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Dec. 10, 2014 | CREBNow

Sounding off on suites

Provincial politicians submit letters of support to Calgarians for Secondary Suites

Provincial MLAs and party leaders are joining a growing throng of secondary suite supporters leading up to a crucial vote at city council Dec. 15.

"As a former small business owner, I know the importance of attracting and retaining talent to our rapidly expanding city," said Alberta Party leader Greg Clark, in a letter submitted to Calgarians for Secondary Suites, the grassroots group behind the We Support Secondary Suites campaign. "For workers to come to our city, we need safe and affordable options for them to transition." Calgarians for Secondary Suites — which is made up of the University of Calgary Students' Union, Mount Royal University Students' Association and Vibrant Communities Calgary, among other groups — is advocating for the approval of more secondary suites as a solution to Calgary's tight housing market.

In the wake of the June 2013 floods and record in-migration numbers, Calgary's vacancy rate has hovered around 1.4 per cent, among the lowest of any major urban centre in Canada.

Currently, more than 53 per cent of homes in the city are zoned RC1 or R1, meaning secondary suites are not allowed.

"Secondary suites will increase the supply of safe and affordable rental housing, without changing land use or building size," said Liberal MLA Kent Hehr. "We are simply making better use of current housing stock."

In September, CREB®Now reported a petition by Calgarians for Secondary Suites asking the City make a plebiscite on the issue as part of the 2017 municipal election. A proponent of citywide legalization of secondary suites, Hehr was one of thousands to share the petition via social media.

"We have a real affordable housing issue in this city – not only for first-time homebuyers, but [because] there's an abundance of homelessness," he said. "This is just something that is necessary to the development of our city continuing to go forward.

Leading up to the secondary suite vote next week — which will be addressing better application processes as well as blanket approval — Hehr also posted an open letter to council on reddit, a public forum website, saying, "in our current framework for illegal suites, neither the homeowner nor tenant is protected. There are no guidelines, no inspections, and thus the health and safety of the tenant is compromised. Then, should the tenant complain to the City, they are likely to lose their home.

"This is an abnormally cruel way to run a city and that causes the greatest harm to the least well-off, the fringe in our communities and those who are the closest to poverty and homelessness."

Tagged: Affordable Housing | Calgary | Calgary Community | Calgary Real Estate News | council | Kent Hehr | Secondary Suites | Vote

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