Council’s definition of secondary suites too narrow for Students’ Union

Even if it isn’t where the Students’ Union wanted it to happen, Calgary will potentially see an increase in secondary suites.

In June, a motion asked city administration to look at the potential effects of relaxing zoning restrictions on secondary suites. The areas examined are designated R-1N and R-CN1 — single-family housing communities with the ‘N’ standing for “narrow” lots.

City administration brought the requested information and recommended bylaw changes to city council.

Council voted unanimously to approve these land-use bylaw amendments which will allow for more secondary suites in these areas. The new bylaw affects about 18 per cent of the housing stock in Calgary, many of them newer suburbs.

“There’s a couple problems with this,” said SU vice-president external Hardave Birk. “A community with more lots is already more dense than one without narrow lots. Secondly, parking is more of an issue in these communities.”

Birk pointed out that many of the lots now zoned for secondary suites don’t meet the established size regulations to construct a secondary suite. He would have liked to see a relaxation on restrictions in areas with regular sized lots.

“The Students’ Union is always happy when they take a step to relax the restrictions that are currently on secondary suites,” said Birk, whose own proposal brought to City Hall in July calling for secondary suite zoning around LRT stations was rejected. “I don’t really understand the rationale behind making this change.”

“It’s going off the track of what they’ve done over the past three years,” said Birk, who couldn’t remember a time the council has voted on something like this together. “And this was a major change. I mean, they made a change that affects 18 per cent of Calgary. It doesn’t seem like the smartest growth strategy.”

The changes won’t be revisited until after the fall election. The SU expects secondary suites will continue to be an important issue for the city and students as the campaign gears up.

The SU plans to hold candidate debates on campus before the October 18 election.

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