During this 2021 federal election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada released their Housing Plan with the goal to create a “Home For Everyone”. The plan includes a home renovation tax credit for secondary units. Brampton Councillor Jeff Bowman wants municipal bylaw officers to enter people’s homes without a search warrant to conduct inspections.
August 29, 2021 (3 Minute Read)
With files from Kuwarjeet Singh Arora, Contributing Editor at Bramptonist
In the Liberal Housing Plan, if they are re-elected, they will introduce a new Multigenerational Home Renovation Tax Credit for homeowners wishing to add a secondary unit to their home. Homeowners will be able to claim a 15% tax credit up to $50,000 in renovation and construction costs.
The intent of the proposed federal tax credit is to allow an immediate or extended family member to live with the homeowner in a separate unit.
In Brampton, there is a significant trend of converting the traditional single family home into a multigenerational residence. This typically involves renovating the home with the installation of a secondary unit. At a minimum, a secondary unit consists of a separate entrance, kitchen, washroom and bedroom.
The concern in Brampton, is the growing number of illegal secondary units. However, the municipality has yet quantified the problem. The Liberal Housing Plan may contribute to this illegal trend if regulatory controls are not in place.
Last week, the Bramptonist reported that Brampton Councillor Jeff Bowman has been lobbying the province to allow municipal bylaw officers into a home, without a warrant, to inspect secondary units and to check if any units were created illegally. Abby Deshman, a lawyer and the Director of the Criminal Justice Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, responded, “The law is clear: warrantless searches are presumptively unconstitutional”, and, “Doing away with the requirement for a warrant for things like building code inspections is likely unconstitutional and would concentrate too much power in the hands of individual law enforcement agents.”
When Councillor Bowman met with provincial officials, which included the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, his request for warrantless home entry was quickly denied. Municipalities currently have a legal remedy to ensure compliance to local building codes.
Provincial Conservatives and Federal Liberals Are Aligned
The federal Liberals are not alone in promoting secondary units. The provincial Conservatives have been long advocating for secondary units on the government’s webpage promoting their own Housing Supply Action Plan. They write, “Adding a second unit is a great way to provide independent living for a family member or make a little extra money to help pay off the mortgage.”
“It can be located in your house or on your property, above a laneway garage or in a coach house.”
The provincial plan comes with strict requirements, providing references to Ontario’s Building Code. This regulatory framework sets out minimum construction standards for the ability to create a second unit in your house.
How to Manage Illegal Second Units
Both federal and provincial levels of government are promoting secondary units to address housing supply. A secondary unit allows a homeowner to tackle a large mortgage by generating extra revenue. Other homeowners create secondary units to permit family members (parents, children) live independently in an affordable home support model.
Then there are property owners who create secondary units, and then rent both the primary and secondary units (sometimes tertiary) to tenants.
In many new and established neighbourhoods in Brampton, the traditional single family dwelling is still the norm, however, secondary units are becoming increasingly popular. This can create tension amongst neighbours.
The responsibility to manage these secondary units, to ensure compliance with local building codes, has become the obligation of the municipality. Currently, the law permits a municipality to obtain a search warrant, enter the home, and issue orders for non-compliance. In some cases, the municipality can seize the property. Further, the municipality can partner with the local municipal fire department to address safety concerns. Investigators from the fire department have special provisions under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act to address some of the safety issues and issue applicable orders to resolve these issues.
Bowman’s approach to enter without a search warrant has drawn a significant amount of criticism from readers of the Bramptonist. When contacted for this story, Councillor Bowman continued to make no comments, offering no explanation or rationale for his position.