Secondary Suites

Proposed Changes to Secondary Suite Applications

* March 5 12:00 noon – submission deadline for a letter, public opinion poll or other communication concerning these bylaw amendments (to be sent
* March 12 commencing at 9:30 a.m. – public hearing in Council Chambers on these bylaw amendments

Background Details: Several key changes are coming to the application and management of secondary suites in Calgary. Although the City of Calgary has sent notification letters in early February to all impacted residents, we wanted to provide you with some information to clarify the coming changes.

On March 12th, Council will be looking at three separate pieces of work about secondary suites. They are:
1) to allow secondary and backyard suites as a discretionary use in R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L districts; 
2) To develop a policy to guide discretion and relaxations on development permit files, and, 
3) To make changes to the suite registry and fee schedule.
The three issues will be voted on separately.

What is a Secondary Suite?
The City of Calgary defines a secondary suite as “A secondary suite, also referred to as a basement suite, in-law suite, granny suite, garden suite, garage suite, coach house or carriage house, is a self-contained living space located on the same property as a single-detached house. It has a separate entrance, cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities. In comparison to a duplex, a secondary suite offers flexibility in form and placement on a property and must be smaller than the primary dwelling. A secondary suite is part of the property and cannot be subdivided. A secondary suite is a residential unit that you are in charge of. You can rent it, live in it yourself, let your kids or parents move in — but it is not a unit that you can sell” (  In the context of this matter before Council, 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, stakeholders 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.

Discretion and Relaxation Policy
Administration will also be working to develop a policy on how discretion will be applied on secondary suite applications, and will look at issues such as:
* Parking requirements
* Amenity space
* Access and privacy for backyard suites

Changes to the Suite Registry and Fee Schedule
Administration is proposing that suites that have obtained all of the required permits and passed inspection will be required to be placed on the Suite Registry. Advertising a suite for rent to the public that is not on the Registry will be illegal and subject to penalties. Administration is recommending a one-time fee for joining the Registry. Administration is also recommending a 2 year grace period where fees will not be charged for development permits or for the Registry (but they will still continue to be charged a fee for building permits). This is to encourage existing illegal suites to follow the rules.

Timeline and Next Steps
Council asked Administration to bring back these proposed changes to the March 12 Council meeting. Administration will present each of these recommendations separately and Council will decide if they want to implement these changes at the Public Hearing.
There will not be any stakeholder consultation on the project There will be two opportunities for citizens to engage Council.
* Those wishing to submit feedback or concerns to Council on these amendments have an opportunity to do so through the March 12, 2018 Public Hearing.  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.
* Any person who wishes to address Council in person on this matter on March 12, 2018 may do so for a maximum of five minutes.
* Persons wishing to submit a letter, public opinion poll or other communication concerning these bylaw amendments may do so following the instructions that can be found here.   Only those submissions received by the City Clerk no later than 12:00 p.m. (noon), March 5, 2018, shall be included in the Agenda of Council. ​

Click here for more information about secondary suites in Calgary.

Prepared by: Ben Morin, MPL, Urban Planner, Federation of Calgary Communities