Calgary is in the midst of its municipal election campaign run. For better or for worse, most people in the city could name the mayor but not more than fifty percent of the city aldermen (alderpeople for those who feel the need to be PC, although my spell checker does not recognize that word).
One of the most contentious issues is that of secondary suites, or as many try to hide behind, the infamous Mother-in-law suite.
People come to Calgary for the opportunities in the Oil and Gas industry and because it is a great city to live in. You can still walk most streets at night as long as you bring along clothing for all four seasons (Winter, Isn't Winter Over Yet, When is Summer Going to Get Here?, and Where Did Our Summer Go?).
But Calgary is also facing a dilemma of not enough housing. Expansion needs to continue to take place and, that is where the dilemma begins. We have some options.
1 - Suburbanize
We can continue to annex surrounding areas and build suburbs. People love Calgary because you can have a yard for your kids to play in and have your kids walk to school. However, our road planners need to do a better job of planning for that growth instead of building communities with 25,000 people and only one single road in and out. Transportation continues to be the number one concern of Calgarians.
2 - Build Hi-Density Housing
This is the preferred method of the city planners and their "I know what's better for you than you do attitude". We can continue to build high rise apartments and cram more and more people into smaller and smaller spaces. But there are only so many spaces in and around the downtown core (that are not in the flood plain). And, there is understandable pushback from suburbanites who bought and built homes with a view at a premium who do not want stare into the eyes of a hundred apartment dwellers across the street.
3 - Secondary Suites
Few in Calgary have legal secondary suites, but many have non-conforming and illegal suites for their "four mothers-in-law" living in the basement, ranging from 10-30 in age. And as long as your neighbours don't complain, everyone goes happily about their day. But for neighbours there is the potential loss of street parking in the area, as homes designed for 2 cars now have need for 4 car parking. As well, there is the risk to the owner of the home with the illegal suites; they could lose that rental income. For many that would mean the inability to pay for the home.
Forty years ago, the average size home cost about five times one's annual income. Today it runs eight to ten times an annual salary. Home prices are getting away from us. The mayor wants to allow the growth of the secondary suite market, while the developers want to see more suburbanization, and the city planners want the hi-density options.
Where do you stand?