Secondary Suites – Amendments

Secondary Suites – Amendments

This week Council spent a lengthy period of time deliberating new rules for secondary suite zoning in Wards 7, 8, 9 and 11.  The new rules would allow homeowners to apply for suite development permits in any stand-alone houses in those four wards.  Late on Tuesday evening I introduced a series of amendments to the proposed plan.  The first reading passed 9-6 and administration will come back for the second reading on June 29.


Here are details of the amendments that I introduced:

  • Licencing.  Unruly tenants and landlords that do not maintain properties are among the biggest complaints we receive.  We need to have some form of a business registry or licence for suites.  When the time for renewal comes to pass Administration would be able to look over the file.  If the “business” had significant complaints the renewal may not be granted.  Administration must have a mechanism to use discretion and understand that not all sites are ideal for secondary suites.
  • Public Consultation Handbook. Planning and Development would give a package to applicants that would give them detailed guidance on consulting with neighbours.  Residents must be able to provide feedback on what is happening around them.  This does not necessarily mean an automatic veto, but feedback must be considered.  There are well established areas in the city that cannot be dramatically transformed without buy in from the existing residents.
  • Discretionary vs Permitted. We need to have these sites as discretionary and not permitted to allow for my previous two amendments.  If all sites were permitted the immediate neighbours would have no knowledge of a secondary suite until tenants were moving in.  Permitted essentially means that if you apply, you get.  Even in the inner city Wards there are narrow lots that have no access to parking.  There may even be uni-driveways that take up the entire front yard to allow for parking.  Should secondary suites be permitted on these kinds of properties?  Discretionary is very different:
    • The full application process would be required.  Applicants would need to advertise and notify immediate neighbours.
    • Neighbour feedback. There is a mechanism where feedback from neighbours is considered when Administration renders their final decision on the application.
    • Administration evaluation. Administration would consider all factors related to the application and would make a decision.  If the suite did not satisfy set criteria it may be refused.
    • Ability to appeal. Under discretionary developments would be subject to appeals through the development appeal board.

There are two very distinct areas in Calgary; the densified core and the suburbs.  These are two areas that must be treated different and a one size fits all approach cannot be the way forward.  The proposal that was before Council would apply to these four inner city Wards.  I am not prepared to explore an expansion on this proposal to the rest of Calgary at this time.

I discussed the topic with Global News earlier this week.  You can see my interview at the link below:

This amended compromise has the potential to put the secondary suite debate to bed for the foreseeable future.  We often hear about two competing factions on City Council when it comes to the secondary suites debate.  It is my belief that this compromise is a great step for this discussion and I am hopeful that this can bring us closer to a resolution on the topic.


Some of my previous blogs on the secondary suites debate: