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Port Coquitlam to stop construction of massive homes with illegal suites in floodplain

No more 'bonus rooms' to be converted to living space in new home construction as Port Coquitlam moves to restrict what can be built on the floodplain.

Owners of massive homes being built on Port Coquitlam's floodplain won't be allowed to turn lower-floor space into bedrooms and rental suites under proposed zoning changes.

And one home currently for sale for nearly $3 million in the city's northeast is one example of a building that wouldn't be allowed to have a large living space on its lower floor if it was built after the proposed zoning amendments are approved.

The home, located at 3809 Inverness St., is listed as having nine bedrooms and eight bathrooms.

At the Tuesday, April 5 council meeting, a photo of the Inverness Street home was shown as an example of homes being built with large windows — and the potential for rooms — in space slightly below grade where water could seep in during a flood.

If the new amendment passes, rooms constructed below the flood-construction level — about seven to eight feet above a site's natural grade — would have to be small — no more kitchens, media rooms or bedrooms.

The space couldn't be rented out because the rooms would be mostly for storage or a garage.

Areas of the floodplain affected are mostly east of Coast Meridian Road, south of the Coquitlam border and west of Shaughnessy Street near Colony Farm Regional Park.

The changes would affect approximately 2,200 properties or about 18 per cent of those zoned for single-residential or duplex development in PoCo.


Here's what council is considering:

  • Rooms limited to a entry foyer (107 sq. ft.), a utility or laundry room (75 sq. ft.) and a small crawl space with a floor to ceiling height of just five feet; the crawl space can't have windows or doors
  • An attached garage would be permitted to a maximum of 495 sq. ft. and the space exempt from the floor area ratio calculation of the home

Current regulations already limit the types of rooms that can be built in the flood-construction level, but because there were no restrictions on size, homeowners converted the open space into living space and rented them out as mortgage helpers.

"Staff's experience is these habitable spaces are easily converted because they are built with full height ceilings, bathrooms, windows and doors. Residents and tenants occupying these spaces are then put at risk," city planner Bryan Sherrell told council.

Similar amendments to limit the size of rooms below the construction level were advanced three years ago, but the plan was withdrawn for further study after some pushback.

However, the changes are being brought forward now as Port Coquitlam responds to concerns raised after localized flooding during last November's heavy rainstorms, and the effects of climate change that could increase the potential of flooding.

Mayor Brad West stressed that council should keep an open mind as it hears from the public during a future hearing on the proposed bylaw, including whether the laundry room space is too small for average-sized washer and dryers.


But he agreed that people living in the floodplain need to be protected.

"I do think we have a responsibility and an obligation as a city to be ensuring that people, you know, quite often out of desperation, seeking whatever type of housing they can, don't end up in a place where they and their family are at risk," said West.

Coun. Glenn Pollock also raised the issue of enforcement of illegal suites in homes within the floodplain.

He was told that it's not part of this proposal, which is for new construction, however, residents will sometimes call the city if a house within the floodplain is advertised for sale with rental suites.

Council also discussed the possibility of cracking down on these suites using a Section 57 of the Community Charter, which local governments can use as a tool to administer and enforce the BC Building Code and local building bylaws.

The property listing for 3809 Inverness St. does not mention suites that can be rented in the main house, only in a coach house on the property.