Help Support Secondary Suites In Calgary

UrbanCSA has been working with the SU on a proposal for an amendment to the City of Calgary Land Use Bylaw 1P2007, that would allow secondary suites as a permitted use for RC-1 and R-C2 houses within 400 metres of an LRT station, along with a parking relaxation. UrbanCSA and the SU have presented the policy document to various Aldermen, city departments, community associations and other groups.

And good news! Alderman and Mayoral Candidate Joe Connelly is bringing the idea to city council!

Click here to learn more help support the proposal. I know from personal experience a single letter can make a difference in Calgary’s future. We got the policy to council, now its your turn to help support it.

It is important to note that if Alderman Connelly’s motion passes, it means that the topic will be studied by the city; not that it will go into effect.

Click the above link and help change your city for the better!

UrbanCSA's Secondary Suite Policy Document



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  2. Jon Lord · July 15, 2010

    Calling for a motion to “study” something is a well known political method for sidestepping an issue you don’t really support at all. It ensures nothing changes but lets you pretend and sound supportive. It’s a con job folks, don’t fall for it. Also note Ric McIver already has another motion in also calling for “study” on the same subject. Both have consistently voted against secondary suites if you check City Hall voting records which is why they both are sidestepping the issue by calling for “study”.

    For a real Mayoral candidate who actually walks the talk, and who has been instrumental for years in not only promoting but actively changing things, go to to see how Jon Lord has lead the charge for 15 years on this issue, and actually got secondary suites legalized Provincially under the Building Codes- the key step which now allows Municipalities across Alberta to legalize them under Zoning laws. Thus the Calgary discussion.

  3. Kay She · July 15, 2010

    This proposal has come a long way, folks. Well done.

  4. Stephen Barnecut · July 15, 2010

    I would like to be able to support this Notice of Motion, but it simply does not go far enough. Secondary suites in a principal building should be permitted in all R-1 and RC-1 districts in Calgary, and secondary suites in accessory buildings should be discretionary in the same districts. Anything less falls short of what Calgary needs to do.

  5. Tom · July 20, 2010

    @Jon Lord – Had the study in question actually been approved, you would have to concede that at the very least a bunch of students had helped set the tone for the dialogue for the coming election. Isn’t that something worth celebrating, regardless of whether or not it results in sweeping change? Frankly, the fact that you have no words of congratulations for the students behind this (in fact, you’re veering pretty close to snide condescension here) but plenty of congratulations for yourself makes you seem a little egotistical; I know you are in election mode, but using this site as a campaign platform strikes me as especially opportunistic. Plus, you refer to yourself in the third person. Who do you think you are, The Rock? Can Jon Lord smell what Jon Lord is cooking?

    @Kay She – Thanks! Congratulations are in order for you as well, of course.

    @Stephen Barnecut – I would agree, it doesn’t go far enough. Nevertheless, I think that the point of this proposal wasn’t to create a be-all, end-all solution for Calgary, but to prove that secondary suites can be added to a community without apocalyptic effects. As you are likely aware, this subject has been totally polarizing; this proposal would, in effect, be a first step towards discrediting the NIMBY argument that secondary suites destroy communities. I think sometimes you’ve got to win a small battle or two before you try to take the whole war.

    In other news … how cool is this? A bunch of students independently drafted a motion in their own free time and had it tabled at Council: whether you agree with it or not, when was the last time you can remember this happening? Irrespective of the fact that the motion was defeated, this should surely reflect positively on the tenacity and hard work of the students involved.

  6. Stephen Barnecut · July 21, 2010

    @Tom I believe that the subject of secondary suites has only been polarizing within the current Council, not with Calgarians in general. Note the Mustel Group’s telephone survey that showed 84 per cent favouring development of new secondary suites with regulations and 76 per cent approving of suites in their neighbourhoods. (

  7. Daniel Ardeline · August 13, 2010

    I’ve been in Calgary since 2001, a single homeowner, and I’m still confused by the whole thing. Few neighourhoods are zoned R-2, it really limits people’s choices. Now the city says the regs may be relaxed for R-1 neighbourhoods to allow secondary suites but the city likes to spend a year studying something and at the end nothing changes. The existing laws already aren’t being followed or enforced 90% of the time, and when they are it is usually a parking complaint by the neighbours which has little to do with the suite itself, and not specific to their being a kitchen in the basement. I would just pick a bungalow, rent out rooms in the basement with one shared kitchen, and build walls so the renter can’t get in my part of the house to sidestep the whole basement suite issue which is mainly based on their being a stove in the basement. The city IS limiting access to low income people through limiting basement suites.

  8. Daniel Ardeline · August 13, 2010

    The people in upscale neighbourhoods who say they don’t like basement suites, it’s because they are too good to be around renters, because if someone doesn’t own a house they must be a loser, party at 2 in the morning and have three friends over all the time each with their own vehicle. We need to get past this.. none of us have been homeowners our whole lives and there’s lots of families who have four vehicles. I had a 53 ft wide lot with a driveway and there were two vehicles.. mine and my renter’s. Who’s causing parking problems on the street?

  9. Ron Collins · August 25, 2010

    I’m tired of the spin from the pro-basement suite group. The reality of the entire mess is and as soon as any area turns into a rental area it’s not long until it’s a slum. I keep hearing about this mythical person who is saving their house from the bank with the extra income but that isn’t what’s happening in my neighborhood. We are dealing with non-resident landlords with multiple houses and quite a few are managed by management companies, this is simply just big business.
    With proposed secondary suite changes, a house turns into a duplex and a duplex turns into a four-plex and it doesn’t matter how they try to spin it will be a slum because these are landlords that are looking for the biggest and fastest return on their investment.
    I am saddened by the poor grasp city hall has on this problem and I wish they would do the right thing by enforcing the current zoning and asking the citizen’s what they want before any changes are done.

  10. Stephen Barnecut · September 30, 2010
  11. Ron Collins · September 30, 2010

    Dear Steven Barnecut,
    I have read all the comments and also the article but this is all spin. We already have 50 thousand basement suites here in Calgary so we don’t have to imagine what it would be like, we are living it. My neighborhood has been overrun by big money non resident landlords that do not follow the existing bylaws. On my street there are over 20 houses that have been converted from bungalows to duplexes and they are not hard to spot, with no upkeep and cars packed all around.
    Your opinion doesn’t mach my reality.

  12. Stephen Barnecut · February 9, 2011

    Mr. Collins:

    Of course basement suites are a problem. They’re not allowed to exist in most areas, so there is no mechanism to enforce the rules. All that the City can do now is to close down the suite and evict the renters out of their home. Now that the election has been decided, it seems like we will be going down the route of allowing suites in owner-occupied houses. Renters will hopefully gain the confidence to report unsafe conditions or lack of maintenance without fear of losing their homes.

    As for cars, they are just a fact of city living. In fact, if we clog our city with enough of them, transit will become a far more attractive and inexpensive alternative. But that’s another issue…


  13. Tom · February 16, 2011

    Mr Collins:

    You say that “as soon as any area turns into a rental area it’s not long until it’s a slum.” This is not only insulting in the extreme, but it lacks any basis in the reality you continually appeal to. The August 2010 edition of Avenue magazine listed off the 15 best neighbourhoods in Calgary, including neighbourhoods like Sunnyside, Altadore, Inglewood and Ramsay. Not only are these neighbourhoods fine places to live, but they are chock full of units for rent.

    I have had the privilege of renting in similarly upstanding and beautiful neighbourhoods such as Marda Loop, Scarboro and Hillhurst, where I currently reside. None of these neighbourhoods are slums. In fact, they are highly desirable, a fact reflected by their higher than average property values and busy streetscapes.

    As a renter, I can assure you that I am not a drug dealer, graffiti artist, pimp or gangster. I am a young professional with a post-secondary education, no criminal record, and a promising future. Surely, I am the type of individual that a vibrant community would want to attract, and yet I chose to be a renter (the key word here being “chose), a class that you choose to categorically vilify and slander. I find this perspective both confusing and myopic, as renter demographics in Calgary include a wide spectrum of citizens, from visiting businesspersons to students to retirees. Surely the secondary suites issue in Calgary will not be resolved until we can change zoning and bylaw regulations, but an even larger problem is the ignorance, discrimination and intolerance aimed at renters as a whole. Until we can short-circuit these foundational misunderstandings of the renter class, I fear that a solution that would address the cause of the secondary suite dilemma will remain elusive.

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