VICTORIA -- A long-awaited study on secondary suites has been presented to Oak Bay council, moving the issue of affordable housing in that municipality one step forward.

The lengthy report prepared for council by consulting firm Urban Systems lays out several scenarios for consideration, from dealing with regulations and zoning to registration and enforcement.

It is estimated that there are between 500 and 750 unregulated secondary suites in Oak Bay which, currently, are not allowed under zoning bylaws.

With a short supply of rental units and affordable housing in the community, the report is part of council’s strategy to address how it could legalize, permit, and/or promote secondary suites in the municipality.

“They can provide lower cost accommodation, they can provide some mortgage helpers for people who have suites in their homes,” Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch told CTV News Monday.

“I think we’ve moved past the good (versus) evil discussion on suites; it’s really, how are we going to be able to implement suites as a housing option in a way that works for Oak Bay?” he said.

The next steps for the municipality over the coming months will be public engagement and consultation on the various recommendations. No votes are scheduled in the near future. Instead, the current plan is to gather feedback from residents on what direction council should take.

A draft final strategy of suggested regulations and potential bylaw changes will be presented to council for consideration by this spring.

From there, council will direct staff to either move forward on preparing amendments to regulate secondary suites, or hold on any further action until the housing framework has progressed further, particularly with respect to neighbourhood housing options.

Ultimately, the regulation of secondary suites will require council adoption of the necessary bylaws and policy documents, and council will determine the most appropriate path forward.

The Oak Bay secondary suite study can be read in full here. A draft report prepared by Oak Bay staff on the matter can be found here