By PAM DOUGLAS
Special to Focus
The first two public meetings are over, and there are three more to come in the city’s bid gauge public opinion on how to regulate new and existing basement apartments.
Approximately 50 residents attended the first meeting, held at Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School Monday night.
There was another meeting, this time in Bramalea, Wednesday night, and the next is scheduled for Wednesday at Louise Arbour Secondary School on Father Tobin Road. The meetings are held 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Following a presentation by city staff, residents are split up into smaller working groups with a city staff facilitator.
They are asked to give their views on a variety of questions, including how they feel about the city’s proposal to require additional on-site parking for new basement apartments and limiting the size and/or number of bedrooms within a second unit.
There were varying opinions at Monday night’s meeting. Many at the meeting either had second units in their homes already, or intended to create one.
The city is considering a one-year amnesty period for the owners of the estimated 30,000 illegal units in the city to register and become legal once regulations are in place. Some at the meeting felt one year was too long and suggested six months, others suggested it was not long enough and should be doubled.
Registration fees could range anywhere from $100 to $2,000 annually, city staff told one group, but general consensus was that the fee should be “reasonable”.
Someone raised the concern that tenants in existing units may have to be evicted to make way for renovations to bring the unit up to code.
Residents also told staff that the registration process, where no safety concerns exist, should be simple.
One group said there should not be a property tax increase, and city staff said that’s out of the city’s hands because property taxes are based on a home’s assessed value. Homes are not assessed by the city, but by MPAC, and homes with second units are not usually assessed at a higher value, so property taxes would not increase.
One group told city staff Brampton isn’t moving quickly enough to get regulations in place.
“They’re eager to see this as soon as possible,” said area City Councillor Vicky Dhillon. “They’re also worried about how much it’s going to cost to register and how much to fully comply with the building code and fire code.”
Resident Paramjeet Singh has a legal unit with a side entrance, but he knows many who have entrances leading from their garages, which would not be allowed under current codes for safety reasons. He said creating a new entrance at the side or back of a home costs thousands of dollars, so he feels existing units should be grandfathered. Many homes were built years ago with entrances leading into the garage, and they are allowed to remain, so basement apartment owners should not be punished, he said.
“A lot of people make it (the entrance to a second unit) through the garage,” he said. “Probably 90 per cent.”
Area Regional Councillor John Sprovieri said he received emails from two constituents who did not want to attend the meeting, but wanted their views put forward.
“The biggest concern is that traditional, low-density family neighbourhoods are going to become more dense and it’s going to be crowded, causing crowding in schools, parks and parking problems,” he said. “They want the city to pro-actively enforce driveway widths rather than waiting for complaints.”
Sprovieri said the province’s bill legalizing basement apartments will make some neighbourhoods medium-density, but he’s not so sure it’s a “bad thing”.
“We have people coming to this country every year and they need a place to live and the system isn’t providing enough residences for these people,” he said. “People have to find a place to live and there’s not enough affordable housing for new immigrants.”
He said it isn’t a new phenomenon. In 1956, when his family came to Canada, they were three families living in one house.
“You have to be practical,” he said. “Either the taxpayer provides affordable housing, which we can’t do it, so they leave it up to the people to find their own way.”
Regional Councillor Sandra Hames was also at the meeting.
The city is asking attendees to pre-register. To register, email email@example.com or call 905-874-3844.
The upcoming meetings are as follows:
• June 13 at Louise Arbour Secondary School, 365 Father Tobin Rd.;
• June 14 at Mount Pleasant Community Centre, 100 Commuter Dr.;
• June 25 at Chris Gibson Recreation Centre, 125 McLaughlin Rd..
Registration starts at 6:30 p.m. and anyone unable to attend can send written comments to Claudia LaRota, land use policy planner, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 2 Wellington St. W., Brampton, Ontario, L6Y 4R2.
Once the required changes to the city’s Official Plan and zoning bylaw are ready for approval, a statutory public meeting will also be held, which will likely be at the end of this year or early next year.
The city’s emphasis will be on health and safety in tackling the issue of how to register and regulate secondary units in homes. The city’s ban on secondary units has been trumped by the province’s Strong Communities Through Affordable Housing Act, which requires all municipalities to implement policies that would permit second units in detached,semi-detached and townhouse dwellings.
By PAM DOUGLAS