News / Calgary

What Calgary's secondary suite reforms mean for your neighbourhood

Owners of illegal suites will have an amnesty period so owners can get them up to code

Owners of non-conforming illegal suites will have two years to get them up to code.

Jennifer Friesen / Calgary Freelance

Owners of non-conforming illegal suites will have two years to get them up to code.

You may have heard that city council made some changes to Calgary's secondary suite bylaws on Monday, but wondering what the changes actually mean for you.

The changes brought forward make secondary suites a discretionary use in homes zoned R-1, R-C1, and R-C1L.

That means most homeowners can apply to have a suite by filing a development permit with the city's planning department instead of presenting their applications before council.

Planning staff will review all applications going forward and make decisions based on a proposed suite's planning merits, and whether it meets all the requirements.

Neighbours and community associations will still be able to provide comments during the review process, and decisions can still be appealed.

Registering your suite on the city's public registry is now mandatory, and the city said there will be a two-year amnesty period until June 2020 for owners of existing illegal suites to bring them up to code.

Until that time, fees for the development permit and for the registry will be waived.

“With these changes, we anticipate more owners of illegal suites coming forward with applications to upgrade their suites, to make them safer,” said Lisa Kahn, growth strategies coordinator with the City of Calgary.

“The proposed changes mean that property owners have the ability to develop a suite without having to go through the lengthy City Council approval process, but will work with Planning and Development staff at The City of Calgary to ensure that all the requirements – like off-street parking, window sizes and safety codes – are met.”

She added the changes will make it easier for owners of illegal suites to apply for the proper permits required to bring the units up to safety standards.

Backyard suites are not yet included in all this - although they have been approved as discretionary, city administration is working on guidelines for backyard suites and hopes to have those ready before the end of this year.

More information can be found online at

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