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Old Posted Oct 1, 2014, 12:27 AM
Spring2008 Spring2008 is offline
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Secondary Units

Just watched this video on secondary units. Noticed this is becoming a huge top of discussion lately with lots of support behind it. What's holding up city wide secondary suites? They only allowed in R-2 zoned areas and above currently?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pv6U0W7Z68
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Old Posted Oct 1, 2014, 12:28 AM
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Accessory Units - A Tale of Two Cities


Secondary Suites Council Presentation- September 2014 on how we can move forward with
a coordinated strategy of education and simple rules focussed on safety and enforcement.

WATCH THE FULL PRESENTATION >>>


Many people in Calgary consider our city as world class, modern, having taken our place in the world of great places. We have much to commend ourselves. A high standard of living, excellent opportunities to enrich our lives with amazing amenities, and I will include the ”bridge” and “head” in that category. Yet while many bask in that glow, not all of us are willing to share in the solutions to the huge challenges we face.

Perhaps one of the (two or three) biggest challenges to the well being of this city that locals can influence, is the security of having an affordable place to live. The urban landscape of many successful cities on this continent has been a laboratory for us to see what happens when affordable places to live dry up during the boom years. And when that happens, many of these places lost their competitive edge.

A big factor in the housing crisis we experienced south of the border after 2008, was the cost of housing, not just how it was financed. People moved further out trying to afford a place to live and when the cost of gas, and mortgages sky-rocketed, the lending crisis hit outside the centre cities much harder than inside.

Look at Portland or San Francisco, both desirable places where housing costs are very high and how business is reacting. Google is now getting complaints about their shuttle buses in neighbourhoods trying to get their talent pool to the workplace. Companies locating outside Portland to access labour pools. In Toronto, downtown has a rental market that makes up 65% of the housing stock as investors poured in starting as far back as the mid 1980’s, buying up condos to meet the surging rental demand. I remember working on the zoning to permit basement suites back in the early 1980’s there and then thirty years later the Ontario government mandating that all zoning by-laws must allow for the accessory units, with conditions.
A great example of a laneway accessory unit atop a garage
in Calgary's inner-city.

And then there is the made in Calgary response. In a city with perhaps the highest number of illegal, potentially unsafe supply of dwelling units anywhere on the continent; a place with also potentially the fastest growing population; the highest rent and the lowest rental vacancy in the country; a business economy screaming for labour in all sectors; where we see many streets and lots with trailers or campers with carpenters, framers, office workers living; students five or seven to a bungalow; all seeking affordable shelter so they can participate or train to share in our prosperity; our solution is to force units into only 47 percent of our residential areas. To leave the other 53 percent to watch as the city struggles to remain competitive in the housing sector.

Our solution is to deny many the ability to purchase a home where prices are at record levels, simply by allowing an accessory unit that could boost their mortgage qualification up another $200,000 by having a rental at $1,000 per month. Our solution is to create roadblocks that discourage owners of illegal units from coming forward to make their units safe.
A rendering of a garden suite in Calgary's suburbs.

And so our housing problem is acute. Will breaking down the barriers to accessory units solve our housing challenges. No. But it can play a big role towards a comprehensive solution. YYC has made gains, and a simple change, waiving the $5,000 processing fees has generated a big up-tick in applications and yes legalization of some our unknown illegal units.

I have sat through the hours at Council listening to all sides of the discussion. What stands out is the voices of opposition that speak about how special their neighbourhood is as a single family place. How they choose to live there for that reason. Yet the very people they rely on to help build the houses to meet our office employment; the folks in the service sector that bring us our restaurant meals, repair our roofs, maybe take care of their children at daycare or teach them in our schools; do they not want them in their neighbourhoods? Must only 43 percent of the city meet these housing demands?

And what of the parents in other cities, whose young adults come here to study? Are they like Calgary parents wanting safe affordable housing choices for their children when they come here to study and hopefully find the opportunity to make Calgary their future home?

We all have a role to play in educating everyone about the potential to have an ongoing supply of accessory units that can go a long way to making this city, a place that offers everyone the opportunity to live in safe, affordable places so that they can establish themselves and provide the knowledge, skills and creativity to keep growing this city.
http://www.calgaryplanninggm.com/201...ites-tale.html
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Old Posted Oct 1, 2014, 1:28 AM
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The bottom line is for a lot of people secondary suites aren't some unknown they are irrationally afraid of. They have plenty of experience and those experiences are negative. I have to count myself amongst that group.
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Old Posted Oct 1, 2014, 1:39 AM
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The bottom line is for a lot of people secondary suites aren't some unknown they are irrationally afraid of. They have plenty of experience and those experiences are negative. I have to count myself amongst that group.
You also almost certainly have plenty of experience living near secondary suites that were totally fine, but since they didn't cause a problem you never knew they existed.

I suppose some people are just opposed to homeowner rights on general principle.
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Old Posted Oct 1, 2014, 1:47 AM
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Sudden Ayn Rand Syndrome is so cute.
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Old Posted Oct 1, 2014, 2:43 AM
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Why is laneway housing only permissible in a few small areas?

Seems like a great idea here as inner-city demand ramps up, and not every body wants to live in a condo or can afford a million dollar plus detached dwelling. City council is not adapting to the times quick enough. Supply is not keeping up with demand, so affordability will no doubt become an even bigger issue.
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Old Posted Oct 1, 2014, 3:01 AM
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Oh secondary suite debate. Someone get a copy of Markusoff's drinking game! I got a case of Kokanee Gold and relatively healthy liver to abuse.
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Old Posted Oct 1, 2014, 3:42 AM
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Why is laneway housing only permissible in a few small areas?

Seems like a great idea here as inner-city demand ramps up, and not every body wants to live in a condo or can afford a million dollar plus detached dwelling. City council is not adapting to the times quick enough. Supply is not keeping up with demand, so affordability will no doubt become an even bigger issue.
I think as condos increasingly become the preferred vehicle for illicit funds, and that is an unstoppable global phenomenon, I think cities are well positioned to extract further "tribute" from developers. Require a certain number of affordable rental units in every new tower. Poor door or no poor door.

At one time I would have opposed that, but in the post-Swiss Bank Account world there is a new value added to condo developments that cities should be getting their cut of.
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Old Posted Oct 1, 2014, 3:19 PM
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I would much rather have a dreaded land (real estate) transfer tax than have hidden taxes like inclusion-airy zoning. The market effects would at the very least be directly measurable, and it wouldn't be a wealth transfer from new entrants to current owners.
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Old Posted Oct 1, 2014, 9:23 PM
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As I said, I would have once agreed with that. But the world has changed and we're dealing with criminality distorting housing markets on a global scale. The unintelligible complexity and volume of the residential housing market is the last safe refuge for dirty money.

Which isn't something municipalities are terribly well equipped to deal with and has negative implications for housing actual living breathing residents. I think it becomes a matter of playing by old mafia rules. If you're going to launder money on our turf... We want a piece of that.

The New York approach has been criticized in that housing lotteries are no more a solution to to homelessness than the State lottery is to income inequality, but it is a tangible concession that is easily extorted from developers
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Old Posted Oct 1, 2014, 10:19 PM
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The whole secondary suite debate strikes me as an overreach against landowner rights. It's another example of the rules that include "this is why we can't have nice things".
  • When you were younger, no problem having parties until one got too noisy and got in trouble from the parents/neighbours. Despite 1 out of 100 being unacceptable, all are banned from then on.
  • We can't allow a casual drink in public because we know that a few idiots would abuse it, so no drinks are allowed.
  • Can't legalize marijuana, because there is a chance that some of it might end in the hands of children. So no one can use it.
  • Can't allow people to live in a secondary suite because a few bad tenants will cause problems. So no one is allowed.

They strike me as very nanny-state rules, telling how people can use these property. If I want to rent it out I should be able to in every context. Set a minimum standard of safety (running water, fire alarms etc.) and be done with it. Tenants can report unsafe ones at no risk.

Spend the effort enforcing the problems of a few rather than take away the option for all. Let's all have nice things and do whatever we want, but ensure that those that take advantage to the detriment of others are regulated.

How you get to my perfect world from where we are on secondary suites is anyones guess
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Old Posted Oct 1, 2014, 10:48 PM
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I'm going to let you in on a little secret, as a retirement project I'm planning on trying my hand as a developer. I have been quietly buying up properties in the inner city that I am going to redevelop as helicopter-oriented moated urban estate homes. (HOD is all the rage in the Hamptons and Sao Paulo)

Can I count on your unwavering support of my unassailable property rights as I face an onslaught of NIMBY's and small-minded bureaucrats in my drive to build housing for the people for whom neither the Concord or a mansion overlooking Ghost Lake is sufficient?

I have been dealing with illegal suites in my immediate area for more than a decade, and they suck. If some people who have taken on a lifetime of debt to buy their homes don't want to bring the rock-bottom of the rental market into their community I won't fault them for that. Everyone is an asshole about one thing or another.
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Old Posted Oct 2, 2014, 12:57 AM
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I'm going to let you in on a little secret, as a retirement project I'm planning on trying my hand as a developer. I have been quietly buying up properties in the inner city that I am going to redevelop as helicopter-oriented moated urban estate homes. (HOD is all the rage in the Hamptons and Sao Paulo)

Can I count on your unwavering support of my unassailable property rights as I face an onslaught of NIMBY's and small-minded bureaucrats in my drive to build housing for the people for whom neither the Concord or a mansion overlooking Ghost Lake is sufficient?

I have been dealing with illegal suites in my immediate area for more than a decade, and they suck. If some people who have taken on a lifetime of debt to buy their homes don't want to bring the rock-bottom of the rental market into their community I won't fault them for that. Everyone is an asshole about one thing or another.
So you don't like the poor in your neighbourhood? You want to exclude anyone not like you from your area.

How about this the only way someone might be able to afford a home is with a suite, are those folks not good enough for your area?

BTW illegal suites are more likely to be rent at rock bottom rates than a legal one, food for thought
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Old Posted Oct 2, 2014, 1:51 AM
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Sitwell: The only thing I ask is out of the four hundred and fifty homes we build, one be given to a disadvantaged family from the inner city.

Gob: That's great, so the other 449 families live in fear? Is that what we're saying? Come on!
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Old Posted Oct 2, 2014, 1:56 AM
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Originally Posted by MasterG View Post
The whole secondary suite debate strikes me as an overreach against landowner rights. It's another example of the rules that include "this is why we can't have nice things".

They strike me as very nanny-state rules, telling how people can use these property. If I want to rent it out I should be able to in every context. Set a minimum standard of safety (running water, fire alarms etc.) and be done with it. Tenants can report unsafe ones at no risk.

Spend the effort enforcing the problems of a few rather than take away the option for all. Let's all have nice things and do whatever we want, but ensure that those that take advantage to the detriment of others are regulated.

How you get to my perfect world from where we are on secondary suites is anyones guess
This is the main thing.

When a policy does not align with its desired outcomes, it's a bad policy, especially when it unfairly targets certain demographics.
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Old Posted Oct 2, 2014, 3:44 AM
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So you don't like the poor in your neighbourhood? You want to exclude anyone not like you from your area.

How about this the only way someone might be able to afford a home is with a suite, are those folks not good enough for your area?

BTW illegal suites are more likely to be rent at rock bottom rates than a legal one, food for thought
No, that is a little simplistic. It is more of an issue of stage of life than intractable poverty. There is a stage of live where people are willing to shack up with another couple or just random room mates in a two bedroom basement suite. This stage of life also however tends to include owning a vehicle. There was one house that had issues of a police nature, but it was more of a literal flophouse than a secondary suite situation.

I have had tenants of the secondary suites come to my door and ask if they could park in my driveway. There have been times I couldn't get out of my driveway. The worst it ever was when there was a rental house that had a suite with a family upstairs with three vehicles on the street, an RV without plates in the driveway and two men with large trucks living in the illegal suite also parked on the street and those guys had their girlfriends, who also had cars, staying over practically every night. It was often those girls who would come to the door asking to park in my driveway.

Practically speaking if you throw open the doors to legal suites you are really just changing the economics of rental properties. The people going for suites are going to be absentee landlords doubling up houses, which are just as likely to be preposterously over-occupied as existing rentals often are.

I don't want that and I don't fault anyone else who doesn't. Were I not as likely to end up with illegal suites and unbearable renters anywhere else I can afford I would move.

A compromise I would be open to would be any area with suites would be switched to permit parking and homes with suites would for perpetuity forfeit access to parking permits, including guest permits.
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Old Posted Oct 2, 2014, 4:10 AM
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If some people who have taken on a lifetime of debt to buy their homes don't want to bring the rock-bottom of the rental market into their community I won't fault them for that.
I agree with you on lots, however I think you need to define what your calling "rock bottom" of the rental market. When a one bedroom trends for $1000k (plus uts) a month that encapsulates a lot of the market don't you think? I get that there are rip roaring drunks and such, however there are lots of quiet service workers who fall into this category.

I'm not disputing the legality or illegality of secondary suites, more about how we need to examine the housing market all along the continuum. There are lots of individuals who make less than $40k a year in our city.
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Old Posted Oct 2, 2014, 4:37 AM
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I'm describing the the situation where you will stuff yourself and as many roommates as physically possible into an apartment or house in Forest Lawn and be happy to do it because it isn't your parents house and you can sleep with your girlfriend.

The burgeoning independence stage where your independence as represented by any car and any apartment is all that matters.
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Old Posted Oct 2, 2014, 4:42 AM
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A compromise I would be open to would be any area with suites would be switched to permit parking and homes with suites would for perpetuity forfeit access to parking permits, including guest permits.
Or guest parking could be truly guest parking. At the university we have these single use passes where you have to scratch out the month and day, so you can only use them once. Quota each house so you can't have the equivalent of four full time passes, maybe allow extra if you have permits for renovations, and enforce like mad.

Also, if you have a garage or driveway that removes a parking spot from the street, maybe only allocate one street spot pass in areas that are parking poor.
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Old Posted Oct 2, 2014, 4:50 AM
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surrey in BC has a lot of secondary suites, there are whole streets that have 2 basement suites in each house and finding parking is a real pain. If they can sort out the parking issues the suites can be a good idea.
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