Administration's Secondary Suite Recommendations for March 12 Public Hearing



Administration’s Secondary Suite Recommendations for March 12 Public Hearing

A few weeks ago, we provided you with some background information to clarify the proposed changes to secondary suites and what they mean for community associations. The report that will be presented to Council on March 12 has been released. We wanted to share it with you and provide a quick summary. There will also be an opportunity to provide input at the hearing on March 12th, and more details can be found at the bottom of this letter.

The Changes at a Glance

On March 12th, Council will be looking at several separate pieces of work about secondary suites. They are NOW as follows:
1. Land Use Bylaw (LUB) amendments that add Secondary Suite and Backyard Suite as discretionary uses in the R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L districts.
2. Develop a policy to guide Administration’s discretion when reviewing Development Permits for suites.
3. Reinstate application fees for suites.
4. Changes to the Suite Registry Program requiring mandatory registration.
5. Develop implementation plans for an illegal suite amnesty, registry fees, rebate program, application guidebook, and guidelines on advertising and engagement.


What is a Secondary Suite?
In the context of this project, a secondary suite can be either a basement suites or a laneway suite. A basement suite is a separate dwelling inside a single detached house with separate cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities. A laneway suite is a self-contained living space on the same property as a single-detached house, and is often accessed from the back alley or laneway.

What does this mean for communities?
In the past, secondary suite applicants applied for a land use amendment if their parcel was within one of the districts above. This was sent to council for public hearing, and there was an opportunity for the public to provide input. If council approved the land use amendment, a development permit was issued without opportunity for consultation.
With the proposed changes, applicants will apply for a discretionary development permit in R-1, R-C1, and R-C1L districts. As a result, community associations will be circulated the development permits and be able to provide comments. Development permits for a suite in these districts will also be notice posted. This means that a sign is placed on the property advising the neighbouring residents of the development permit application and how to make comments on the application. Decisions on development permit applications may be appealed.
The proposed changes would mean property owners would have the ability to develop a suite without City Council approval, but would still work with Planning and Development staff at the City of Calgary to obtain development and building permits.

Fee Waiver
At the beginning of 2014, Administration removed the Land Use Amendment and Development Permit fees associated with suites. Administration is recommending that fees be brought back, and more information is available below.


Below is a quick summary of some of the key changes that are being proposed by Administration. Please be sure to read the attached report to Council for further information.

Land Use Bylaw Amendments
The proposed Bylaw amendments add Secondary Suite and Backyard Suite as discretionary uses in the R-1, R-C1, and R-C1L districts. Currently suites are allowed either as permitted or discretionary uses in every residential district except R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L.

Policy to Guide Discretionary Suite Applications
The proposed policy will guide planners that review discretionary secondary suite applications. Guidance is provided on items such as parking, amenity space, and privacy for Backyard Suites. Attachment 1 in the PDF adds more detail to the proposed policy.

Mandatory Suite Registry and Development of a Suite Registry Bylaw
A proposed Suite Registry Bylaw (Attachment 4) has been made to turn the voluntary Registry into a mandatory Registry. The Registry includes a database of suites that have been approved. A suite will be added once it has obtained the required permits and passed inspection. Any suite that is made available to the public to rent that is not on the Registry is subject to a fine. The Registry will make it easier to identify and report potentially unsafe suites being offered for rent. Issues related to land use, safety, community standards, or landlord-tenant disputes would be dealt with under other existing Bylaws.

Fee Reinstatement
If these changes are approved, there may still be a rare occasion where someone applies for a land use amendment requiring Council approval. An owner would redesignate their property to a district where Secondary Suites are a permitted use, meaning a Development Permit would not be required. The Land Use Amendment fees would be brought back at a similar rate to other redesignation applications, amounting to $5,050.

Development permit fees would also be brought back to cost $471. Similar permits cost approximately $570. Fees for Building Permits will also be collected, including inspections to verify that the suite complies with safety standards. Refer to attachment 6 for the fee schedule.

Implementation Plans
Administration was directed to develop recommendations for the items listed below.

1. Amnesty
Administration is recommending a two-year grace period to encourage owners of existing illegal suites to apply for the required permits to bring their suites up to minimum safety standards. Attachment 7 has more details. During this period, Development Permit fees would be waived, and suite owners would not be prosecuted for not being registered. This is to encourage the creation of as many safe and legal suites as possible. A Building Permit and its fee will still be required in all cases.

Council asked for a Registry fee to be introduced. The Registry fee also be waived during the amnesty period, and owners already on the voluntary Registry would be exempted from paying the fee after the grace period. After the grace period, future suites would be subject to the fees for a Development Permit, Building Permit, Electrical Permit, Plumbing and Gas Permits, and the Registry.

The amnesty strategy (Attachment 8) explains the process that Administration will take to:

  • Make it easier for owners of suites to comply with the Land Use Bylaw and the Alberta Safety Codes;
  • Help people easily understand the process to develop a compliant suite; and
  • Encourage owners of suites to legalize and register them during the amnesty period.

2. Fees for Registry
The registry fee would be a one-time charge of $232. The cost would go towards ongoing enforcement. There would be no renewal fees. All suite owners would be directed to complete an annual self-declaration to declare if anything related to the suite has changed. If changes are made, a new Building Permit may be required.

3. Fee rebate for owner occupied properties
Administration recommends charging the same one-time Registry fee to all properties with suites with no rebates for owner occupied properties.

4. Suite Application Guide
Once a decision is made on the changes, new online information will be added. This will help people understand the requirements for having a legal and safe suite. This information could include illustrations of suite design options. A communications plan will be developed as part of this as well. This strategy will include updates to online tools, instructions for the suites process, and will inform people of the changes and how they can apply for suites.

5. Inclusion of all suites, new and existing, in the mandatory Registry
All suites on the voluntary Registry will carry over into the mandatory Registry. The old Registry stickers will still be valid. These existing suites will not have to pay a fee after the amnesty period. They will still have to complete the annual self-declaration on whether anything related to the suite has changed.

6. Guidelines on advertising and engagement
Discretionary Development Permits will be notice posted on the property for two weeks; adjacent neighbours will be advised by letter of the proposed suite; the Community Association will receive a Development Permit circulation package and the decision on the application will be advertised and subject to a three week appeal period.

Timeline and Next Steps
This report will be brought to the March 12 Council meeting. Administration will present each of these recommendations separately and Council will decide if they want to implement each of these changes at the Public Hearing.

There will be an opportunity to speak at council during the March 12 public hearing. The three issues will be voted on separately. Submissions must be received by noon on March 5th. Here is more information on how to participate: City Council will hold a Public Hearing in the Council Chambers at the Calgary Municipal Building (800 Macleod Trail S.E.,) on Monday March 12, 2018 commencing at 9:30 a.m. Read through this document for information about how to submit your letter.

In light of the sensitivities around “Community Representation”, if your community association is going to present on this topic we recommend that you have broad resident engagement evidence of your position. We believe that you may be asked about how you informed your position.

If you are planning to speak or send in a letter, we would be happy for you to let us know. You can contact Ben at

The Federation of Calgary Communities works to support community associations, and recognizes that there are as many different positions on secondary suites as there are communities. Nonetheless, something we all agree on is the value of community. Communities are not static; they adapt and change over time, in response to the world around them. Diverse housing forms, including secondary suites, are one of the many tools that create space for a broad range of people, increase population density, and ensure communities remain vibrant. Let’s consider how we can contribute to a city that takes care of its people, something that all communities should be proud to do.

If you have any questions or concerns, Dane, the planner working on the project at