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B.C. reveals more details of pilot program to incentivize secondary suites

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The B.C. government has revealed more details of a plan to incentivize homeowners to build secondary suites on their properties as the province continues to grapple with the housing crisis.

At a news conference Monday, Premier David Eby was joined by other officials to provide an update on the NDP's housing plan – including a pilot program that will provide 3,000 homeowners with forgivable loans of up to $40,000 to help cover the costs of creating rental suites.

The initiative was announced as part of the 2023 budget and is set to launch in April of 2024.

"The Secondary Suite Incentive Program will help create much-needed rental homes and give renters a wider range of affordable rentals to choose from," MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert said in a news release.

"We've heard from homeowners who want to make more rental homes available for fellow British Columbians, but they don't know where to start. This program is the next step."

A backgrounder provided by the province and an updated website shed more light on who will be able to take advantage of this program and what they have to agree to in order to access the funding. It's expected to roll out after legislation is passed in the fall making secondary suites legal everywhere in the province.

Only Canadian citizens or permanent residents will be able to access the program and the home must be the applicant's primary residence. The home itself can't be worth more than $2.125 million and the household can’t have a combined income over $209,420. The owners also have to have enough equity in the home that it can be leveraged as security for the loan.

They will also have to agree to rent the suite at a below-market rate and not to rent it to their immediate family members. In Vancouver, a below-market rate is $1,500 for a bachelor or one-bedroom, $1,894 for a two-bedroom, and $2,200 for a three-bedroom or larger.

Documentation to prove ongoing eligibility will be required for five years and the loan will be forgiven at a rate of 20 per cent per year.

The suite itself has to have a self-contained kitchen and bathroom including a tub and/or shower. All required permits must be obtained and the units must comply with local standards or requirements for secondary suites. Laneway homes are eligible, as are garden suites but upgrades to existing units don’t qualify.

People who already have a secondary suite and want to add a third won’t be ruled out as long as they meet all the other criteria.

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