Coquitlam battles 'illegal apartment buildings'

City to restrict single-family homes in southwest section to 5,500 sq. ft.

Coquitlam is looking to put a big bite out of big house building in the southwest corner of the city.

While it reviews what to do in the long run, the city is going to start by immediately limiting new homes in the area to 5,500 square feet.

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Although several council members said 5,500 sq. ft. was large, according to a staff report, the proposed limitation would have actually eliminated 45% of the building permit applications made in the last three years.

The city received 391 applications for the area between 2016 and 2018, with 175 of them exceeding 5,500 sq. ft., according to a staff report; 31 were more than 7,000 sq. ft. and several were in excess of 8,000 sq. ft.

big home graphic
A graphic showing building permits issued for homes in southwest Coquitlam from 2016 to 2018. - City of Coquitlam graphic

“This large-home issue has really blown up, it’s come to the fore,” said Jim McIntyre, Coquitlam’s general manager of planning and development, at Monday’s council meeting. “Eventually, we have to come back with a longer-term fix.”

Coun. Dennis Marsden was one of those surprised to find out how many building permit applications were for homes 5,500 sq. ft. or larger.

“That’s just well beyond where we need to be,” said Marsden. “Let’s call them what they are, and that’s illegal apartment buildings. We need to put a halt to that.”

The 5,500-sq. ft. maximum includes basements but does not include attached garages, which can be up to 400 sq. ft.

According to the report, the aim of limiting house sizes is to encourage smaller, more affordable projects to be built such as duplexes, triplexes or quadruplexes. The cap is also meant to put a stop to the frequent creation of impermissible suites inside the large homes.

Council approved first reading of a bylaw to immediately limit the size of the area’s homes. 

The report noted all completed applications prior to the bylaw being adopted will be exempt from the temporary restriction.

Public consultation reviewing the area’s housing choices program will begin in the spring. The staff report recommended considering reducing the minimum lot dimensions, encouraging attached units, developing multiplex zones and pre-approved plans be part of the the housing choices review.

“This is a chance to do what a lot of residents have been asking for. They’ve been worrying about the character of the neighbourhood with all of the changes,” said Coun. Craig Hodge.

• Coquitlam is looking for input on encouraging a wider range of housing choices. An online survey is available until March 17 at A community information session will be held at Place Maillardville Place (1200 Cartier Ave.) on Wednesday, March 13, 5 to 8 p.m. Pop-up booths will be set up on Family Day at Place des Arts (Sunday, Feb. 17, 2 to 4 p.m.), Family Day at Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex (Monday, Feb. 18, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Safeway Burquitlam (Sunday, March 10, 2 to 6 p.m.

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