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Some facts about the Guidebook for Great Communities

Thank you for your help in building the Guidebook for Great Communities (Guidebook). We’ve been listening to your  comments about the previous draft, through our outreach and engagement efforts over the past year. The Guidebook also considers more than five years of information collected from engaging with citizens through hundreds of planning projects.

Your participation doesn’t stop here, though. When your community goes through a local area planning process, you’ll be testing and working with the Guidebook and city planners. A monitoring and sustainment plan is part of implementing the Guidebook, in case improvements to the policies are appropriate.

We’re confident the Guidebook that we’re presenting to Council will address a lot of your comments. It will ensure our communities in Calgary will grow in ways that keep Calgary as one of the most desirable places to live, locally and globally.

Over the past year, we’ve heard from citizens who have assumptions (some of them false), and discussed misunderstandings about the Guidebook. Here are some facts, based on those questions, false assumptions, and misunderstandings to help set the record straight. 

Redeveloping residential housing in our communities

Planning residential density in the right places

We’ve heard terms like “free-range” development, and density being described as, replacing single-detached homes with apartment buildings. Both perspectives are false.

We’re focusing future density in areas of Calgary that are closer to Activity Centres, Transit Oriented Development sites, Primary Transit Network (BRT and current and future LRT lines), Main Streets, education and employment hubs, and high mix-use (commercial and residential) areas.

The Guidebook provides the tools for a local area plan process to identify where more density makes sense to take advantage of the infrastructure investments that The City and private development have already made. In turn, it will attract more investment to our communities.

More people living closer to more amenities and services, means more people can access them. It aligns us much better to achieve the goals of the Municipal Development Plan and we’re redeveloping in areas that already have the infrastructure in place.

Read more on pages iii, iv, and in chapter 1.

A new policy guides low-density residential redevelopment

First, let’s define low-density residential (LDR) homes, through familiar examples: single-detached homes, suites, semi-detached (side by side), duplexes (up-down), rowhouses, etc.

When the Guidebook mentions LDR, it only includes residential homes of three storeys or less.

Low-density residential does not include multi-residential buildings such as apartment buildings, condominium buildings, or tall mixed-use buildings that combine residential with commercial/retail.

The new policy guides LDR redevelopment in communities so people have more housing choice and can live closer to more amenities and services, so more people can access them.

We included this new LDR policy to help direct growth primarily to areas of Calgary where we’re already significantly investing in infrastructure, from our older Inner-City neighbourhoods (as defined in the Municipal Development Pan) to our established communities (pre-1970), which are ready for redevelopment.

The goal is greater use of our existing city-building investments and grow Calgary in a sustainable, smart and efficient way. We’re also responding to the changing needs and diverse preferences of Calgarians.

Read more on pages 47 - 49 and 130 - 131. 

Applying the low-density residential policy

The low-density residential (LDR) policy and all other policies within the Guidebook only apply to a community once the Guidebook has been approved by Council, and in communities with a Council-approved local area plan, which has used the Guidebook.

The policy would be used during a land use or development application process, if someone were to apply to redevelop a residential property in a low-density residential area within a community.

Read more on pages 47 – 49 and 130 - 131.


Single-detached homes are staying in your community

The Guidebook keeps single-family detached housing, as does the Municipal Development Plan. The single-family detached home is still and will remain a highly valued housing type. We will continue to see this type of home built in Calgary and many Calgarians choosing to live in this type of home.

As Calgary continues to grow, some areas of single-family detached homes may evolve naturally to provide different housing options, to benefit more people and their preferences and needs. These areas would be identified through a community’s local area planning process, which involves engagement with citizens, the community, and other stakeholders.

Read more in chapter 2. 

Our communities are changing, with or without the Guidebook

Redevelopment is going to happen, with or without the Guidebook. Communities will continue to change, and Calgary will continue to change. The Guidebook modernizes our approach to redevelopment so we can be a strategic part of that change.

Right now, our approach to redeveloping our communities is ad hoc and case-by-case because we are following an out-of-date model for redevelopment.

Together with local area plans, the Guidebook helps to identify where growth and change makes most sense in our communities, and to plan for how that will happen.

It’s also the first step toward a new Land Use Bylaw - a consistent and predictable approach to redevelopment. It also positions us to align our funding and get the best value out of the infrastructure investments that we’ve made through implementing the MDP and will be making in the future.

Zoning and types of development in our communities

Property zoning stays the same

The Guidebook does not, and will not, change the zoning (e.g. R-C1) of any property. After the Guidebook is approved, changes to a property’s zoning would follow the exact same process it does today – through an application for a land use amendment by a property owner.

The process to change zoning is governed by the Province of Alberta’s Municipal Government Act, which outlines how zoning can be changed. Through the local area planning process, citizens, stakeholders and City planners use the Guidebook as a tool used to determine only what type of growth should go where in a community. 

The types of development in our communities stays the same

The conversation about where and what types of development that should occur in a community happens through the local area planning (LAP) process.

Through engaging with citizens and stakeholders, the LAP process will use the Guidebook’s tools and policies to determine where and what type of development should happen in a community. Once approved, the LAP provides direction on where growth and change make the most sense through urban form categories. Any process to change the zoning (as noted in #6 above) must align with the local area plan. If a proposal to change zoning does not align, a policy amendment must also be requested and approved.

The Guidebook (nor a local area plan) does NOT change the zoning of anyone’s property.

Engaging the community through an LAP is an important part of the planning exercise, because it’s the residents and stakeholders who best know the surrounding context, impacts, and opportunities in their communities.

Read more in chapters 2 and 3.

Using the Guidebook through local area plans

The Guidebook is the foundation on which we can begin planning for growth in our communities across the city.

It’s during the local area planning process when you work with city planners to apply the Guidebook in the context of your communities. It’s during this process when you ensure future growth aligns with the future vision and success of your community:

  • Creates stronger linkages between communities and to key amenities and infrastructure.
  • Allows for better identification of common issues, opportunities and solutions.
  • Enables a more holistic discussion about where and how new growth should happen across a larger geographic area.
  • Includes a broader citizen and stakeholder perspective in each plan.
  • Allows for more effective engagement and plan development, which is essential toward replacing obsolete and ineffective plans with modern planning tools.
  • Results in fewer plans across the city, enabling plans to be updated more frequently and consistently to ensure they continue to address current conditions.

Read more in chapters 2 and 3. You can also read more about the lap process at

Investing in our communities, and protecting their assets and the environment

Attracting infrastructure investment to our communities

The City is reviewing funding tools and investment strategies that will support evolution and improvements our communities. The goal is creating a long-term, sustainable funding framework.

The Guidebook gives us many tools for attracting new or expanded community amenities and infrastructure in the inner city and established communities. Examples of these tools include allocation of property taxes, heritage density transfer bonus, development levies, developer contributions, property taxes, utility rates and community funds.

When communities work with us during their local area planning process, we can identify appropriate funding tools that can encourage both public and private investment into their communities.

Read more on pages 111 - 112.

Protecting more green spaces

Not only does the Guidebook provide the tools to identify opportunities to create new green spaces through local area plans, one of its six Principles is called “The Natural Environment”. It reads: Natural areas are protected, restored and valued, and are accessible to everyone.

The Guidebook ensures all communities in Calgary will have the opportunity for green space in which citizens can play, gather and experience. These green spaces can be built or natural.

Parks and natural areas are essential to welcoming, thriving and desirable communities. These are the places that promote Health and Wellness, and Social Interaction- two other Guidebook principals.

Read more on pages 65 - 72.

Protecting heritage assets in our communities

The Guidebook includes policy that exclusively focuses on protecting heritage resources. Heritage resources are defining characteristics of several communities that should be retained or protected, while balancing the ability to redevelop.

New development within the context of Heritage Resources should consider opportunities to balance both new and historic forms of development.

We also recognize there are Heritage Resources other than buildings that include archaeological and culturally significant areas.

Read more on pages 100 and 113.

Growing environmentally responsible communities

Redevelopment needs to consider the future success of our communities from an environmental responsibility perspective too. The Guidebook includes direction to incorporate climate change policy in alignment with Calgary’s Climate Resilience Strategy. There are also policies that direct Sustainable Development.

Read more on pages 25 and 101.

This information has no legal status and cannot be used as an official interpretation of the various bylaws, codes and regulations currently in effect. The City of Calgary accepts no responsibility to persons relying solely on this information. Web pages are updated periodically. ​