Think long term about suites

People who object to higher housing densities in existing residential neighbourhoods may not be doing themselves any favours in the long term.

People who object to higher housing densities in existing residential neighbourhoods may not be doing themselves any favours in the long term.

The issue of how many secondary suites should be allowed in neighbourhoods has come up once more in Red Deer, with a new look at the bylaws governing their numbers in the city, and the recent opportunity for owners of unregistered suites to “come in” and get them properly inspected and registered.

The issue is current in Calgary, too. Getting more low-cost housing into that fast-growing city was one of the campaign promises made by their mayor, Naheed Nenshi, last fall. He intends to make good on his promise, in part by promoting the building of more secondary suites in existing neighbourhoods.

The issue is as controversial there as it is here.

One caller to Calgary CBC radio complained that housing density bylaws amount to a contract with home buyers. People bought their homes under one set of rules that governed how many people and cars there should be and to change the bylaws now was akin to breaking faith with taxpaying residents.

That’s a strong argument but ultimately it cannot be persuasive.

Here’s a local example why: Some years ago, a group of residents in Rosedale objected to a proposed school near their homes, on land that had been designated by planners as the site of a future school.

Their argument? They had accepted the word of a trusted realtor, who assured them that although the land was designated for a school, one would never be built there. That unwritten, unsubstantiated assurance became a type of contract for some of the people who built homes in that new subdivision and they felt that authorities were breaking faith.

Well, amazingly enough, there is no school in that neighbourhood now and considering the way development has proceeded elsewhere, it may never be built after all.

Fast forward a couple of decades from that decision. The residents are getting older and may soon need to cash in the equity in their homes to finance their declining years. People do age, people do decide to move.

But what’s a top consideration for young people looking to buy one of these homes? Having a school nearby, that’s what — and there isn’t one. What’s the loss in resale value of a home with no school nearby, versus one that has one? Twenty thousand? More? that’s if you can sell at all in our tight market.

Still have no regrets? That’s good, but a host of potential home buyers might disagree with you.

Let’s switch that consideration to secondary suites. What’s the value of a home to a retired person, who can legally rent a suite for monthly income, versus one where you can’t? How much more easily does a home with a rental suite sell to a young family who may not qualify for a mortgage, except for having that rental income?

Some issues have a little more gravity than others. Being able to remain independent in our own homes longer during our lengthening retirements — or being able to purchase a first home at all — mean more than looking at extra cars parked on the street in the minds of future home buyers.

The equity one thinks they may have in their homes as a cushion against a declining savings account might be tested by a For Sale sign on the lawn that takes a long time to get its Sold tag.

Cities in Alberta have been in rapid growth for so long that we think rapid growth is normal. But there are limits. The future is trending toward a higher portion of infill growth in cities; higher densities, and a pulling away from maxed-out floor plans in sprawling subdivisions and mortgages to match.

If you object too much to change, you may end up trapped.

Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo by Advocate staff)
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett takes her seat as she wait to appear before the Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee in Ottawa, March 10, 2020. Federal officials are facing calls for greater clarity on how a proposed new law to harmonize Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People could affect future development projects and government decisions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Feds pressed to define ‘free, prior and informed consent’ in UNDRIP bill

UNDRIP bill mandates government adopt more inclusive approach

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, centre, tables the federal budget in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. The federal government unveiled spending plans to manage the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and chart an economic course for a post-pandemic Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
ATB Financial: Five things to know about the federal budget

Five things stand out above the rest in the federal government’s budget,… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Bolsonaro: Suicide by COVID

‘Rounding into the home stretch, it’s Italy by a full length, then… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Red Deer, June 28, 1990. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer and the Royal Family

The recent passing and funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Tanner Pearson, right, celebrates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie David Rittich during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP)
Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Most Read