News / Calgary

Votes for Calgary secondary suite reform all but locked up

Finer points of regulations and fees will be sticking point in debate on Monday

Councillor Jyoti Gondek doesn't have her name on the suite reform notice of motion, but she does feel the plan is the best way forward at this time.

Helen Pike / Metro Web Upload

Councillor Jyoti Gondek doesn't have her name on the suite reform notice of motion, but she does feel the plan is the best way forward at this time.

Before Calgary city council decides if it's going to give up hearing secondary suite applications on Monday, councillors will have to sit through at least eight more suite applications.

And that will include hearing emotional pleas from neighbors who just don't like the idea of another unit of housing being added to their neighborhoods.

"There was (…) a conscious desire on our part to live in a neighbourhood with families, not renters," reads a snippet of one letter of opposition going forward Monday. "The street currently has 12/18 homes with children living there."

Coun. Jyoti Gondek said it's exactly those types of pleas that will fall on deaf ears if the notice of motion to reform secondary suite applications goes forward.

Gondek, who served on the Calgary Planning Commission before getting elected to council, explained that the subdivision appeals board only looks at regulations and planning principles.

"You can't just say, 'I don’t want it – it's going to change the character of my neighborhood,' which is exactly what you can do at council," she said. "At council, you appeal to our emotions."

Gondek feels the notice of motion spearheaded by Coun. Shane Keating and supported by at least four other councillors and the mayor is the best solution at the moment to go forward.

"When you see a variety of names on that motion, it's a good indication that there's a willingness from all sides," said Gondek.

Although the motion has several parts, the main change is to make secondary suites a discretionary use citywide.

It's likely that key part of the motion will get through. Aside from the five councillors and mayor who put their name on the motion, councilors Gondek, Evan Woolley, George Chahal and Gian-Carlo Carra have indicated to Metro they would be in support.

That would easily provide the eight votes needed to pass the motion with room to spare.

Councillor Shane Keating posted a motion arising he plans on bringing forward once the big items are debated and voted on.

Those include finer points, such as additional parking requirements for homes on cul-de-sacs, rules for homes without back lanes, and potential registry fees.

Coun. George Chahal said he's all for making suites discretionary across the city, but it's those extra rules and regualtions that have him concerned.

"We want to keep it barrier free," said Chahal. "We want to regulate it in the sense that we want it to be safe and legal, but we don't want to have so many regulations and barriers involved that people won't do it."

A recent study by a Calgary geographer found that most of the illegal suites in Calgary are concentrated in the northeast – where Chahal's ward is.

He said it’s a big deal in his ward because there are so many multigenerational families. For him, it's a property rights issue.

"We shouldn't be preventing people from being able to live in their homes," he said.

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