Calgary marking second anniversary of secondary suites
March 12, 2020 marks the two-year anniversary of secondary suite reform and the ability for Calgarians to build and live in safe, affordable and accessible suites anywhere in the city.
“Two years ago, this Council took action to create a straightforward process for secondary suites,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “In doing so, we have provided choice for homeowners and their families, and we’ve created choice for Calgarians in the rental market looking for different housing options.”
Before the secondary suite reform, property owners interested in developing a secondary suite in their home had to appear before Council and request a land use redesignation. Changes made to the Land Use Bylaw resulted in the ability to have suites anywhere in the city. As well, the approvals process was streamlined by removing the requirement for Council approval.
Council also launched a mandatory suite registry along with a two-year amnesty period, starting in 2018. The amnesty period provides suite owners, new and existing, the ability to ensure their suites are legal and safe. As well, the registry allows suite tenants to verify if a suite has met the life safety requirements under Alberta Safety Codes.
“In addition to improving barriers in the application process, we have also made secondary suites safer,” said Ulrik Seward, Chief Building Official. “Fires are the most common danger in basement suites and city inspectors strictly enforce life safety requirements.” In 2009, three people died in a devastating fire in an unsafe basement suite leading to changes in safety requirements for secondary suites.
Over the past two years, through secondary suite reform The City has:
- Issued 1,490 building permits
- Conducted 3,680 inspections
- Registered 2,415 suites on the online suite registry system
Despite streamlining processes and waiving development and permits fees during the amnesty period, there are still suites in Calgary that do not meet The City’s safety and building code requirements. Common problems include the size of bedroom window exits, missing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, missing drywall barriers or unprotected stairway exits.
The City of Calgary actively encourages anyone who owns a secondary suite to apply for the necessary permits before June 1, 2020 and the end of the amnesty period by visiting calgary.ca/suites.