May 8, 2013 - 6:58amUpdated: May 8, 2013 - 11:02am
Regina City Hall. June 4, 2012. Courtney Mintenko/CJME News
Some Regina homeowners are finding out that their roommates are actually illegal.
A surprising wrinkle in the city's zoning bylaws is coming to light this week. At least one homeowner in the city's south end has received a letter threatening fines and possible jail time if he doesn't move out or kick out his roommates.
Alan Maier is a Regina homeowner with roommates. He was one of a handful of people to get an unexpected letter from the bylaw office.
“I got a registered letter stating that I’ve got until June 3 to alleviate the situation or I will be fined up to $10,000 or a year in jail for having roommates in a home that I own and pay taxes on,” he explained.
Copy of letter to Alan Maier explaining bylaw infraction.
The letter came as a big surprise to Maier who says he couldn’t believe such a bylaw is in place. When he followed up with the bylaw office he was told he had two choices, either his roommates have to leave or he does.
The zoning bylaw passed in 1992 says a "rooming house" is defined as "a building that is the primary residence of the owner and in which rooming units are provided by the owner, for permanent occupancy and compensation, to persons not related by blood, marriage, or adoption to the owner."
The law expressly forbids anyone from running a "rooming house" without first being granted a permit.That means someone who rents out a room to a friend or stranger to help make ends meet without first getting a permit is breaking the law.
Diana Hawryluk, the city's director of planning and sustainability, says there is only one exception to the rule.
"There are only three areas in the city in which rooming houses are allowed to be in and that's the R4 and R4A zoning districts, which can be found throughout the city, and the transitional areas around the core areas of the city," she explained in an interview Tuesday morning. "Anywhere else they're not permitted."
An R4 zoning area would be an older residential zone and R4A refers to residential infill housing zones.
Maier says the bylaw is silly, and it affects more than just him using examples like university students and exchange students.
Mayor Michael Fougere admits the policy is tough to understand but he says the level of increased complaints city council has received recently has been alarming.
"This is confusing to the public, those who see this happening all the time where there's lots of cars on the street and there's garbage on the street and there's lots of people always moving around. It's hurting the aesthetic value of the neighbourhood and they're concerned."
He says the city can't dictate who goes into a building but he feels those concerns can't be ignored.
While considering an extensive strategy to improve Regina's housing situation, city council agreed to set aside the policy on rooming houses. City staff are looking into ways to clarify and improve the bylaw in the hopes of presenting their findings in July.
Edited by CJME’s Adriana Christianson with files from Patrick Book, Kurtis Doering and Lisa Schick