Please see the updated article on Secondary Suites in Calgary – new rules as of 2018

Utilizing a rentable suite in your home to offset mortgage costs is a popular concept. It is becoming more popular due to economic reasons but I also have to point some nods to HGTV and the many renovation shows that center around the concept.

Calgary is structured around a single family home concept so while it is more common for there to be multi family units in a single home in other cities, it isn’t as common or permitted here. The long standing debate at City of Calgary Council continued yesterday with a review of amendments that would change how suites are developed. These changes refer to legal basement or secondary suites.

The City of Calgary provides detailed information to homeowners who wish to develop a legal secondary suite.

There are two different steps in determining whether you can have a legal suite in any specific property.

  1. The property zoning has to permit a secondary suite. Or you can apply to the City for an exception. Zoning is public knowledge so we know quickly if it is already zoned and only the City can speak to whether it can be zoned.
  2. The home has to be built or modified to comply with building and safety requirements as well as parking needs and other details such as minimum ceiling height, exit access, window requirements, independent heating and ventilation systems and fire and smoke separation between units and the heating systems.

When we are viewing homes sometimes folks ask me if a particular home can be a secondary suite and how much it would cost. It’s the same for me when folks walk into a house and ask me if a wall can be removed. In terms of the zoning, only a trip to City Hall can give you a better idea of the expectations and opportunities for a potential zoning application change. In terms of the physical modifications, the answer is usually, “It depends and most things are possible depending on how much money you want to spend”.

I have a secret to share. When the Property Brothers or Income Property or any of those shows give homeowners a quote on costs they usually did some homework before hand and talked to some engineers and trades and probably the City or community development office prior to walking on set and providing expert advice in 2 minutes. You just never know how much something is going to cost until you receive quotes from a few experts (ventilation, engineering, city development) and maybe open up a wall or two. Just ask Hillary or Scott or Jonathan….. 🙂