 40 secondary suites

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Thinking about moving Baba in? Need to expand your house to do it?

Then the Selinger government wants to give you up to $35,000 to pay for up to half the cost of building a secondary, self-contained suite in your home or on your property.

SECONDARY SUITES

A secondary suite is considered secondary to a primary residence.

It normally has its own entrance, kitchen, bathroom and living area. Such a suite is often one of the following types:

a suite below the main floor of a single-detached dwelling (a basement suite);

a suite attached to a single-detached dwelling; or

a suite detached from the principal dwelling such as a guest house.

It's part of the province's way of adding more affordable housing units in the province where there are too many renters and not enough spaces, Housing and Community Development Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said Tuesday.

It will also be a way to meet an increasing demand within the immigrant community to have extended families live on one property, she said.

"We know we have a low vacancy rate," Irvin-Ross said. "This initiative will help homeowners develop a secondary suite within their home. That will provide the necessary support services for their loved one be it a parent or grandparent they want to provide services for. It may be a student from out of the city."

Jino Distasio, director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg, said the secondary suites initiative -- the province has contributed $1.4 million towards it -- is an innovative way to add more quality housing.

"The importance of this announcement is that we all know in many Winnipeg neighbourhoods right now there are secondary suites that aren't necessarily legal," he said. "So when we put a program in place and we provide the dollars to do the renovations, those renovations are done right.

"This is a step in legitimizing a form of rental that's probably taking place across the way in Osborne Village, in Wolseley, in Spence and West Broadway. This now provides another layer of assurance that those units are safe."

Secondary suites in Winnipeg and elsewhere in the province have existed for decades, many of them added to existing homes without any input from the city or meeting building codes. In Winnipeg, secondary suites are allowed as conditional uses, but require a public hearing before approval.

The city says a hearing is needed because, depending on the character of different areas and the demand for additional housing, secondary suites could increase or decrease property values. The province's program is aimed at making these so-called "granny flats" more of a plus to neighbourhoods, and even boost real estate sales.

The funding will only pay for 40 secondary suites, but Irvin-Ross said it means 40 more housing units the province didn't have before.

Irvin-Ross said the program also blends with Manitoba's Aging In Place strategy. It's geared to allow more seniors live in their community, looked after by family, rather than be placed in a personal care home or hospitals. "Not every individual that wants to do this has the income to do it."

Homeowners must show Manitoba Housing that the main dwelling meets minimum health and safety standards before funding is approved. Construction of a suite must follow proper zoning regulations and building codes.

Loans will be limited to one secondary suite per principal residence. The program is based on legislation introduced this spring by NDP Maples MLA Mohinder Saran, who said it allows families the chance at spending more time together in a safe environment.

"We need this kind of housing. We can create a better society because of three generations of family living together and the advantage of each other's company," Saran said.

bruce.owen@freepresspress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 30, 2010 A5

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