Homeowners considering building a separate suite or needing to make essential home repairs can still access city housing grants.

Throughout 2016, funding is available from the city’s Cornerstones II grant program, which includes the Secondary Suites, the HOPE program, and Curb Appeal grant.

The Hope Program provides one time grant assistance up to $20,000 to help eligible homeowners bring their homes to a minimum standard of health and safety.

The Secondary Suite program provides up to $20,000 to help property owners upgrade an existing secondary, garage or garden suite or build a new one.

The Curb Appeal Grant covers 50 per cent of costs, up to $1,000 for improving a home’s exterior.

“We would love for eligible applicants to come forward and take advantage of funding in the program,” said Judy Downey with the city’s housing programs.

While basement suites are fairly common, garage and garden suites are also an option.

James Kirkland, owner of Construct Design & Build, built a new garage and garage suite on his Parkdale property last March. The suite, on the top floor of the garage, is about 480 square feet.

Parkdale Garage Suite_KarenMykietka (7)

“I always wanted to do it. I believe in higher density,” said Kirkland, who applied for the Secondary Suite grant and received the full amount. His garage and garage suite cost over $100,000. He said a secondary suite in his home would have been cheaper, but the garage suite was nicer. Besides, access to his basement is in the middle of his house and secondary suites require a separate entrance.

Kirkland said some people build a garage suite as an investment, but others want to live there when they retire or have it for family. While he built everything new, he said homeowners with existing garages should build suites to the side. “The existing garage can’t usually handle another floor.”

Building the suite was a learning experience.

“There was so much code involved,” he said. “Now I understand it better, but it was complicated. There’s a lot of information you have to know to make it work.”

Garage suites are located above, to the side, or in the back of a detached garage. Entrances are external and separate from the vehicle entrance or are through an indoor landing. They also have a separate kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, which means installing infrastructure for water, sewer, gas, and electricity.

Garage and garden suites need proper permits and appropriate zoning. Development and building permits must be in place before building or applying for funding.

Homeowners must be registered on the property title, live in the main residence, and sign an agreement to rent the suite for five years to tenants within an income threshold. Homeowners who sell the home before that time is over or who don’t abide by the agreement pay back the grant.

Downey said the city is happy to give presentations at community leagues.


Feature Image: James Kirkland built his garage suite last March. Credit: Karen Mykietka