Calgary city council to decide on secondary suite reform

Calgary City Hall.
Calgary City Hall. Global News

A marathon meeting expected Monday will likely spill into Tuesday as Calgary’s city council deals with the issue of secondary suite reform.

In December, city administration was asked to come up with a system to take secondary suites off of council’s plate. Each month, meetings would get bogged down with 10 to 20 applications– each having to be adjudicated by politicians.

The proposal, if approved, will see people apply for a development permit that will be approved only if all criteria are met.

LISTEN: Calgary city council to discuss proposal to reform secondary suites approval process

READ MORE: Secondary suite applications to be taken out of Calgary council’s hands

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Counc. Jeff Davison said it would be the right move for council to approve the proposal.

“By putting it in the hands of administration, you’re really looking at it in the sense of, “there’s boxes that will get ticked and provided they meet the right criteria, that’s a fair criteria.'”

There will be an opportunity for people to appeal a decision, but it will have to be based on planning reasons. Davison said that makes it better for council, the applicant and those who might be opposed to an application.

“You take out some of the emotional play of a land-use hearing – that we’re currently seeing – as we deal with secondary suites in council.”

Also, there is a recommendation to have a mandatory secondary suite registration that would let the public know whether a suite has obtained all the required permits and passed a safety inspection.

That’s something Counc. George Chahal said is his top priority.

“Safety needs to be the most important item of concern,” he said.   “We have a lot of secondary suites in our city that are not safe; so the safety of those residents need to be a priority.”

On Monday, city council will hear the details of administration’s proposal and there will be an opportunity for public input.

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Nearly 1,000 letters have already been received and are part of the council agenda. There are a range of comments: some said they paid for a single-family home with R-1 land use zoning, while others claimed that secondary suites are already allowed in many areas of Calgary without any controversy.

READ MORE: Calgary city councillors call for changes to secondary suite application process

Chahal said communities change and so should the city’s policy on secondary suites.

“Communities evolve; people evolve. I think, as a property rights issue, that if I own a property I should be able to live on my property the way I want to,” he said.

“If I have an extended family or a multi-generational family and we want to live together – we should be able to do so.”

Some of the remarks in the letters to council were personal: speaking of a “culture of renters.”

Others complained about attracting more homeless people to their communities.

People in favour of opening up the secondary suite process wrote about the increase in affordable housing that would be created.

Members of the public will also get an opportunity to make a five-minute presentation in front of council.


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