Capital city’s council passes bylaw permitting garage and garden suites on home lots

After a lengthy debate, Edmonton city council voted 9-2 to allow garage and/or garden suites on “almost any lot” in the capital.

The decision allows residents in single-family oriented zones, dubbed RF1 in Edmonton, to subdivide a property of almost 15-metres, as well as owners being able to build and rent out garage suites.

The vote was applauded by Edmonton Ward 1 Coun. Andrew Knack, who Tweeted the news as well as the fact Edmontonians now have the option to build two “skinny” homes on lots of 50 feet or greater.

Densification is what Knack called one of the “pillars” of his campaign when he became councillor.

Comments on the changes ranged from people excited to get started on lots to some with concerns of infill shade on gardens.

It has been a different story down the QEII where Calgary city council has been more cautious in their acceptance of suites. Last June, CREB®Now noted the difference in secondary suite acceptance between Alberta’s two largest cities.

Between 2006 and 2011, Edmonton’s Cornerstones plan – designed to increase safe affordable options for lower income households – helped created and upgrade
553 secondary suites in the city.

Cornerstones II was launched in 2013 with the goal of creating an additional 450 suites with permits approved in the between 2010 and 2013 reaching almost 1,400. A similar program in Calgary however, only added 178 suites between 2009 and 2012, with another 62 that were mid-development.

The suites conundrum in Calgary was part of Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s campaign when he first took office in 2010.

“[Calgary] and Burnaby B.C. are the only cities in Canada where we have not gone down this path,” he said at the time. “And no, there’s nothing that makes our market different. We just have had a council that has not had the political courage to act on this.”

Five years later, council continually sees close votes denying wider acceptance of suites in the city. That may change on May 11 when Calgary City council will vote on a Coun. Andre Chabot 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 homes in Calgary are currently zoned RC1 or R1, prohibiting secondary suites.

“This is an issue I’ve been passionate about, predominantly about the amount [of suites] that exists in Ward 10 and the lack of ability of bringing many of these suites into compliance,” said Chabot.