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Portions of secondary suite approval reform approved by Calgary council

The downtown skyline of Calgary, Alberta at sunrise. The Canadian Press Images/Larry MacDougal

Mayor Naheed Nenshi labeled it as a “show,” however Counc. Andre Chabot was able to get two of his four proposals on reforming Calgary’s secondary suite process approved by city council.

Nenshi, who is running for mayor against Chabot, questioned the motive of the reforms at council on Wednesday.

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“This is show, this is just for show,” Nenshi said.

“No council is going to implement these. Why in the world are we going to make administration do a ton of work for a new council to come in and go, ‘You know what? This stuff doesn’t make sense.'”

Council meetings get bogged down at least once a month when a dozen or more applications for secondary suites are on the agenda.

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Chabot says that slowdown is partly caused by single land owners submitting multiple applications for a secondary suite designations because there’s no application fee.

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Application fees were waived several years ago as an incentive to get suites built quickly to provide more affordable housing.

Chabot has previously said only about 20 percent of those applications follow through and build a suite.

“If you consider that each application costs $4,731, 100 applications would be $47,310 worth of a subsidy to an absentee landlord,” Chabot said.

His proposal, which passed, is to only allow one application free-of-charge per year per land owner under the subsidy program.

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Another proposal receiving approval from council is that applications should differentiate whether it’s for a basement suite or a backyard suite.

Chabot also said he’s heard from people in the community who want to see those rules put in place, citing examples where neighbours have applied for a basement suite, but built a different style of suite onto their home.

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A report on how to implement those changes will be back at city council in the first quarter of next year.

Items on Chabot’s notice of motion on secondary suites that failed to get approval included that suites had to be on a registry in order to be allowed to advertise for rent or lease, as well as creating potential zones where secondary suites could be allowed if a petition campaign with neighbours was successful.

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