February 28, 2015 5:30 pm
Updated: February 28, 2015 11:12 pm

City council starts discussion with Calgarians about secondary suites

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WATCH ABOVE: The first of four information sessions was held Saturday to answer questions on changing the rules in several inner-city wards to make it easier to set up. Carolyn Kury de Castillo has more.

CALGARY – The city is looking for your input on the controversial issue of secondary suites.

The first of four information sessions started Saturday to answer questions on changing the rules in several inner-city wards to make it easier to set up.

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The city’s information sessions will run throughout the week and are about streamlining the application process for secondary suites.

The main purpose of it all is to ease Calgary’s housing crunch.

The city estimates that there are at least 16,000 illegal suites operating in Calgary and possibly more.

With Calgary having the lowest vacancy rates across the country and the second highest rental prices of any city across Canada, the pressure is on for city council.

The city is looking to make changes on where and how secondary suites are approved in Calgary.

The new streamline approval process is for how homeowners could apply for these rental suites in their home, in locations not previously zoned for suites, including Ward 7, Ward 8, Ward 9 and Ward 11 and mostly inner-city communities.

Many of the people at this secondary suites information session are wondering why it’s taken so long for Calgary homeowners to be allowed create legal suites in their basements.

“I think everybody wants it. People that want to move-in wanted people that are wanting to rent out suites want it. So I guess the only people who don’t want it are some people who think it will wreck the neighborhood. But I don’t think that’s the case. It doesn’t seem to be the case anywhere else in Canada,” JK Bryant, a secondary suites supporter said.

The mayor’s hopes of extending secondary suites hit a wall in December, another stalemate in council.

“I said let wards 7, 8, 9, and 11 be the guinea pigs and I got some negative feedback about that terminology and I said my apologies for not getting pigs I mean we know that every major municipality in Canada has legalized secondary suites and somehow armageddon has not occurred,” Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra of Ward 9 said.

Those in favour of secondary suites say they provide affordable housing and  can help homeowners pay off their mortgages in a legal, controlled manner.

The councillor for ward 9 counters opposition concerns that the suites are harmful to a neighbourhood.

“Anyone can rent every single room of their home to like a fraternity and think of the car impacts on the street. Nothing we can do about it. It’s just when somebody wants to create a dignified separate entrance. It costs money and raises property values by the way, then all of a sudden it becomes this massive barrier and the reality is, demands a better kind of landlord and a better kind of tenant and there is a huge demand for it,” Councillor Carra said.

Investors looking to build homes with secondary suites say the proposed changes indicate the city is trying to simplify the process from previous years.

“It made it painful to be honest. They actually were awarded people that were dishonest about the developments they wanted and now it looks like they’re actually trying to be honest and they want to help us,” secondary suites supporter Edward Ashby said.

One session took place at The Alexandra Centre Saturday, from 12 p.m until 4 p.m.

Another one runs on Sunday at the Killarney Community Hall from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m.

There will also be sessions on Monday at the military museums and on Wednesday at Fort Calgary.

The issue will be heard at city council on May 11th.

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