Fixing a problem: Changes to the Land Use Bylaw

There are new homes being proposed in older neighbourhoods that add variety and choice to Calgary’s housing market. In general, two or more homes are being combined and configured on a parcel of land to create a new housing form. They can range between a semi-detached home to a small apartment building.

These homes are being developed in Calgary, mainly in our older neighbourhoods, and are sometimes referred to as missing middle housing. Some examples are:

What’s the problem?

For the past few years, many people have looked for ways to build rowhouses, townhouses, fourplexes, etc. on their property. To be able to do so, they have asked Council to approve special rules for their property – this is called a direct control district. Most of these special requests have been approved by Council.

This approach results in slightly different rules for everybody, which is confusing. The approved changes address the concerns expressed by neighbours for better clarity and consistency in these types of homes when they’re built in the community.

Council directed The City to propose changes to the Land Use Bylaw that address the inconsistencies created by Direct Control districts.

City Council’s Direction

The current Land Use Bylaw was written in 2007 and did not anticipate demand for these types of homes. Our land use rules don’t currently have the flexibility to regulate homes of all shapes and sizes. This has required applications to use “Direct Control” zoning, where city staff and the applicant write different rules for every project. This makes the approvals process take longer, cost more, and is inconsistent in balancing the needs of existing residents, future residents and the builder or contractor.

In April 2022, Calgary City Council directed city staff to change the Land Use Bylaw to reduce the use of Direct Control applications through a Motion Arising (item 8.1.4):

That Council direct Administration to minimize the number of Direct Control districts proposed for planning applications where R-CG does not fully serve the needs of the applicant and the community by bringing an amendment to the Land Use Bylaw to create a new land use district that addresses the shortcomings of the R-CG district in creating “the missing middle”, reporting back to Council through the Infrastructure and Planning Committee no later than end of Q3 2022.

The Infrastructure and Planning Committee has approved the recommendations on September 9, 2022. These recommendations will be presented to City Council at a public hearing on October 4. For more information, go to our Planning Matters website. 

How we addressed the Motion Arising

We took a holistic approach to residential zoning to address Council’s Motion for a new district. Through our research the best outcome to meet Council objectives and have regulations that encourage successful redevelopment, multiple amendments to the Land Use Bylaw were needed. If we introduced a new district without amendments to existing ones, we would create future scenarios where The City would see more rezoning applications for the new district. Instead, we can avoid unnecessary zoning changes by amending rules for Residential – Ground-oriented (R-CG) and Multi-Residential districts so they better fulfill their purpose and introduce a new land use district to the Land Use Bylaw.   The diagram below illustrates our approach:

 

Preparing our recommendation

A dedicated team focused on building our recommendation report. Their work included: 

  • Reviewing direct control applications to understand the regulatory barriers for this form of housing
  • Evaluating what contributes to design quality for developments at this scale
  • Reviewing comments and concerns raised at Public Hearings of Council for recent direct control applications
  • Testing ideas through workshops with local builders and designers

You can read our report here (item 8.2.1).

Engagement

Engagement is an important part of the planning process and because of the technical nature of drafting Bylaw changes, our engagement was focused on ensuring the right rules were crafted to make development in this district a success.

Consultation focused on testing the technical changes with experts on the building code, waste & recycling, transportation, as well as local builders and designers.

We are building plans for engagement on several initiatives that help plan and grow our city. More details to come in 2023.

What changes did Council approved?

City Council approved changes to the Land Use Bylaw. The bylaw will include a new zoning district called Housing – Grade-Oriented (H-GO), functional changes to Residential – Grade-Oriented (R-CG) to enable mid-block development and changes to the General Rules for Multi-Residential districts. 

Read more

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. ​

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