Without safe affordable secondary suite housing Calgary's economic growth will be slowed. Current bylaws are hurting the ones they profess to be helping.
With the Calgary election coming up, we must find our where our potential council members stand on the key issues facing the city.
One of the largest issues that has direct impact on our economy, our city pride, our community empathy, our urban sprawl and the safety of our citizens is Calgary's draconian "Secondary Suite" legislation.
The lack of affordable housing options combined with zero vacancy rate is quickly creating hardships for many in this city: most of whom are the people who can least afford dramatic rental increases we are witnessing across the city. These are the people who work hard, are the backbone of our economy, many of whom have moved to Calgary because of our strong economy and great reputation as a city and populous. They are here to make it their new home and our inability to deal with our secondary suites in a proper, professional and well-managed (non-political) process is not just embarassing, but also will have a major negative ripple affect on the city's ability to lead the nation in economic growth.
You combine this lack of affordable housing with the aftermath of the flood and the pain grows further.
But it gets much worse!
Despite the obvious lack of rental units in the city, an announcement has been made that will take even more secondary suites out of the market. In the midst of post flood repairs, the city has decided that secondary suites that were in existence in buildings that were hurt by the flood (many have been grandfathered in existence decades ago) will no long be grandfathered. These very important suites in areas like Bowness are not to be repaired as affordable suites. They must be removed completely.
Of course, this will not only hurt those families who lived in these secondary suites (who are now looking around in a city with no vacancy right as school year is beginning......), but will also hurt those young families who took the step to buy a home and could afford it BECAUSE it had a mortgage helper suite. So these young families and owners are hurt twice, once by the flood and now twice by policy.
Short Term Thinking vs Future of the City
The short term thinking (and quite frankly selfishness) of the current anti-secondary suite council members is shocking. Look across the country (and even this province) and you can see the success story that affordable secondary suites can be in a city.
We must assume that these anti-suiters:
- Are not concerned with those who can only afford to live in these suites - even with our dramatically increasing rents in the city
- Would rather see Calgary continue to sprawl outward, instead of densifying (hopefully not because it would bring more citizens into their ward.....)
- Don't fully understand the economics (and time lines and financing issues) behind the building of large multi-family rental only buildings. These buildings take years to plan, fund, build and complete. That is, if you can get financing for them. Long term plan, sure (make the zoning match demand and that would be a good start)
- Must not see that affordable housing is a KEY component in keeping new Calgarians pouring in from other parts of the country. It doesn't matter how many jobs we create, if people can't afford to live here, if people have to commute hours to get to these jobs from an affordable region - these jobs will remain empty (or move to another part of the province).
It is time to stop the political grandstanding
The time has come to start looking at the reality of our housing situation. Time for leaders to lead - with the future of the city in mind. Politics of divisiveness is harming those who really can't afford to be hurt financially.
Should secondary suites be allowed in every house in every neighbourhood. Maybe yes, or maybe no. But let's look across the country, find out how they make it work in other jurisdictions. Then get on with making this city the best it can be for ALL citizens.
Here's one way you can help, go to this site and vote for 'Secondary Suite' question to be the first BIG question to be poised to each and every candidate for Calgary election. And I suggest those who say they are not in favour, ask a follow up question regarding how they intend on (without City tax payer's dollars) supporting safe and affordable housing for people across the city.
Visit this site and vote to make sure this is an election issue:
And throughout the whole election cycle, email your candidates and make sure they know safe affordable housing done properly is critical to this city.
Let's keep this city growing, lets make it affordable for people to move to, let's provide licensed and safe housing, and let's show our leaders that we CARE about all citizens (new and life-long) in this great city.
Thank you in advance for taking a leadership role in the City,
Don R Campbell