If you have been following me at City Hall, you know that I
have been working hard to increase the supply of affordable housing across
Calgary. Our city is experiencing
unprecedented growth. Last year 15,000
babies were born and 25,000 people moved here, making Calgary the fastest
growing city in Canada. I don’t expect the current economic situation to
significantly reduce the long-term demand for more affordable housing options
All these people need somewhere to live, and secondary
suites are, in my view, one of the best tools that we have to accommodate our
city’s growth. Secondary suites aren’t
going to house everyone, but they are a simple and market-based solution that
makes living in Calgary safer and more affordable. Each unit of affordable housing costs the
City three hundred thousand dollars while secondary suites are paid for by the
homeowner. Our current process around secondary suites isn’t working for people
who want to build suites, or for neighbours who want more predictability in how
suites are approved or denied. We can, and must, do better.
Council has debated the topic many times over the last decade
and the result has consistently been the same – dozens and dozens of reports,
each one calling for suites to be permitted across more of the city. Despite clear evidence that reform is needed,
Council has continued to vote against any meaningful changes to its secondary
suites process. Change in our city can
be uncomfortable for some, and I respect that. I will work to make sure the
improved process works.
After a lot of hard work I am happy to announce that this
spring a bylaw will come before Council that, if passed after thorough public
consultation, will allow secondary suites to be permitted throughout four Calgary
wards, including Ward 8. This would be
the biggest step forward on secondary suites in many years.
The City of Calgary is hosting
a number of information sessions to answer any questions you have about
what those changes would mean, and what the requirements will be to build a secondary suite
if the bylaw passes. Below are the details:
sessions will have answers to common questions about secondary suites, specifically
in regards to:
The requirements to build a suite
These info sessions will be a great chance to address the
opportunities and perceived challenges. I’ve
addressed some common questions below.
Seniors and individuals
on fixed income – We have seen an increasing number of applicants coming before
Council for rezoning who are on a fixed income and see a secondary suite as a
way for them to be able to stay in their neighbourhood. Similarly, we’ve also seen more applications from
families building a suite for their aging parents to live in.
Young families and
first time buyers – The average cost of a home in Calgary is $450,000 and
climbing. It is even higher in our
established Ward 8 neighbourhoods. Young
buyers cite cost as the top barrier to purchasing a new home. A secondary suite provides a stable source of
income to help first time buyers afford a mortgage, and contribute to the
vibrancy of our communities.
New Calgarians and
students – Calgary has the lowest vacancy rates and highest rental prices
in the country. In addition, last year
we saw 25,000 people move to Calgary.
Suites can provide housing options around post-secondary institutions
and in popular established neighbourhoods to ensure those new Calgarians can
find somewhere to live. When suites
aren’t permitted in an area, they are currently being built illegally. Illegal suites don’t follow health or safety
regulations. Permitting suites will make
it safer for people who are already moving into our neighbourhoods.
A more predictable
process – Currently different zoning bylaws mean the process for approving
secondary suites is different between neighbourhoods. With consistent zoning the process will be
more predictable and straight forward for applicants and their neighbours.
Parking – In
Calgary there is no limit to the number of cars that can park at any house, be
it rental or owner-occupied. Rental
units typically have a lower occupancy rate than an owner-occupied detached
house. However, to ensure parking isn’t
an issue, the bylaws will require secondary suites to provide off-street
parking. This is a concern that, with
all other types of land use, is dealt with at the development permit stage.
neighbourhoods – Zoning defines the housing form, not the tenants
within. Residents with R-1 zoning will
keep their R-1 zoning. Secondary suites will be approved on a case-by-case
basis just as they are now, except that City Administration will review
applications instead of City Council.
maintenance issues – The City is currently reviewing the Community Service
Bylaw, which deals with enforcement of poorly maintained properties. These enforcement bylaws are a more
appropriate avenue than zoning to deal with the challenges that a fractional
proportion of renters, landlords and homeowners create, rather than permitted
neighbourhoods – Based on uptake in areas that currently allow for suites,
uptake will be roughly one suite every two blocks. Allowing accessory units increase the value
of a home while maintaining the character of the neighbourhood.
See you there!
The info sessions will give more in-depth answers to these
questions, and any others you have. You
can attend any of the four info sessions, which are spread through the four wards
that the bylaws will affect. I will be
at the session in Ward 8, at Killarney
Community Hall on March 1, from 3-6pm, and I look forward to chatting with
you about secondary suites.
Later this week I will be posting some additional
information specific to the new bylaw for the four wards. If you have further
questions about affordable housing and secondary suites in Calgary, please do
not hesitate to contact
Hope to see you March 1.
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.