A new housing option is now permitted in Regina after city council voted in favour of backyard suites being built anywhere in the city.

The suites are defined by the city as a dwelling unit separate from the primary dwelling on a residential lot.

Previously, backyard suites were only permitted in three areas of Regina as part of a pilot project that started in 2013.

The pilot project suites are located in the Greens on Gardiner, Harbour Landing and six infill sites in existing neighbourhoods.

“The backyard suites pilot project was very successful,” Regina Mayor Sandra Masters said following the council decision. “[We’re] hoping that we can continue to grow the population within existing infrastructure here in the city.”

City council also voted to expand a five-year, 25 per cent tax exemption for properties building backyard suites in the city’s core.

Masters said backyard suites offer a fresh solution for the current cost of housing, or for those wanting to live on the same property as a family member.

“They create essentially smaller homes which by virtue of being smaller are more affordable,” Masters said. “[They] provide access into existing neighbourhoods, developed neighbourhoods near schools and near other amenities.”

The city said backyard suites are becoming increasingly popular around Canada.

The Saskatchewan Realtors Association (SRA) said the industry needs more housing experiments like this to keep up with market demand.

“We are really looking for policy solutions like this to increase the number of homes we have in our cities and our province,” Samantha Krahn with the SRA said.

“One of the benefits of laneway homes is it reduces the footprint overall in terms of building. It generally will involve less building supplies, easy to connect, it helps with that urban sprawl that people are concerned about and anything you can do to get people in homes faster and with more homes, we’re all for it.”

The Saskatchewan Landlord Association (SLA) said it’s not aware of any other municipalities that permit backyard suites in the province, but hopes other cities follow Regina’s lead with the new housing option.

“There are a lot of pros to laneway suites in municipalities,” Cameron Choquette, the CEO of the SLA, said.

“It increases densification, it allows property owners to earn income, it helps the sandwich generation if they would like their parents to live and age in place. It also allows parents to maybe house their university students.”

Choquette said there are similarities between basement and backyard suites, but said backyard suites have the benefit of being brighter and livelier because they are above ground.

“Backyard suites are just another really good option to do a lot of the same things while increasing the amount of housing available for the people of Saskatchewan,” he said.