Suite Living in Quesnel

June 24, 2020
Council Column

As Council developed its strategic plan for 2020, we recognized how many major initiatives we had underway and felt the urgent need to communicate more directly with the public about them; specifically, we wanted to give people the opportunity to better understand how each initiative is connected with and integrated into our comprehensive transition strategy. Our original intent was to embark on a process we dubbed “Engagement 2020,” a combination of major face-to-face public engagement events and online education and promotion of our key initiatives … then along came COVID-19.

We’re now working on a major householder that will be distributed in the fall. This householder will describe the major aspects of our transition and economic development strategies and point interested citizens to additional, more detailed, information available on the City’s website.

In the meantime, staff are busy getting the word out on more time-sensitive initiatives and you can sign up for notices about these key initiatives on the City’s website.

One domain that it is vitally important for the City’s future, and key to achieving our transition strategy, is housing. Quesnel simply does not have the kind of housing we need to both retain our current population (especially as it ages) and attract new residents. We need newer, smaller footprint, affordable, easier to maintain, and more diverse housing options in every neighbourhood in the City. We also need to be able to densify housing in each neighbourhood to better maximize the limited land we have available for development.

One way to modernize our current housing stock, provide more housing options in all our neighbourhoods, and maximize the use of our limited land base is through accessory dwellings: secondary suites, carriage houses, and secondary dwellings. Our new Official Community Plan and Master Zoning Bylaw now enable these alternative housing options throughout the City.

A secondary suite is a separate, self-contained living area built to specific standards within a single-family home. A carriage house is a dwelling space created in an accessory building on the same property as the single-family home (e.g. a garage). A secondary dwelling (sometimes called a “coach house”) is a freestanding detached home located on the same property as the single-family home.

Building permits are required for all of these accessory dwellings and interested homeowners are encouraged to engage early in the planning process with the City’s Development Services staff who will be happy to listen to your ideas and help you find the resources you need to ensure you comply with all applicable laws and bylaws.

The best place to start your thinking about whether an accessory building is an option for you is our new Accessory Dwelling Units page on the City’s website

Like all communities, Quesnel has a number of illegal suites in single-family homes. These illegal suites can create safety, legal, and insurance issues for both the homeowner and the renter. Many of these suites have the potential to be renovated and brought up to code; if they can’t they need to be removed from the home.  Look at our Secondary Suites page under Accessory Dwelling Units to learn how to legalize your suite.

To legalize an existing suite within the City limits (one built without a completed building permit) contact our Building Department at or 250-992-2111.  Also see the city’s website for more information on creating or legalizing a suite.  To facilitate the legalization of as many suites as possible, Council has waived the building permit fees for these conversions for 2020 and 2021. After that, there will be a surcharge for these conversions.

Building an accessory dwelling unit on your property may be a way for you to help Quesnel to address our need for more diverse housing options while helping you to address your own housing affordability needs. Please work with our City staff to see if ‘Suite Living in Quesnel’ might work for you.

Mayor Bob Simpson

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