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Secondary suites issues needs to be put to rest - for the benefit of Calgarians

First things first, I must offer an apology.  If this column sounds angrier than most, it’s because I’m mad.

Actually, I’m furious.

But mostly, I’m embarrassed. I can’t stand the minority of people who continue to lobby against legalizing secondary suites here in Calgary.  They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so consider this column a monster truck-sized wheel.

Heading into his second term, Mayor Naheed Nenshi is now forced to diplomacy, stating that due to the way certain councilors will vote on the issue of secondary suites, he must reexamine his strategy and look at broader options. I'm very happy not to be an elected official because I don’t always have to be diplomatic, but it’s time for Calgarians to put this issue to rest, preferably in a bedroom that can be found in a secondary suite.

In the years that we’ve debated this issue, I’ve never heard of a real reason (a reason that doesn’t make us sound elitist) on why we shouldn’t legalize these apartments. Fears of noisy people, too many cars, parties and, God forbid, poor people, are embarrassing, unfounded and disrespectful. That’s not my Calgary. Is there really a group of Calgarians that think people are struggling to find homes because they're partying too much?

If you think the secondary suites are just for the homeless and others who are facing personal struggles, well, I have news for you.  I love renting and I’m not alone. But that doesn’t mean I’m against home ownership.  It means that I chose, at least for now, where I want to sleep at night.

The choice is one that I appreciate, but not one that everyone gets to make.

According to the Calgary Homeless Foundation, there is a current a wait list of about 4,000 people looking for social housing in Calgary.  These suites not only help with this growing number, but also help battle rising rents, which as of August was just under $1,700 a month.

With the rental market vacancy hovering around the one per cent mark, secondary suites would also allow homeowners to tackle the increasing costs of home ownership. Really, who are we to say what anyone can do in his or her own home?

If you think you’re better than the people who would benefit from secondary suites, then I invite you to grab a coffee and explore some of Mission’s streets. You’ll be left in awe at just how many apartments and buildings are still closed due to flood damage. Maybe you don’t know anyone directly affected, but that doesn’t mean that those people aren’t someone’s brother, sister, cousin, child and so on.  Those are just some of the people who will benefit from an increased inventory of apartments.  We have the ability to give these people homes again.

Perhaps it sounds grandiose to say that secondary suites will fix many of the problems that face any city. But here in Calgary, it’s definitely a start.

The fact that elected officials in city hall and community associations continue to advocate against something as simple as secondary suites, even though it benefits way more than it harms, is baffling.

But as with many issues, the vocal minority often dominate the consciousness of our elected officials.

Hopefully that ends today.

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