In 2016 Calgary’s city council approved an additional secondary suites in the city. Out of 26 applications 21 were approved and 5 were rejected. Though the current lengthy approval process requires city council to approve each application individually, a process Mayor Naheed Nenshi clearly detests. However, the process is unlikely to change soon.
Legal secondary suites can be a boon to cities facing housing shortages and can offer a lower cost alternative to students and low income individuals seeking housing. It also allows homeowners to earn some extra money, which can be used to pay of debts like mortgages.
A secondary suite refers to an additional separate dwelling on a property that would typically only accommodate one dwelling unit. Secondary suites can take a variety of forms including Granny Suites (which are located above a detached garage) or single floor dwellings in a multiple floor home. Some landlords, particularly those with families, choose to rent out the basement and live in the upstairs portion of the home. Other landlords, such as childless couples or single individuals, may choose to live in the basement portion and rent out the larger upstairs area in order to maximize their rental income.
All secondary suites in Calgary must be approved by city council. If you are considering moving into a secondary suite you should ask the landlord if the suite is legal. Registered secondary suites are issued a registration sticker. The individually issued sticker will correspond with the address of the suite and can be verified online. Verified secondary suites meet all the minimum safety requirements, including:
Having at least one window in each bedroom. The window must be able to be opened to the outside without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge. The window also must be unobstructed. This ensures that occupants can escape safely in case of a fire or other emergency.
Smoke alarms and fire detectors. Each unit must have its own smoke alarm and fire detector, and the alarms and detectors of all units must be connected so that if one is triggered the others will sound as well. All smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be inspected, tested and maintained according to the manufacturer's instructions.
At least one exit. Each unit within the building should have at least one exit that leads directly outside and every exit door should be able to swing inwards.
If you are considering creating a secondary suite on your property you can begin your application for a permit here.