Implementing Secondary Suites in Calgary Considerations for City

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March 13, 2007 Introduction to Poverty Reduction Initiative The Poverty Reduction Initiative is a network of business leaders, representatives from all three levels of government and social services agencies. Our goal is to reduce poverty by promoting progressive policies, increasing public awareness and working collaboratively with all stakeholders. The issue of affordable housing is a key concern for our network as is the role of secondary suites, such as basement suites, as a part of affordable housing strategies. Your Role To address the issue of affordable housing in Calgary, the Poverty Reduction Initiative is advocating for policy changes involving secondary suites in Calgary at the March 19 Land Use Bylaw Hearing. If you or your organization are able to speak to the need for a comprehensive strategy to address secondary suites as an affordable housing option, please consider attending and presenting at this meeting. In order to be effective, we encourage you to consider reinforcing similar key messages to City Council. The experience of secondary suite tenants and landlords is important to convey as well. For example, talking about how lower income newcomers to Calgary and Canada do not have the same housing choices as other Calgarians in this market and often their only option is a basement suite.   We encourage your organization to speak on the issue of secondary suites on March 19, at the City of Calgary Council Chambers, from 9:30AM-12:30PM. Each presenter has 5 minutes to speak and a list will be created on March 19 on a first-come basis for order of speakers.

P o verty R edu c ti on I ni ti ati ve

Background on Secondary Suites Housing prices in Calgary are rising like never before, and rental properties are being sold to take advantage of the housing market. With an almost zero per cent vacancy rate and increasing housing costs, more low income Calgarians are finding themselves unable to afford adequate housing. Affordable housing allows low income Calgarians to have a place they can be proud to call home. Without access to affordable housing, these individuals and families are often forced to move frequently, leaving behind friends, schools and support networks. Governments across Canada recognize that illegal secondary suites exist and measures have been taken in the last few years to increase their safety, as well as recognize and promote them as an affordable housing option. In 2002, the City of Calgary estimated that approximately 64,000 rental units in Calgary (57%) are “informal” (i.e., basement/ secondary suites, rented condos/ houses, etc.).

Key Recommendation  Expand implementation of secondary suites as a discretionary use in single family districts in new communities.

Secondary suites often face barriers around community acceptance; fairness of utility billings & property taxes; standards for health and safety; parking & impact on built form. If secondary suites were zoned from the beginning of the development process in new communities, the impacts we face would be less severe. Homeowners would know that secondary suites are a possibility when they buy into a new community. This facilitates more appropriate infrastructure planning as the expected density the community would better known. Other Key Points to Emphasize  Secondary suites are a key source of affordable rental housing;  Secondary suites provide extra income for homeowners;  We need secondary suites which meet Building & Fire Code standards; and  Community support and engagement is critical in creating a strategy to deal with existing secondary suites. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Alina Tanasescu, Poverty Reduction Initiative Policy Analyst, Calgary United Way at 410-1921 or