Secondary suites promoted

In an effort to create more affordable housing, the City of Red Deer will open the door for properly inspected secondary suites in older and new neighbourhoods.

In an effort to create more affordable housing, the City of Red Deer will open the door for properly inspected secondary suites in older and new neighbourhoods.

On Monday, city council endorsed a steering committee report spelling out possible demands for this type of accommodation, the registration and monitoring of these suites and whether they should be allowed automatically in certain neighbourhoods.

The report indicates a need when “incomes have not kept pace with the rising cost of housing.”

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) is forecasting the average price of housing will be $286,000 in 2009.

“Within the context of the current economic climate, this will present huge challenges for many households,” says the report.

The report also states other benefits to having these suites, including enabling seniors to staying in their homes longer and promoting moderately higher densities.

Secondary suites are self-contained dwelling units which usually contain cooking, eating, living, sleeping and bathroom facilities. They can be located anywhere in a house.

They’ve been a focus for the city for more than a year, in part because so many suites are nonconforming and therefore may not be safe for tenants.

In general, they would be permitted in new neighbourhoods within pre-identified secondary suite locations. But in existing or older neighbourhoods, the homeowner would require municipal planning commission approval for these discretionary uses.

Previously legally approved ones would be grandfathered so they would only have to meet current codes of that time.

After one year of approval, a report will come to city council on how well the registration and monitoring process is working. The Inspections and Licensing Department plans to keep records on complaints, inspections, and occupancy permits.

With Monday’s approval, administration will prepare proposed land use bylaw amendments and fine tune the development permit approval process.

Several councillors questioned whether the 20 per cent limit in a neighbourhood was too high.

“My caution is if we do it incorrectly and if we’re not cautious at the front end, we’ll end up with a real mess once an area is built out,” said Councillor Tara Veer.

Residents who attended a March public open house did support this maximum on average. Earlier, a 25 per cent maximum was proposed.

The final percentage will be ironed out at the land use bylaw amendment stage.

“The likelihood of reaching 20 per cent, with the criteria in place, is slim to none (in a neighbourhood),” said Community Services director Colleen Jensen.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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