Calgary could see secondary-suite construction incentive

Calgary city council will vote on a secondary suite incentive program next week, after the community development committee endorsed it Wednesday.

The program is one of 98 recommendations listed in Calgary’s housing strategy, which is meant to help boost supply and increase affordability.

If adopted, qualifying homeowners could receive additional funding up to $10,000 to cover costs. They could also get an additional $5,000 for meeting accessibility requirements, and another $1,250 for improving energy efficiency.

Coun. Courtney Walcott says homeowners will have to dot their I’s and cross those T’s.

“They have to actually make sure they know all the rules of what a safe suite is before they design it, and then of course the building permits, the inspections at the end,” he said.

The program could launch as early as June if it’s approved.

This comes at a time when Calgarians are struggling to make ends meet; since council approved the housing strategy in September, rent has jumped by 12 per cent and home prices have ballooned 11 per cent.

“People often say ‘Well, how do I pay the bills?’ Maybe I do need that mortgage helper or that secondary suite,” Coun. Terry Wong said.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek has said the city will build at least 400 additional secondary suites, and the incentive program will be capped at 3,000 suites during the first year.

Coun. Dan McLean sees it another way.

“We seem to be accelerating growth and building multiplexes in our established communities while at the same time slow-walking maybe the more affordable homes we could be building in our outlying communities,” he said.

McLean says if the secondary suites are being rented out, the incentives should act as a loan.

The program won’t fully fund construction, and doesn’t apply to backyard suites or appliances, like it does safety elements like smoke alarms, separate heating or air, and egress windows.

Walcott says builds take time.

“There’s a lot of parametres to make sure that whoever is living in that basement suite or that secondary suite is doing so safely,” he said.

There are currently over 1,300 registered secondary suites in Calgary.

The next council meeting is Tuesday, May 28.

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