The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Council considers streamlining process to let inner-city homeowners build new units

City HallCalgary could see the start of a new chapter in the development of secondary suites if, after a public hearing, city council approves amendments to the issue on Tuesday.

If the amendment is adopted, the city would be divided into two zones. The process for the construction of secondary suites would be streamlined in Wards 7, 8, 9 and 11 — Calgary's inner core. This includes areas such as Kensington, Dalhousie, 17th Avenue, 4th Street, Inglewood, Lincoln Park and Chinook Park.

Under current rules, the city automatically has to assume that any secondary suites may have an adverse impact on a community, and homeowners hoping to develop a secondary suite have to prove the contrary to the city. If the amendments are approved, homeowners in those four wards wouldn't be required to go through this scrutiny.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi was optimistic Monday but not fully content with the motion, saying that council wasn't united to do reform across the entire city and not just in the inner city. However, he welcomed the new initiative as an improvement.

A current analysis of suite applications from 2008 to 2015 January shows that The City has received 617 development permit applications on a citywide basis, and 568 of these have received approvals. More specifically:

• Ward 7 has had 72 applications (64 approvals),

• Ward 8 has had 46 applications (45 approvals),

• Ward 9 has had 75 applications (65 approvals),

• Ward 11 has had 20 applications (17 approvals).

To summarize, in these four wards over this period of time, there has been a total of 213 applications, with 191 of those receiving an approved Development Permit.

Extract from Calgary Planning Commission Report to Council for Amendments for Bylaw 1P2007

"We are having a lot of trouble doing the touchdown pass and we are just moving the pass a little bit down the field each time and this would be a further movement down the field and that is better than nothing," said Nenshi in a media scrum this morning at city hall.

The proposed bylaw would allow for more than 35,000 units to be constructed without the re-designation process currently in place. According to the 2014 Fall Rental Market Report by the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation, there are more than 16,000 illegal secondary suites in Calgary – though Nenshi and Councilor Farrell said this morning that the number is actually over 25,000.

City administrators held consultations on the proposed amendments and said more than 750 people, across 90 communities, gave their feedback and advised councilors to approve the amendments according to a report to city council by the Calgary Planning Commission for this amendment.

Nenshi said the amendments would allow the market to operate and help solve the issue of illegal secondary suites.

"As you get more regulated legal suites on board, market demand for the illegal ones drop off," said Nenshi at the media scrum. "Essentially every legal one comes displace an illegal one of and unsafe one."

For Ward 9 Councilor Gian-Carlo Carra, the current process of reviewing every single application by city council is "extremely" costly to taxpayers and individuals. Metro Calgary reported city council heard 11 individual applications Monday, May 11, and approved 10 of them.

"It works against what we are trying to do, that is creating a much more inclusive city with a broad sweep of affordable housing options," said Carra who spoke with reporters on Monday with reporters at city hall. "I fundamentally don't understand the arguments against this."

Carra also mentioned that for Ward 9, the changes would foster a great range of benefits. He believes secondary suites allow the creation of two affordable units — one for the tenant, in a tight rental market, and another for the homeowner who will receive income from rent.

"This is a top of upsides and I see no downsides," said Carra. 

POLICY AMENDMENT  LAND USE BYLAW 1P2007-4If the amendment is passed the wards 7, 8, 9 and 11, the areas painted in gray, will have new sweeping bylaws that will allow the construction of secondary suites without having to deal with city council hearings.

Image courtesy of the City of Calgary

Policy Amendment – Land Use Bylaw 1p2007

A current analysis of suite applications from 2008 to 2015 January shows that The City has received 617 development permit applications on a citywide basis, and 568 of these have received approvals. More specifically:

• Ward 7 has had 72 applications (64 approvals),

• Ward 8 has had 46 applications (45 approvals),

• Ward 9 has had 75 applications (65 approvals),

• Ward 11 has had 20 applications (17 approvals).

To summarize, in these four wards over this period of time, there has been a total of 213 applications, with 191 of those receiving an approved Development Permit.

Extract from Calgary Planning Commission Report to Council for Bylaw 1P2007

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Thumbnail picture courtesy of Micheal J/Flickr, under Creative Commons