First reading on suite reform passes after marathon debate
In a more than 10 hour debate, Calgary city council made a small step towards secondary suite reform last night.
First reading was passed on a motion allowing secondary and backyard suites in Wards 7, 8, 9 and 11. If passed, those wishing to apply for a suite in those wards, which are comprised of 83 communities, could begin with a development permit instead of appearing before council.
In a 9-6 vote, council approved suites be either licensed or registered with allowances for neighbours to give their say of approval or otherwise.
Coun. Druh Farrell expressed some concern at the idea of a licence, and said she was in support as long as it didn’t act as a deterrent for applying for legal secondary suites.
“You know what, I’m willing to make further compromise,” she said. “We have an affordable housing crisis in the city and we have a safety crisis in the city.”
The first reading still needs to be followed by a second and a third before the bylaw can actually take effect.
“What I see here is a step in the right direction,” said Coun. Shane Keating.
Councillors who voted for the first reading were Keating, Brian Pincott, Evan Woolley, Gian-Carlo Carra, Diane Colley-Urquhart, Peter Demong, Joe Magliocca, Farrell and Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Against were councillors Ray Jones, Richard Pootmans, Jim Stevenson, Ward Sutherland, Sean Chu and Andre Chabot.
In December, council voted 8-7 against suite reform. In April, Coun. Andre Chabot made an amendment to current land-use bylaws for zones where suites are currently allowed, allowing an 18-month exemption from a development permit for suites where they are already permitted. More than 53 per cent of home in Calgary are currently zoned RC1 or R1 prohibiting secondary suites.
The biggest concern expressed by councillors concerning the latest amendments was that of safety and stigma surrounding those who call suites home.
“Blanket approval will not empower anyone to bring illegal suites into compliance,” wrote Coun. Andre Chabot. “The city currently has more than 80,000 properties that have the appropriate land use for secondary suites, and yet many of these properties currently contain illegal suites, which are evident from the fact that there are less than 500 legal suites in Calgary. This demonstrates that it is not the land use preventing secondary suites from becoming legal.”
Farrell pointed out a lot of Calgarians who will potentially be calling suites home include seniors and family members, with very few designated for rental income.
“There’s a tremendous amount of myth out there on who will be living in these suites,” she said.
Suites return to council June 29.