Secondary suite restriction on hold while council waits for report

A proposal to restrict the number of secondary suites in a neighbourhood is on hold.

A proposal to restrict the number of secondary suites in a neighbourhood is on hold.

Red Deer city council voted to send the issue back to administration, which will return with a report within three months that will include the latest number and densities of secondary suites in neighbourhoods.

Coun. Lawrence Lee put the issue on the front burner with a notice of motion in July calling on the city to limit the number of secondary suites to 10 per cent in any one neighbourhood and on any one street.

Current city planning regulations permit 15 per cent of homes in a neighbourhood to have secondary suites. They are allowed in most residential areas and are approved by the planning department if they meet the guidelines.

Exceptions, such as cases where the 15 per cent threshold has already been met, go to the municipal planning commission for a decision.

There is no restriction on the percentage of secondary suites on any given street.

In his motion, Lee says the current policy could result in “clustering” of secondary suites, leading to noise, traffic and parking problems among other issues.

Lee said when the densities were set years ago Red Deer was facing a housing crunch and options were limited. There are more housing options available now, including affordable housing, and he believes the current limits on the suites are too high.

Some neighbourhoods are already over the 15 per cent threshold and others are between 10 and 15 per cent.

“What I want to do is reduce overall the percentage of secondary suites in the city because I feel we have enough housing choices,” said Lee.

“Affordable housing should be met through proper design, proper build and proper facilities and amenities along with secondary suites.”

Otherwise, an abundance of secondary suites can lead to fire and safety concerns and neighbourhood problems, such as parking shortages.

City staff supported keeping the current system, which leaves it up to the planning staff or the municipal planning commission to weigh secondary suite applications, taking into account density, availability of parking, the nature of the site and other considerations.

Lee said while 10 per cent might not be the density number, a compromise that is less than 15 per cent could work.