Secondary Suites

Secondary Suites, Accessory Dwelling Units, and Multi-Unit Flex-Units

The installation of a secondary suite in a new or existing single unit dwelling, the construction of an Accessory Dwelling Unit (sometimes known as a ‘carriage house’), and multi-unit flex units are permitted by the District of Squamish, subject to both the District of Squamish Zoning Bylaw and the British Columbia Building Code (BCBC).

Secondary Suites

A secondary suite is defined in the Zoning Bylaw as, ‘a second, self-contained dwelling unit with private access, its own kitchen and bathroom, and located within a principal dwelling unit.’

The Zoning Bylaw currently permits secondary suites in all zones that permit a single-unit dwelling, and includes the following requirements (from Section 4.5 of the Zoning Bylaw):

  • A maximum of one accessory dwelling unit and one secondary suite are permitted per single-unit dwelling;
  • One additional off-street parking space must be provided for the secondary suite.
  • The secondary suite must form a single real estate entity with the principal dwelling unit.  No strata-titling is permitted.
  • Secondary suites are not permitted for use as short-term rentals.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

The Zoning Bylaw also permits accessory dwelling units (ADU) in all zones that permit a single-unit dwelling. The Zoning Bylaw defines an ADU as ‘a dwelling unit that is ancillary to- and detached from- the principal dwelling unit and is located either above an accessory building or at grade. Includes, but is not limited to, coach houses, carriage houses, and laneway houses.’ 

The following requirements apply to ADUs:

  • A maximum of one ADU and one secondary suite are permitted per single-unit dwelling;
  • ADUs must meet the minimum front and side setback requirements of a principal building and be located no closer than 3 metres from the rear property line, except no closer than 0.6 metres where there is access to a lane.
  • The total floor area for an ADU, when located above a garage, cannot exceed 100m2 and the habitable area shall not exceed 50m2.  If the ADU is constructed to the Low Carbon Building Standard, the gross floor area may be increased to 70 m2.
  • ADUs cannot exceed a height of 4.58m, unless it is located 4.5m from the rear property line, in which case the height maximum is 6.7m.  If the rear lot line abuts a lane, the maximum height of an ADU is 6.7m.
  • ADUs cannot be used as short-term rentals.
  • Lot coverage, parking requirements, and maximum gross floor area provisions within the Zoning bylaw continue to apply.
  • the driveway access to the ADU and its off-street parking must be shared with access to the principal residence, unless access to the ADU can be provided from a rear lane.

Multi-Unit Flex Unit

Multi-Unit Flex Units are a new form of housing permitted in certain zones within the District of Squamish. Flex units are rental suites permitted in two-unit dwellings and townhomes, as long as they meet BC Building Code requirements for fire separation and the following Zoning requirements:

  • Is permitted as an Accessory Use;
  • Only one flex unit is permitted per strata-titled unit;
  • Flex units must provide one parking space, must not be stratified, and must have a gross floor area greater than 40m2;
  • Flex units cannot be used as short-term rentals.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where are suites, ADUs and muli-unit flex units permitted?

    A secondary suite is permitted within a single-unit dwelling or house located in a zone that permits a single-unit dwelling. For clarity, secondary suites are not permitted in two-unit (duplex) dwellings and only one secondary suite is permitted PER lot.

    Accessory Dwelling Units are permitted on lots containing a single-unit dwelling and duplexes located in zones that permit a single-unit dwelling. One ADU is permitted per lot.

    ADUs may be used for temporary living accommodation during the construction of a principal building on the same lot.

    Multi-Unit Flex Units are permitted in duplexes and townhomes, if they can meet the BCBC and provide an additional parking stall. One flex unit is permitted per strata title.

  • What are the maximum allowable size, height and parking requirements for a secondary suite?

    • Within a principal dwelling, a maximum of 90m2 (~968 sq ft) or 40% of the gross floor area, whichever is less.
    • Accessory Dwelling Units are permitted to a maximum gross floor area of 70m2 (~750 sq ft).
      • As a density bonus, for properties that are 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) or larger, a maximum gross floor area of 90 m2 (968 sq ft) is permitted for ADUs provided that all exterior walls of the unit are continuously insulated and the structure achieves the insulation RSI value for Climate Zone 6 (Whistler) or higher under the BC Building Code.
    • Outside of flood hazard area identified in the Official Community Plan a ground-floor ADU is permitted, with the same size provisions as above.
    • The maximum building height of an ADU above a garage is 6.7 meters.
    • One (1) additional off-street parking space must be provided per additional unit.
  • Where may I locate an ADU (Carriage House) on my lot? What other requirements apply to ADUs?

    • ADUs suites will meet the front and side setback requirements of a principal building.
    • On corner lots, ADUs shall retain the same exterior side setback as the principal building.
    • ADUs must be located not less than 3 metres from the rear property line, except no closer than 0.6 metres where there is access to a rear lane or road.
  • Does my secondary suite/ADU need separate access and street address?

    Yes, secondary suites and ADUs require private access.

    • For ADUs, access via a continuous, unobstructed and lighted pathway from the front street or laneway to the main entrance to the suite is required.  This pathway should not be more than 45 metres in length, consisting of a minimum width of at least 900 mm and vertical headroom clearance of at least 2.1 metres.
    • The driveway access to the secondary suite must be shared with access to the principal residence, unless the access to can be provided from a rear lane.
    • For ADUs, an exterior strobe light is provided and maintained above the principal entrance of the building, designed such that the strobe light will activate at the same time as a smoke alarm is activated within the ADU.
    • The address for ADUs needs to be visible from the street, mounted on the building or a signpost adjacent to the path leading to the building.  The District of Squamish Engineering department assigns civic addresses for suites.
  • What do I require to legalize my suite or ADU?

    • Verify that your secondary suite or ADU meets the zoning requirements of your lot.
    • Submit a building permit application for a suite installation or new build.
    • After receiving your permit, ensure that the suite is built or installed to the BC Building Code requirements.
    • Call the District of Squamish Building department for a final inspection.  Once the suite has passed inspection, an Occupancy Permit will be issued and your suite is now legal.  Addressing will be confirmed by the Engineering department.
    • You can then contact Carneys Waste Systems to receive a set of garbage/recycling/organic totes for curbside pick-up for your suite.
  • What are the fees associated with installing/building a suite/ADU?

    • Building permit fees are based on the construction value of the project at $11/$1,000 of development.  Plumbing fees may also be applicable.  Find the Fees and Charges Bylaw in the Bylaw Library.
    • Development Cost Charges were exempted in 2016 on secondary suites and ADUs to help stimulate the creation of rental housing units in Squamish. In return, this has resulted in a typical savings to secondary suite costs of $3,500 or more for a 70m2 suite. 
    • Fees will apply for upgrading or adding to your existing services of water and/or sewer for any secondary suite construction. The Building Department will assess your plans for upgrade requirements, and an estimate of these costs will be issued from the District’s Public Works Department.
  • The house I want to buy has a suite, how do I know whether it is legal?

    It is up to the Owner or Owner’s Agent to verify that a suite has been granted Occupancy from the District.  Even if an Owner is being billed for Utilities for two units, it does not necessarily mean that all other zoning and building requirements have been met.  If in doubt, contact the District’s Building Department to request this information.

  • Why do I get a utility bill for my suite?

    The District charges utilities based on a per unit dwelling basis.  If you add an additional unit to your property/dwelling, the fees will reflect the additional unit.

  • I don’t have a tenant in the suite. Do I still have to pay the utility bill?

    If a secondary suite or an ADU is in place, the District of Squamish does bill for the added utility cost associated with the additional dwelling unit. If you are not planning on using the suite for its intended purpose, decommissioning the suite is an option.

  • Can I stratify the secondary suite/ADU/Flex Unit?

    Secondary Suites, ADUs, and Flex Units must form a single real estate entity with the principal dwelling. No strata titling is permitted at this time.

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