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The District of Fort St. James has voted to eliminate the building permit application fee for property owners who would like to build cottages or garden suites on their properties.

At the June 28 council meeting, approval was given to waive this fee as an incentive for homeowners to legally expand their homes in zoning areas, and in accordance with Zoning By-law 738, 2001.

The move is part of the municipality’s resident attraction and retention initiative aimed at reducing stress on its current rental housing stock.

“The District of Fort St. James is struggling with a lack of housing. Secondary suites and garden suites are an effective way to increase the density of housing units in zoning-compliant properties in the Fort St District,” wrote Brooke Eschuk, Economic Development Officer, in her recommendation to the advice.

Currently, the building permit fee for residential construction is 0.6% / $1,000. For example, if it costs $50,000 to install an accessory suite, the permit fee would be $300.

By encouraging the construction of secondary housing, the local government hopes to increase the availability of rental housing in Fort St. James to accommodate an expected development boom in the area.

The municipality expects more people to move into the area over the next few years due to a new hospital, RCMP detachment and BC Housing Seniors development in the area.

As a result, the municipality will sooner or later have to address the issue of housing for these new construction workers, Eschuk said in his report.

“The influx of workers will greatly contribute to the economy of Fort St. James, but only if they have housing within the community.

Incentives will be offered to owners residing in the R1, R2, R3, RU1, RU2 and RU3 zones to build and register legal secondary dwellings.

They can be secondary suites in a detached house or garden suites on the same property. Owners would be required to follow all rules and processes, including all relevant inspections.