Creating Safe Secondary Suites
There has been a lot of discussion on Council and in the public about approving secondary suites in all residential areas of Calgary, and this discussion has created confusion that doing this will make current illegal suites legal. However, approving a land-use change does not make the proposed suite legal or safe; it also needs to comply with the Alberta Building Code.
Instead of pushing for a blanket, city-wide land-use approval, at November 17th Council Meeting, I will be introducing a Notice of Motion to help find solutions to address existing unsafe secondary suites.
There are over 120,000 properties in Calgary that are already approved for a secondary suite land-use, however we have only approximately 443 legal suites in the entire city. The fact that there are so few legal suites is not due to the lack of available zoning, but lack of understanding that suites are only made legal when they have the appropriate land-use, development permit and that they comply with Alberta Building Code.
Pushing for a secondary suite land-use in all areas of the city is not creating more safe units, but providing a misconception that allows for illegal ones to remain – not making existing suites safe. Unfortunately, the City does not know how many illegal suites exist, nor does Edmonton or other municipalities who have blanket approval policies.
Currently the lack of awareness of unsafe suites places the responsibility on renters to trust landlords that a suite is legal since there is no public information available.
My Notice of Motion asks Administration to investigate the idea of giving current secondary suite owners an amnesty period to make an appointment with City inspectors to see if their property is legal.
I’m proposing that if the suite is deemed legal, the property will be registered as having a legal secondary suite. If it is deemed illegal, the City will work with the owner to make their suite legal.
After this amnesty period, property owners who are caught with an illegal suite would be fined immediately. This would help to change the existing culture of waiting until the property is reported before going through the proper procedures to make the suite legal and safe.
The second part of the Notice of Motion asks Administration to publish where safe suites are on the City’s website (Calgary.ca)
This would give renters the ability to know if the unit they are renting is not only safe, but they also wouldn’t have to worry about having to move out if the unit was reported. Furthermore, it rewards the law-abiding citizens that have the proper approvals to promote their suite as legal.
The public database would also inform emergency services such as fire and police that there are two separate living units on site which increases safety for both residents and first responders.
I support creating more safe secondary suites by addressing the overwhelming number of unsafe illegal suites that currently exist before considering a more broad-based approach to re-zoning.
Link to my Notice of Motion Re: Secondary Suite Implementation Initiative
Link to Alberta Muncipal Affairs -- Safety standards for secondary suites
This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.