Backed by business

Several big time Calgary businesses throw their support behind secondary suites

City council’s inability to move forward on secondary suite reforms are sending a message to potential newcomers that Calgary is closed for business, said Chamber president and CEO Adam Legge.

“We basically have a no vacancy sign sitting over Calgary,” he told a crowd of supporters at a Chamber-hosted event last week.

“So how easy do you think it is for a business to attract and retain someone to the city when they can’t find a place to live?” said Legge.

Legge said 2014 marked the fourth year in a row rental vacancy rates declined. Since June, they’ve been hovering around 1.4 per cent, the lowest in the country.

“If an employee was paying 50 per cent of their income on rent because no affordable options existed, do you think they’d stick around in that city for long?” he asked.

“And if a business cannot find staff, how long do you think they’ll be able to keep their doors open? Those are the realities of Calgary right now. Calgary is currently one of the most expensive and limited housing markets in Canada.”

Last week, the Chamber submitted a letter to Mayor Naheed Nenshi and fellow councillors urging them to take a positive step forward in permitting more secondary suite legislation.

Earlier this week, council voted 8-7 against secondary suite reform which, among other things, would see people applying for suites through administration instead of having to appear before council.

Among those throwing their support behind secondary suites in the city are WestJet, Fiasco Gelato, First Calgary Financial, ALBI Homes and DIRTT Environmental Solutions.

“It doesn’t happen all the time, but we do have occasions where we offer a candidate a job and they feel they cannot accept the offer because they are very unsure they’d be able to afford to live in Calgary, where often the vacancy rate is very low and the price of rent is extremely high,” said Geoff Mullback, director of talent and organizational development at WestJet.

“We understand and know that measures being considered on legalized sanctions secondary suites is being discussed at city council, WestJet fully supports this measure as well as any other measures that are going to bring affordable housing [to Calgary].”

Concern about attracting and retaining employees resonated with other business owners showing support.
“As one of Canada’s leading credit unions, and one of Calgary’s largest employers with over 500 employees living and working here, we understand how important an adequate supply of rental housing is to attracting and retaining talented employees, and to the health of our overall economy,” said First Calgary Financial CEO Paul Kelly.

“Allowing for secondary suites will make homeownership more realistic for many Calgarians, not to mention continue to help us attract more young talent to drive the success of our company.”

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