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Contextual Dwelling Monitoring Review

For the past few years, City staff have been monitoring the process and effectiveness of Contextual Dwellings (permitted infill homes) in Calgary’s Developed Areas. This monitoring has led to some changes such as the inclusion of semi-detached dwellings and modifications on calculating the height of a building on a corner parcel.
At the June 29, 2015 meeting, Council directed staff to engage community association planning groups and industry groups to get feedback and input on the current system. 

Engagement we’ve done to date

  • At the beginning of April 2016 we initiated contact with a number of community associations and their development/planning committee members to collect their viewpoints on Contextual Dwellings.
  • On June 7, 2016, we engaged more community association planning groups with the assistance of the Federation of Calgary Communities (FCC) via an input session.
  • On September 20, 2016, we held an update session to inform stakeholders on the findings from the most recent monitoring reviews.
  • On February 21 and 22, 2017, additional community member sessions were held.
  • On March 10, 2017, a discussion with Industry was held.
  • On March 28, 2017 City staff were a part of a Federation of Calgary Communities (FCC) hosted event outlining several projects. 

Throughout this process, The City has also been attending community association development/planning committee meetings when requested, and having discussions with industry groups through BILD Calgary.

What we heard and found

There were a number of concerns raised from the latest monitoring review and we found that these concerns were consistent with ones that had been raised during prior reviews. Below are the most common concerns that have kept arising; please note however, that this is not an all-inclusive list:

  • There are concerns surrounding the processing of both Contextual Dwellings (permitted) and discretionary permits.There are some issues that relate to Contextual Dwelling rules that need further analysis. These are related to the “building envelope” which is the imaginary box that can be built within, including the maximum height of the dwelling. There are concerns both that the building envelope is too big and on the other side it is too limiting.
  • There are concerns surrounding the processing of both Contextual Dwellings (permitted) and discretionary permits.
  • There are concerns regarding the building/construction process of the dwelling.
  • When asked for examples of infill homes that were not sensitive and in character with their communities, the majority of the examples given were for Single and Semi-detached Dwellings that are under the discretionary permit process, not under the Contextual Dwellings permitted process.
  • The City has approved and implemented a number of land use bylaw rule changes for Contextual Dwellings in the past, but this has not eliminated some of the reoccurring issues noted above. We recognize that rule changes alone have not been the most effective tool to address some of these concerns.

Where are we now?

Council approved the recommendation to conclude the reporting on Contextual Single and Semi-detached Dwellings. What this means is that there will be no more monitoring programs exclusively for Contextual Dwellings. In the report to Council, staff acknowledged there are still concerns with infill development generally and Council requested that Staff provide a scoping report to look at how these concerns, including those in the “What we heard and found” section along with others, could be addressed.  This scoping report is due by the end of 2017. The Minutes of the April 24, 2017 Council meeting are now available for review.

Staff appreciates and thanks all public members and groups for their input and feedback from this latest monitoring exercise.

Other Important Information

For general information and matters to consider when building a Contextual D​welling​, please refer to our Co​ntextual Dwellings page​. For assistance on interpreting the contextual rules and how they may pertain to a development, please call 403-268-5311.


Tammy Henry
Planner 2, Planning and Development​