Photo: Amy Reid                                East Clayton resident Darrin Dighton says he is in a panic about finding a new home if he is evicted from his suite.

Photo: Amy Reid East Clayton resident Darrin Dighton says he is in a panic about finding a new home if he is evicted from his suite.

Clayton suite crackdown leaves dad ‘dejected’

PART 2 IN SERIES: Renter Darrin Dighton urges Surrey council to ‘have a change of heart’

Surrey’s Darrin Dighton knows exactly what would happen if he was a casualty of the city’s crackdown on illegal suites.

“I’d be on the street.”

Dighton has lived in a Clayton basement suite for three years. He squeaks by, paying $750 a month.

“If I go to even $800 a month, I’m literally eating peanut butter and jelly,” he told the Now-Leader. “I’m trying to look for something around $750. Right now, I’m in a place that’s roughly 800 square feet, and everything in my price range is 350 to 500 square feet.”

He said equivalent basement suites are now going for $1,100 or more, compared to $750 when he moved in three years ago.

“I couldn’t pay that. There’s no way,” he said.

Read part one in this series: Single mom ‘living in fear’ as Surrey cracks down on illegal suites

Dighton shares custody of his six-year-old daughter with her mother in Abbotsford, and has another child who lives in Boston.

“I have one son in Boston, who I basically fly out here, which I can’t do right now because I’m trying to find a new place to live.”

He said he pays $2,100 a month in child support and despite having a decent job, he barely makes ends meet.

Finding a roommate is his last option, which he said is less than ideal with his daughter around.

“Kids adapt,” he said. “But as a parent, I just don’t want to bring a roommate into my daughter’s life. That’s not a normal situation for a kid to have to go through.”

While it’s only legal in Surrey to have one secondary suite, many of the houses in Clayton were built with a basement suite as well as a coach home. The city allows homeowners to rent one or the other out, but many rent both.

In August, the city sent letters to 175 homeowners that they must remove their illegal suites by Jan. 31, 2018. And, the city has said it continues to look for more.

See also: Surrey cracks down on illegal suites in Clayton

“I read about this on the Clayton Facebook site,” Dighton said. “My landlord was on vacation…. When she came home I took her aside and said, ‘Can you go check your mail? I need to know if you’re affected by it.”

She was, leaving him in a panic.

“I felt dejected, worried of where I’d go after looking at the rental market. There’s nowhere for me to get the money for that,” he said about the rental increase he’s facing.

“I don’t make bad money, but it’s definitely rough.”

Dighton is one of many tenants in Clayton facing an uncertain future as the details and timing of the city’s suite crackdown are worked out.

Surrey council has expressed it doesn’t wish to displace people, and is considering extending the Jan. 31st deadline.

But that doesn’t change Dighton’s situation.

“Even if the city extended the deadline, I’d still be in the same issue until affordable housing is available,” he said.

Dighton says the city should look at other options like permit parking, instead of reducing housing availability in a market that’s so overpriced, and in such short supply.

“I’m hoping they’re going to have a change of heart.”


Another solution?

The city says the crackdown on the area’s illegal suites is an attempt to resolve the parking problem there, but some are calling for other solutions.

On Monday night, residents wearing ‘Clayton For Families’ T-shirts sat through two hours of unrelated matters at the council meeting, awaiting Surrey council to discuss the matter.

Landlord Greg Garner said the group is made up of young owners, all the way up to seniors, and actually has about 150 members, although he estimated 60 turned out to the meeting.

While he appreciates hearing council say it doesn’t want to make people homeless, Garner said, “in an effort to fix the parking problem, they’ve created another major problem.”

He calls for permit parking or street queuing or marking parking stalls, instead of evicting residents. But the city insists it has either tried, or considered, everything option.

“The city is saying Clayton residents want these tenants in ‘illegal’ suites evicted. Who are they talking to? We have almost 2,200 people in our petition,” said Garner, noting it also calls for a different solution.

See also: Crackdown on illegal suites in Clayton immoral, says Surrey landlord

“There’s also a petition out there for people who support this move, they have 58 signatures. The large majority of people don’t support this initiative,” he added. “Since Friday we’ve probably increased our petition by about 500 signatures. That’s from walking around the neighbourhood and educating people and handing out flyers.”

The city’s report noted that the petition against the crackdown has been signed by some people who don’t live in Surrey.

“One woman signed from California,” acknowledged Garner. “She says, ‘I’m a Canadian citizen, I think this is wrong.’… This is how large the issue is, it’s getting international attention.”

Garner said this issue affects all renters in Surrey, and perhaps even those across B.C.

“If you put another 785 out onto the street, this is going to affect every renter in the Lower Mainland and probably in the province of B.C. Because now, that rental supply, which we know is at a 0.4 vacancy rate (in Surrey), is going to have another 785 people competing for one unit.”

The 785 number Garner references is the Clayton group’s estimate of the total number of Clayton coach homes. The city says there are 708.

“We can assume the large majority of them, if not all, also have basement suites. So now, we’re talking about not 175 but 785 families potentially being misplaced,” he said.

“If you put 785 more people into the rental market into the Lower Mainland, because they’re going to have to move, whether they move to Langley, Abbotsford or Chilliwack, it’s going to drastically increase rents, if they can even get a spot because a lot of the tenants we talk to are paying what they can afford, which is well below today’s value.

“If you’ve been in there for three or four years, you’re paying 2013 rates. We’re talking some people looking at rent being doubled.”

Garner said it blows his mind that the city would create such hardship for tenants based on less than two complaints per day, referring to the city report that stated it had received 298 parking complaints so far this year as of July 20, 2017.

“That’s not even two complaints per day. Two parking complaints a day? I could sit at home and generate two parking complaints per day,” he said.

The city now claims that number is higher.

While a corporate report dated July 20, 2017 states “there have been 298 parking related complaints in the area this year to date,” the city now says they’ve actually received more than 1,400 this year.

Bylaw manager Jas Rehal told the Now-Leader that the 298 quoted in the city document are general parking complaints about the area, asking the city to solve the problem. He said so far this year the city has actually received more than 1,400 parking complaints tied to a specific incident, such as someone blocking a driveway. “The bylaw department has responded to over 7,000 parking complaints over the past number of years,” he added.

That information was absent from the July report, prior to letters being sent to landlords.

The report did note there had been 1,328 tickets issued in 2017 year to date.

Asked why the total number of parking complaints wouldn’t be included in the report, Rehal said “that report was written by both engineering and bylaws and unfortunately not combined.”

“I can see where the public would be confused,” Rehal added. “Ideally, in the report, we should’ve put the whole history.”

Garner vowed the Clayton for Families group, made up of landlords and tenants, is “not going away.”

“The city is misleading the public.

“Even if that’s four or five parking complaints per day,” he said of the higher complaint figure, “that’s all it takes to displace people?

“The city is misleading the public,” he said. “Even if that’s four or five parking complaints per day,” he said of the higher complaint figure, “that’s all it takes to displace people?

“And if they’re going to enforce the bylaw, then they have to enforce that across the City of Surrey. That doesn’t just apply to Clayton.”

How many illegal suites are there in Surrey?”

The group has applied to speak before council Oct. 23rd. See the group’s petition at, and the one supporting the city’s move at

Coming up in Part 3

In Wednesday’s issue, we introduce you to Krista Belegris, a single woman facing eviction who says it’s “cruel and unrealistic” for the city to expect a large amount of people will find new homes.

Like us on Facebook and follow Amy on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Surrey Board of Trade is calling on the provincial government to implement a temporary paid sick-leave program. ( photo by Kelly Sikkema)
Surrey Board of Trade calls for temporary paid sick-leave program

Reccomendations sent to provincial labour minister, news release notes

North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex. (Photo:
North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex earns B.C. facility excellence award

Award is among four presented by BC Recreation and Parks Association

Low tide offered plenty of space for people to relax on White Rock's beach Sunday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)
City of White Rock asking outside visitors to stay away

South Surrey residents encouraged to visit, while others urged to stick close to home

Surrey Central SkyTrain Station. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Suspect accused of ‘abhorrent’ assaults at Surrey SkyTrain stations

Transit Police say assaults were on April 9, 14 and 17

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Ripy Jubbal of Abbotsford has received a 30-month jail sentence for the fraudulent use of credit cards and credit card data. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford woman sentenced for $80K in fraudulent credit card purchases

Ripy Jubbal and spouse used identities of 19 different victims, court hears

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Most Read