Edmonton homeowner taxed for basement suite city says he can’t rent out

Edmonton city council also discussed multi-unit infill on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

For five years, Keith LaRoy has had a perfect nest egg. He owns a duplex in Eastwood, nestled in with several other similar buildings. The basement has an apartment that would be a nice little income suite to offset the mortgage payments, however he can’t rent it out.

Under Edmonton’s current zoning bylaw, that suite — that dates back to sometime in the 1970s — is illegal.

READ MORE: Portions of secondary suite approval reform approved by Calgary council

It’s the exact type of near downtown, near transit, mature neighbourhood property that city council wants to see more infill housing in.

LaRoy said it’s a quick hop to the train at Colliseum Station at Northlands.

“Depending on traffic and lights, probably a six- or seven-minute walk to the LRT station, so very close,” he said.

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“We’re on bus routes, and walking distance to Safeway makes it a very convenient location.”

On Tuesday, city councillors on the Urban Planning Committee were looking at changing the zoning bylaw to allow for garage and basement suites on smaller lots, and in semi-detached, duplexes, and row housing.

READ MORE: Marathon meeting as Calgary city council talks secondary suites 

The concept of these suites were first talked about in 2007 and allowed in 2009 as a way to help young families offset skyrocketing mortgage payments as the housing market took off. Now council wants an update to expand the inventory.

However, there is pushback from Councillor Jon Dziadyk, who is drawing a line because he wants nothing to do with town homes clumped together, because they could overwhelm shared space in a neighbourhood.

“If you’re going to tear down a whole structure, you could build it to conform with secondary suites and all of the sudden you have a row of row-housing that maybe had 15 units straight across, and now you have 30 units,” he explained to reporters.

“Over one construction season, you could be doubling the density.”

There wouldn’t be enough parking space and other amenities near by.

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READ MORE: Developer tells Edmonton council why infill is so expensive 

The market might take care of itself in this instance, said planner Anne Stevenson.

“We don’t see a huge potential for uptake in existing row housing. Just based on the building code requirements, it’s prohibitively expensive and challenging to retrofit existing row housing.”

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Another concern, raised by Councillor Michael Walters, is that the city is rethinking bus routes and that could impact where secondary suites might be located to take advantage of transit.

“I do have some concerns,” the chairman of the committee said.

“To shift transit further away from some of the neighbourhoods where we’re now proposing to include more secondary suites” could be a problem in the distance people have to walk.

“From a density perspective, it’s not going to change the numbers at all, because it happens really gradually.”

The committee asked for more information and will get an update in August when a public hearing is scheduled to change the zoning bylaw.