Proposed Policy to Permit Second Suites
(Including Basement Apartments)
Second suite is a common name for a basement apartment, an accessory apartment or another form of secondary residential unit in a house that contains no more than one other residential unit.
Houses with second suites are currently not permitted in Markham, except:
- in specific areas where the zoning permits them, or
- where a second suite existed on November 16, 1995 and is recognized as a permitted use under provincial legislation.
At present, Markham's policy requires that where houses containing a second suite are permitted, they must be registered with the City and comply with building and fire safety codes and property standards.
A proposed new policy for second suites includes:
- Zoning: Equitable zoning permission for second suites in single detached and semi-detached houses across Markham, subject to specified zoning and property standards, and compliance with the City’s new by-law to control extended driveways.
- Safety: Improved life safety and landlord accountability by requiring registration of houses with second suites every three (3) years (or upon change of ownership), to maintain compliance with all building and fire safety codes, property standards, etc.
- Education: A public education program providing information on how to register a second suite and comply with building and fire safety codes and property standards.
On April 16, 2008 the City hosted a public meeting to get feedback about the proposed policy for permitting second suites. Residents reviewed the proposed draft bylaw and submitted their comments for inclusion in the staff report to the Development Services Committee on Second Suites Public Input.
A second public meeting was held on May 20, 2008 to consider City initiated amendments to the City's Zoning By-laws to permit second suites (eg. basement apartments) in single detached and semi-detached houses, subject to requirements.
After obtaining public input, Council requested that staff report back with a recommendation to the Development Services Committee (March 3, 2009) on the proposed policy and draft by-law. Staff presented a report outlining actions required to implement a new strategy for Second Suites.
The Committee suggested that prior to holding the Public Information Meeting further discussion is needed related to issues such as zoning by-law enforcement, parking, private entrances and property standards .
On April 28, 2009, the Development Services Committee held a Part A workshop to allow further discussion the proposed new second suites strategy and the action plan required to implement it. Staff presented a presentation summarizing the proposed strategy and action plan.
The Committee discussed some of the benefits associated with legalizing second suites such as:
- Ensuring that the suite meets all required fire (life safety), building and housing standards
- Clear regulations and accountability Increasing the affordable rental stock
- Supplementing income
- Providing a sense of security, particularly for seniors
The Committee stated the following concerns if second suites are permitted:
- Potentially add to property standards issues
- Very difficult to enforce
- Will not solve the affordable housing issue
- Uncertain whether permitting the use will lead to people following the procedures
There was considerable discussion regarding whether to proceed with a Public Information Meeting or to refer the matter to a future Council meeting. The Committee received the staff presentation and requested that Markham’s Proposed Policy for Second Suites be referred to the May 12, 2009 Council meeting.
At the May 12, 2009 meeting, Council requested that no further action be taken by staff with respect to Second Suites and that staff continue with the current enforcement strategy with respect to illegal second suites; and that staff take additional steps to educate Markham residents on the City’s current regulations regarding second suites.
Current inspection and registration procedures for existing grandfathered or permitted second suites can be found in A Guide to the Inspection and Registration of Two-Unit Houses Markham [PDF] or by contacting Markham Fire Services.
- Council Resolution - Council Meeting, May 12, 2009
- Staff Presentation "Proposed Policy for Second Suites"
- Development Services Committee Meeting, April 28, 2009
- Staff Report "Action Plan to Implement a new Strategy for Second Suites"
- Development Services Committee Meeting, March 3, 2009
- Proposed Draft Bylaw - Second Suites
- Second Suites FAQs updated with information collected from public input June 2008
- Public Meeting Presentation May 20, 2008
- Staff Report 'Public Input on Proposed New Strategy for Second Suites'
- Development Services Public Meeting, May 20, 2008
- Open House Presentation April 16, 2008
- Council Resolution - Council Meeting, Mar. 4, 2008
- Staff Report 'Subcommittee on Second Suites'
- Development Services Committee, February 5, 2008