Making a case for housing

Calgary Chamber comes out in support of secondary suites

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce has come out in support of secondary suites in the city – a hot-button topic that has dominated city council’s agenda over the past several months.

“The Chamber, in particular, is in support of the further legalization of secondary suites because there’s a strong business case to do it,” said Justin Smith, director of policy, research and government relations.

“Mainly, there’s a strong business case in having an affordable rental market in a city to attract new labour. and to also retain talented labour to make sure you have an affordable city overall.”

With a thriving economy, Calgary continues to attract newcomers to the area. The 2014 Civic Census showed a population increase of 3.33 per cent to more than 1.9 million people. Of that population, 28,017 were the result of net migration.

In its statement, the Chamber argued secondary suites can help offset the effect of high housing costs “while making home ownership more viable for many Calgarians.”

Further arguments in favour include:

• Their effectiveness in attracting labour and providing rental stock for affordable places for new Calgarians to live;
• Providing Calgary families with attainable homes thereby creating more disposable income to reinvest in the local economy;
• Alleviating of wage inflation, thereby helping Calgary’s employers, and;
• Increasing the number of affordable housing units without having to develop new units, resulting in more efficient land use.

“Nearly every other major Canadian city has recognized these advantages and legalized secondary suites, including Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto,” said the Chamber. “We can’t allow these cities to have a competitive advantage over Calgary.”

Without adequate housing, businesses will not be able to attract the skilled labours it needs and talented young professionals are forced to look elsewhere for work because of the high cost of housing, said the Chamber. According to CREB®, the average price for a home in Calgary was $483,216 in September, a 5.83 per cent increase compared to the same time last year.

“It’s a political hot potato for sure,” Smith said of the secondary suite debate. “I think council and administration has gone back and forth for years on exactly what the framework or constructs for further legalization of suites should look like.

“It seems as if we’re inching closer and closer to some form of resolution. We think it’s long overdue and we’d like to see that process sped up to the extent possible. But we think we’re moving in the right direction with council.”

Councillors Peter Demong and Shane Keating argued earlier this fall that suites in areas not already zoned for their use be allowed if the majority of neighbours support them – Demong suggested 11 of 20 would need to be in favour.

The proposed new guidelines will go back to council for debate in December.

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