What is a secondary suite?
Secondary Suites are self-contained living spaces located within a single-detached home or backyard. They have a separate entrance and an independent cooking, sleeping, and bath area. Suites can be located within a single-detached home, or in a backyard as a garden or garage suite. All legal and safe secondary suites require a parking space on the property and amenity such as a small green space or balcony for residents to enjoy.
Types of Secondary Suites
1. Basement Suite
A suite located anywhere within the main dwelling, such as basement, main floor or above an attached garage.
2. Backyard Suite
A suite located behind the main dwelling.
A Backyard Suite can also be located above, or connected to a detached garage in the backyard. Additional considerations may apply in this type of suite such as property size, building height, and placement of windows/balconies.
Before developing a secondary suite or bringing an existing suite up to code, you will first need to find out if secondary suites are allowed in your area; if your property is large enough; and if you can renovate to meet the necessary code standards.
Does my Land Use District permit Secondary Suites?
Who can apply for a secondary suite?
In Calgary, Secondary Suites are only allowed in certain Land Use Districts as per the Land Use Bylaw 1P2007. When not allowed, a home owner has the right to apply for a Land Use Redesignation to allow a suite however; it must be approved by City Council during a regular public hearing.
Enter your address below to find out if your home is zoned for a secondary suite.
There may be limits on the type and size of your secondary suite based on the dimensions of your property and the rules of the Land Use Bylaw. If you’re not sure what the Land Use District is for your home, enter your address in the tool above.
Is my property large enough to accomodate a Secondary Suite?
What does the application process look like?
- If your property is not zoned for secondary suites, a Land Use Redesignation will be required. Typically these applications take about three to six months to complete and must be approved by City Council.
A Development Permit is mandatory when creating a secondary suite. These applications typically take one to six months to complete.
- The City is currently waiving this application fee, when applying for a secondary suite.
Once your development is approved, obtain a Building Permit to begin your construction or renovations. The time required to complete your secondary suite depends on your personal plans, but all construction must meet all Safety code requirements for occupancy to be approved.
- The Development Permit fee for all secondary suites is currently being waived.
- You may be eligible for Development Permit exemption if you are considering a basement suite.
What permits do you need?
The requirements for your Secondary Suite will vary depending on where you live and on the nature of your project:
Do I need to consider anything else?
Safety & Building Codes
• All new and existing secondary suites are required to be safe in accordance with the Alberta Safety Codes Act, which includes the Alberta Building Code and the Alberta Fire Code.
• An approved and released Development Permit is required before you may apply for a Building Permit and associated Trade Permits (electrical, plumbing, gas, etc.).
• General suite requirements may include:
o At least one exit direct to outside
o Minimum one bedroom window of a minimum size, and certain style
o Window wells of a certain size
o Minimum ceiling height
o Fire and or smoke separation between dwelling units and heating equipment (basement suite)
o Independent heating (furnace, floor heating, wall mount heating units) and ventilation systems (separate ductwork or Heat-Recovery Ventilator system).
o Hot water supply and certain water receptacles (kitchen sink, toilet, etc)
o Accessible laundry area
• Existing secondary suites built prior to 1970 are known as legal but nonconforming to code. Any upgrades or renovations to these suites would require the owner to apply for a Development Permit, and Building Permit, which must meet current Alberta Building Code requirements.
• Legal suites that existed prior to December 31, 2006 must meet the requirements under the Alberta Fire Code. Any upgrades or renovations to these suites must meet the Alberta Building Code in the future.
• More about secondary Suite Safety
• Government of Alberta - Secondary Suites
• If applicable, public input may occur during your Land Use Redesignation hearing with Council, and/or during your Development Permit application period, following public advertisement in the local newspaper.
• The opinions of your neighbours and community are important to The City, and the public has an opportunity to provide input on your Development Permit application when a Secondary Suite is considered a discretionary use as per your parcels Land Use (See the Secondary Suite Tool above to determine).
The City recommends discussing your secondary suite plans with your neighbours before or during the planning phase. Common issues can be addressed early, and your design might be able to accommodate concerns to help make your application process smoother for everyone.
Permitted vs Discretionary Use
• An important consideration when applying for a Development Permit is determining if your suite is a permitted or discretionary use (See the rules for your land use district, and additional resources below for further assistance). Note: the Secondary Suites Tool above can help you determine your property’s land use district.
o A Permitted Use – if your proposed basement suite is a permitted use and meets all the rules of the Land Use Bylaw, it must be approved by The City. If your proposed suite is a permitted use but does not meet all the rules, it may be refused, or it may be allowed with relaxations.
o Discretionary Use – if your proposed basement suite or backyard suite is a discretionary use, it will be considered on its merits, but it may or may not be approved depending on the particular site and circumstances taken into account by The City.
o Backyard suites are always a discretionary use since they result in a visible change to the property.
o Public input is a factor when The City renders a decision on your Development Permit application, and all discretionary uses are advertised in the local newspaper for public comment.
o The City encourages all discretionary use suite applicants to discuss their plans with their neighbours and community association to gather input, address potential issues and obtain general support.
• Factors considered during an application:
o Size of parcel and size of suite
o Site and neighbourhood context
o Proposed percentage of parcel coverage
o Proposed parking stalls
o Design, style of building and height (backyard suites)
o Proposed outdoor amenity space
o Overlooking, overshadowing and privacy considerations (backyard suites)
• In addition, for Backyard Suites:
o Proposed doors, windows and access points.
o Privacy concerns of neighbours
o Building heights and shadowing
• Please book an appointment with us if you have any questions about your
How much will this cost?
While developing a secondary suite is an investment that can pay for itself in the long run, typical costs might include application fees and hiring professionals to design and build your secondary suite. These costs can vary depending on your plans and requirements, but typical renovation costs could start at $10,000 or more.
Please use the applicable fee schedule and fee calculation forms to work out the cost of the permits for your project.
Following the completion of your secondary suite, additional costs such as property tax, insurance, and maintenance are things to keep in mind when considering a secondary suite for your home.
Do I need to hire a professional?
Secondary Suites can be complex projects and a professional may be needed. Learn more about the many important considerations when hiring a contractor for your project.