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Mayor Naheed Nenshi has recently spoken out in favour of the legalization of secondary suites across all residential neighbourhoods in Calgary. The Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) reacted immediately. CREB requests this change from the Calgary city council with the conditions that the properties remain occupied by the owner and safety and parking concerns are met. Sano Sante, CREB’s president, explained: “Housing affordability and choice will be big contributors to Calgarians’ quality of life in the years to come and secondary suites have a role to play in this.”
CREB’s affordable housing task force has been fighting with the strict rules concerning secondary suites since the term of the previous city council. According to CREB, Calgary was unable to cope with the demand for affordable rental units from people looking to relocate to Calgary during the boom.
Currently, secondary suites are only permitted in select land use districts and only as a discretionary use in the R-2 district in both developed and developing areas. As a result of this law, secondary suites are not allowed to be developed on R-1 without a formal land redesignation. However, there are estimated thousands of secondary suites in Calgary that violate the current land use bylaw. The task force hopes to pass the legalization of secondary suites in all of Calgary’s neighbourhoods soon. One incentive for this change is to help more land owners get the secondary suite grant from the City of Calgary. This grant started in April 2009 with the Secondary Suite Grant Program and offers $25,000 or a coverage of up to 70 per cent of the costs to people developing or upgrading a legal secondary suite.
Stante points out that secondary suites can help young families realize their home-ownership goals sooner if they have additional rental income, and can also help seniors to remain longer in their homes by providing accommodation for nursing aids and caretakers. The issue is expected to go to the city council in March, after the city’s administration submits a report on secondary suites.