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Calgary Real Estate Suited Homes

Lately in the news there has been a lot of chatter regarding the relaxation of secondary suites within the Calgary area. If passed even homes in strict R-C1 (single family dwelling use only permitted) could see secondary suites. There are pros and cons on both sides of the coin on this one and finding a solution to make all sides happy will require a very strategic balancing act to say the least. To make a decision on changing bylaw use we should start with education of what is a legal vs illegal or "mother-in-law" suite as sometimes referred to. A legal suite is on that meets the guidelines set by the city, some people believe that just by having a lot that is R-C2 (zoned for a two family dwelling) automatically means that it is allowed, this is not necessarily the case. R-C2 lots still have to have a minimal frontage of 15m and total parcel area must be 466 sq m2, but this is just a portion of the equation, legal suites must be on separate meters, have separate heating and live up to building code, and there has to be ample parking not relying on street parking. Illegal suites are just that, they do not have the previous attributes and do not follow code or zoning requirements. A mother in law suite is basically an illegal suite made for family. If there was a suite that existed before 1970 whether legal or illegal and "is still in use" the use is grandfathered by the city and is permitted to continue the use forward is referred to as a non-conforming suite.

On the pro's side this is good for buyers who want to supplement their income with a secondary suite, the city of Calgary will make revenues on the application and approval process, and renters gain from more approved rental choices in different communities. That all seems fine except onto the flip side. People have bought homes for years in residential single family dwelling properties for years under the assumption that is what they bought and will continue to have conform during the duration of their ownership. This could change under the proposed secondary suite status and you could find secondary suites in some of Calgary's top neighborhoods. Could it effect value? -Definitely, is that a concern for current owners in R-C1 neighborhoods? No Question!- What are your thoughts and comments about this heated debate, please comment below!


#1 By JIm at 2/20/2011 4:44 PM

Good article Crystal - you bring up some great points. I'm against allowing secondary suites in all city neighbourhoods UNLESS the city guarantees they will hire & train the personnel required to inspect & enforce all future applications & complaints arising from any change to the current bylaw(s). Anything less is unacceptable IMHO.

#2 By Crystal at 2/20/2011 10:03 PM

My biggest concerns are seeing these types of secondary suites in higher end neighborhoods where they do not belong, but as long as there are guidelines in place I am all for them in inner city neighborhoods where I think that they are most required and needed.

#3 By JasonFromOkotoks at 3/5/2011 1:58 AM

Interesting reading Crystal, if the City does allow these secondary suites it will have to hire and train lots of professionals who will be needed to enforce regulations and keep these suites safe.

#4 By Crystal at 3/5/2011 0:22 PM

I am sure existing building inspectors will take this on, there might be a surge of permits and approvals in the beginning but after that it would slow down and really be no different than a regular basement permit approval process.

#5 By D at 10/21/2011 3:20 PM

I think the way suites are approved is antiquated and useless. Case in point. The house next door used to be occupied by a family of six with two teenagers who drove. So there were six people and four cars there.

The couple moved out, put in an "illegal" suite. They rented the upstairs to a professional couple and the downstairs to a single guy. So NOW there are 3 people in the house and 3 cars there. But this suite is "illegal" because the yard is technically not big enough to justify an R2 zoning to make the suite legal.

That's illogical. And as a neighbor I'm happy that there are responsible adults there and less cars. What do I care if its a family or two different 'family units' in the house?

It makes FAR more sense to have the ability to suite based on the square footage of the house. eg. 1500 sq foot house equals 5 people. Whether they are in one suite, or two or three matters not to me, as long as they have parking off street for their vehicles.

The bylaws need a serious rewriting.

#6 By Crystal at 10/22/2011 3:00 PM

Great points Don, thanks for the comment. I agree that parking is a huge issue for suited properties and in many cases it is the straw that breaks the camels back for neighbours when these illegal suites get reported. If there were 5 adults living in a house with 5 cars that could be problematic and would reduce the parking for the homes around.

#7 By Todd at 10/31/2012 10:02 PM


Good comment. My family and my neighbours have 13 cars between 2 families. We have 8, they have 5 cars. We do the best to try to please our other neighbours, but we have 3 kids that drive, each has one car and one has two cars (only temporarily) and my wife and I each have two vehicles. We have two parked in the garage, two in the drive way and 4 on the front street. This might seem excessive to some, but that is what we own. We are one family in Hillhurst. Now we know their are a lot of illegal suites in our neighbourhood, but we do not complain. People have 4 people in one house, with 2 illegal suites, with only 1 car and there has never been a problem. Now 10 years ago, we use to live in an outlying sub-urb and the neighbours complained about EVERYTHING. The City needs to tell some complainers to stuff it some days and be more flexible and realistic. Not on a witch hunt. What typically happens with rental suites is the property is not looked after as well as the owned houses, so I can see how wealthier neighbourhoods might have issues with this. Those neighbourhoods should enact a community development by-law for property maintenance and demand nice looking properties.

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