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Calgary city committee looking at allowing residents to stay in secondary suites during safety certification

City council debating a proposal to streamline the process for applying for secondary suites, in this photo from Dec. 15, 2014. Global News

The City of Calgary’s planning and urban development committee has cleared up an unintended consequence of people getting eviction notices while their secondary suites are brought up to meet the Alberta Building Code.

“One of the major talking points surrounding the secondary suites debate is that we’ve got thousands of Calgarians who are living in illegal suites,” said Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra. “If we want to address whether they’re living safely or not, right now the only thing we can do is to kick them onto the street.”

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Of the 27,000 semi-detached dwellings in the city, it is illegal to have a secondary suite in those built after 1970.

As the city moves to allow the suites if owners make application and ensure they meet safety codes, residents have been caught in a trap.

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Currently, the law says people can’t live in the suites while work is done to meet code and have to be given eviction notices.

“Basically, what you have is a basement suite that conforms to all of the safety requirements, but, nonetheless, we’re going to displace three low-income, aging tenants,” said Barbara Renault, property manager for a southeast fourplex.

Renault said the owner of the property is doing the right thing in making sure it meets safety codes, but, under current laws, has to evict residents.

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The planning and urban development committee is recommending rules be changed to allow people to stay in their homes if it’s safe to do so while the process to legalize the suites take place.

“I think, certainly, common sense would dictate that, if an inspector can certify to the city standards that the safety requirements have been met, there should be some kind of way to put a hold on having to displace people,” Renault told a city committee Wednesday.

The committee heard please from elderly residents who have lived in a property for more than a decade and were being force out because of the law in place.

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