While a new students’ council has taken office, many important issues raised by previous councils, such as secondary suites, are still a priority. Students’ Union vice-president external Hardave Birk plans to capitalize on the upcoming municipal election to build on the progress of secondary suites.
Birk said that a plan drafted by the Urban Calgary Students’ Association, a campus club devoted to urban issues, is “a great solution” for addressing the need for affordable housing for students. The plan calls for any area within 400 meters of an LRT station to be rezoned to allow secondary suites. Renters in these suites would be barred from parking permits to combat complaints of parking shortages in areas with secondary suites, and only owner-occupied suites would be allowed. Urban CSA suggests a pilot project be conducted at one LRT station to determine the idea’s success.
Progress with civic leaders and administration has been slow. Birk admitted that it does take time to meet with all the stakeholders in order to get the process going.
“The best we can do right now is to get it on the radar of all Calgarians,” said Birk. “We want to make it an election issue.”
Birk is also meeting with other post-secondary institutions in the Calgary Student Caucus to gain their support on the initiative. The Calgary Student Caucus includes representatives from Mount Royal University, SAIT and the Alberta College of Art and Design.
Birk noted that most Calgarians do support secondary suites, and most aldermen are on board with looking at ways to increase the number of these units, as long as there is support from the community associations.
Kay She, the previous VP external, believes the SU made great strides this past year on secondary suites despite other pressing issues, such as the tuition increases. She said the SU was able to present its plans to the Brentwood Community Association and meet with various aldermen on council to address the issue.
“Secondary suites have always been an important issue for students,” said She. “We felt this was an innovative and cheap way to increase secondary suites.”