To suite or not to suite - that is the question that I ask

Recently at a couple of our corporate gatherings, the discussion turned to whether secondary suites should be allowed carte blanch across the city. Of course when I vehemently say no, many look at me as if I was a great white hunter in the middle of a PETA convention.

for rent

With my answer being in the NW when asked where we live, they roll their eyeballs with that "knowing" look and silently nod. Of, course. You are one of those. I can hear them think, “A NIMBY". (A Not In My Back Yard).
And then the disagreement starts.

Of course, the arguments thrown at me are high level. Statements like the mayor supports it! Now business has come out in support of it! There was "wide spread" support across the city! How could I be so close-minded?

People who know me would attest that I am anything but close-minded. I have quit jobs over discriminatory hiring practices. I have argued against corporate bosses for their distasteful attitude toward women in the company. If I have had a complaint levelled against me, it is that I am too tolerant.

Those that read this that know me well, will listen to my arguments and still make up their own mind on the subject. Those that don't know me may well throw up their own close-minded discriminatory attitudes. At this point, I don't care.

Listen, I have lived in Calgary continuously (with the exception of a few years going to post-secondary school in the States) since 1973. For those who need a calculator, that is 40+ years. I have seen this city grow from a true "Cowtown" to an international place of business that is ranked as one of the best places to live. I was here when they had electric buses running up Centre Street and when the Olympics came to town. (Even my use of "town" as opposed to "city" tells you how long I have lived here.)

And with the exception of the last five years, my address has always had a NE or SE attached to it. We have lived in places such as Taradale, Forest Lawn, and Castleridge. We have lived in half duplexes, starter homes, quarter duplexes (that's right, a portion of a suited half-duplex), townhouses and even mobile homes.

So what makes me say no to across the board secondary suiting?

I say the question is just too complex for a simple yes or no response.

Almost every community across the city has a mix of single family homes, attached homes, and multi-family homes. Not every street has the infrastructure to accommodate the density though. There simply is not enough parking or space in many areas.

The school system is not going to be able to withstand an influx of students in particular areas. The city plan has been developed with the school system to accommodate particular numbers. Some can withstand an increase and many cannot. Our school transportation system and our school infrastructure cannot endure allowing free growth where it is not intended.

We live in a district that allows legalized suiting. As such, there are many secondary suites but as of recently, only one is legal. The others have been put in against regulations. Why? To cut costs and save taxes, of course. Just because someone can doesn't mean they should.

Allowing legalized suites across the city will NOT end slum landlords, unsafe suites, or overcrowded rooming houses. It will not increase city tax coffers. Bad landlords will continue to exist. The ability to own a rental home as an investment is a good thing. But not everyone is up to the task of being a good landlord. Again, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. It is a commitment to the neighbourhood and your tenants to take care of the property and infrastructure.

The only thing legalizing city-wide suiting will do is make it that much more difficult to get the city to actually do something, in the case of a substandard situation. At least today you can call the city on an illegal suite and they will investigate the situation. Make it legal and they will simply shrug their shoulders at complaints.

Today, there are structures and processes in place to ensure that those who want to legally put in a suite can go through. This process, albeit tedious and onerous at times, is there to ensure that ALL Calgarians have a say. Not just a potential landlord. Not everyone wants to live in dense neighbourhoods and that should be their choice.

Many Calgarians have chosen their specific areas BECAUSE they are not zoned for density. To thrust significantly different zoning upon them all is unfair.

The argument of "city wide" acceptance for suites is patently untrue. 2000-3000 people across the city wanting secondary suites, as reported in the media, is in fact statistically ZERO in a city of a million plus people. That number tells me that the great majority of Calgarians are not for across the city secondary suites.

Yes housing is expensive in Calgary. Yes getting into a home as a first time buyer is difficult.
Perhaps though, a good place to start ownership is at the beginning, where the property is manageable without a rental income. Look at living in a townhouse or a half-duplex. Even live in a mobile home to start. Build up equity and then move up. That's how our grandparents did it, and how our parents did it. There is no shame in it. By the time you get to your larger family home in a few years, you will appreciate it enough to take care of it and your neighbourhood.


1 Comment

  1. Marcus 03/19/2015 at 6:05 PM

    Great advice! I find many people rush into buying a home because 'that's what everyone else is doing' or because they 'don't want to throw away money renting.' These are then the same people who are crushed by debt a few years later.

    It's much better to do what you said and build up equity before jumping in. This is one of the largest purchases of your life and should be rushed.

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