2017 Election Suite Picks

Suite_Picks.jpgThis election matters

While the most recent City Council had its leaders on secondary suites that fought for meaningful reform, their efforts were largely held back by the remainder of Council that was unable to move beyond a system that would continue to waste Council's time or make applications for suites so onerous that homeowners would only be more incentivized to build suites illegally. 

That is why in the this election it's more important than ever for Calgarians to vote for candidates that are prepared to support reform that will actually have a meaningful impact on improving the process around secondary suites in Calgary. We cannot afford to waste another four years of City Council dithering on reform while continuing to waste their time on individual suite applications when there's the important business of running a city of 1.2 million people.


2017 Suite Picks

We surveyed all mayoral and councillor candidates for the 2017 Calgary Municipal Election to see where they stand on secondary suite reform in Calgary. Below is our list of Suite Picks - candidates that stand for regulating secondary suites city-wide by replacing the current wasteful, humiliating and arbitrary public approval process before City Council with an fair and efficient approval process that is based on clear rules and run by City Administration.

We reviewed candidate responses along with incumbent records. Suite picks were awarded to:

  • Incumbents with a positive survey response and record of support for secondary suite reform
  • If there was no incumbent that met the above, any other candidates with a positive survey response
















Calgary has "dumbest" secondary suite policy in Canada

Calgary is the only municipality in Canada to require homeowners to submit themselves to an arduous process whereby they must plead their case for a secondary suite before City Council asking for a special zoning redesignation. A recent study has shown that City Council’s decisions on the fate of applications in 2016 was “completely random”.


This has led to embarrassing situations, bringing citizens to tears in front of City Council, speaking about everything from the loss of loved ones and economic hardships to physical disabilities. Calgary has even earned the dubious distinction from renowned urban planner, Brent Toderian, as having the “dumbest secondary suite policy in Canada”. He's also called Calgary an "outlier" in this debate.


Wasting City Council’s time and risking people’s lives

Last year, City Council reviewed 161 applications for secondary suites. This number has been climbing steadily since 2014. Council now spends up to several days each month reviewing individual secondary suite applications. This is not just a waste of taxpayer money, it also prevents Council from working on other, more pressing issues.


As of 2015, it was estimated there were about 16,000 illegal suites in Calgary. Illegal suites pose a safety risk to renters who may not have the protections of a suite that meets building code. Thanks to the layers of bureaucracy, cost and uncertainty in the application process for legal secondary suites, today Calgarians face an unsafe environment where illegal suites have proliferated.


2017 Election Survey Full Responses

We emailed all candidates for mayor and in every ward to ask them directly if they would support actual suite reform. Here's what we asked them.


Do you support regulating secondary suites city-wide by replacing the current wasteful, humiliating and arbitrary public approval process before City Council with an fair and efficient approval process that is based on clear rules and run by City Administration?






Jason Achtymichuk

No answer. 


Andrew Chabot

No answer. 


Brent Chisholm

I support secondary suites, so students and others can get a more affordable place to live. While at the same time helping the landlord make payments on their mortgage, property taxes, utilities, credit card, insurance or a number of other bills. We being in an administrative position should see the whole picture, not just what politicians can make off of it, since it's for all people & it's best we get along and work together as a team to better implement the best way forward for everyone. 


Emile Gabriel

No answer. 


Larry Heather

No answer. 


Naheed Nenshi

Yes. I will continue to advocate for the legalization of secondary suites throughout the city. The current situation where thousands of Calgarians are living in illegal suites without the legal protections available to other tenants is untenable.

Incumbent's record: supported secondary suite reform.


David Lapp

No answer.   


Curtis Olson

No answer.  


Bill Smith

No answer. 




Ward 1


Chris Blatch

No answer. 


Coral Bliss Taylor

Making secondary suites illegal puts both landlords and tenants at risk. It is well known that there are many secondary suites, and, as they are illegal, there are no codes or controls to ensure safe living conditions.

Further, requiring individual approval for secondary suites is a waste of council’s time. I’d prefer to spend council’s time on moving Calgary forward and ensuring we have a bright future.

I agree that this issue has dragged on for an embarrasingly long time. I would like to see a simple, 3 area solution: (1) areas where secondary suites are permitted in the land use, (2) areas where secondary suites are discretionary, and (3) areas where secondary suites must come before council (as they all must now). This would allow administration to process the majority of applications. This solution would be implemented based on location, considering both urban form and local input. 



Cole Christensen

Yes, I do. 100%. We need a secondary suite process that works for everyone. If elected, I will advocate for a reformed system that emphasizes safe, affordable, and available housing.


Cam Khan

Thank you for email, yes I strongly support secondary suites citywide I am in favor of secondary suites.



Ward Sutherland

No answer.  

Incumbent's record: did not support secondary suite reform.



Ward 2


George Georgeou

No answer.  


Joe Maglioca

No answer.

Incumbent's record: did not support secondary suite reform.


Christopher Maitland

No answer.


Jenifer Wyness

No answer.



Ward 3


Jyoti Gondek

The answer is YES. I support less humiliating and time-sucking ways to address people’s desires to create secondary suites.


Connie Hamilton

I personally support secondary suites. By legalizing secondary suites in all residential zones, with the provision that homeowners would also need to reside on the property, not only would more spaces be available for rent but homeowners would be allowed to do with their property as they see fit when it comes to deciding whether to make part of their home available for rent. This dragging on and on and on by council proves that 15 council members should not be the ones deciding the issue. The regulations and systems are in place, they should be identifying & fixing the problems that exist inside those regulations & systems. Councilors approving one suite at a time is not required and has proven to be random at best and described as inhumane too often.


Jun Lin

No answer.


Ian McAnerin

No answer.



Ward 4


Blair Berdusco

Yes, I support an overhaul of the current system at City Hall for secondary suites. No one should be made to plead their case in front of Council, with no certainty of approval and potential embarrassment around something which may mean more to them than any Councillor could know.

Secondary suites became very popular when our vacancy rate was so low it became difficult to find housing. I believe this led to a simple and quick decision by the City, in hopes of alleviating the problem, but lacking oversight.

We now must take a step back and ensure the safety of suites along with enforcement of current bylaws.

The first thing the City needs to do though is implement measures for enforcement on current secondary suites, legal or illegal. We need to know where they exist and have a mechanism for accountability with owners.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel on how we regulate, permit and enforce secondary suites. Many cities have come before us and learned the hard lessons. 


Sean Chu

No answer.

Incumbent's record: did not support secondary suite reform.


Srini Ganti

Yes, The secondary suites stalemate is impossible to resolve logically, as the tension between illegality and un-safety and an implicit promise to home owners not change zoning without express consent are mutually exclusive.
Initially, I proposed taking the matter completely out of council hands (with an amendment to the appropriate bylaw) and make CPC the final authority to decide on these matters on a case by case basis.
But on further introspection and bit of research I felt that the end of the world prophecies and rhetoric surrounding a blanket re-zoning are grossly exaggerated.
Contingent on the landlord not being absent, the property not being on a cul-de-sac, the proposed suite meeting the building and safety code and while acknowledging that the Nielsen survey is essentially a dead-heat between Y/N (being within 1 standard error), I will support the idea of all secondary suite applications being decided by someone other than Council. 


Greg Miller


Council wastes countless hours and taxpayer dollars by needlessly hearing individual suite applications. Council must work on important issues, and stop putting residents through costly, unproductive and often embarrassing council hearings. We must end the proliferation of non-compliant suites by making them safe, legal and regulated. Official estimates of suites in Calgary range from 13,500 to 16,000. Unofficial estimates are far greater, and yet only a few hundred have been approved by the city. If elected I’ll work to empower administration with the ability to review suite applications, approve them, inspect them — and reject them if they do not comply.



Ward 5


Sarbdeep Baidwan

No answer.


George Chahal

No answer.


Tudor Dinca

No answer.


Hirde Jassal

Yes, I do support. And this is one of the top priorities in my election manifesto. 


Balraj Nijjar

No answer.


Aryan Sadat 

Council has failed on this issue. Instead of looking at how to improve programs and find was of saving taxpayers money, Council endlessly debates secondary suite applications. Instead of pushing a one-size-fits-all solution, I believe that Council should adopt a community-by-community approach based on the input provided by the voters. Instead of Council telling communities what they should believe when it comes to secondary suites, they should listen to what individual communities actually want.



Ward 6


Jeff Brownridge

The current system for approving secondary suites is not working. Council currently hears all applications and over 80% of these applications end up with an approval. This is a highly inefficient process and it is also a waste of time in council chambers, time that can be better focused on higher priority issues. The current practice is also vastly different than what occurs in other major Canadian municipalities, so it is beyond time to make changes.

I would favor a system where a clear set of rules and process are defined by the city for making these applications and these applications would then be submitted for a fair review process within city administration. This would be a process that would be similar to the steps for applying for building permits; however, it would be with rules that are specific to the unique conditions and safety standards that would need to be required for establishing a legal secondary suite.

I also think that a bigger push needs to be made on cracking down on illegal secondary suites and encouraging conversion of these illegal suites to meet code and safety regulations. Calgary is not currently experiencing market conditions where tenants have less available choices for where they can choose to live, but this doesn't mean that we should let landlords get away with renting out units that can be safety hazards for those who unwittingly or unknowingly rent these units.


Alex Columbos

I’m not aware that there is a clear, transparent and consistent process for any of this. We need to spend one-year synthesizing the existing data and conversations we already have, while addressing concerns we have not; this needs to be done on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood approach. We need to get neighbourhoods to sign off on something that works if secondary suites are relevant for them. Once the policy and process is clear, transparent, and signed off; Council should not have to evaluate any applications unless the established criteria is not present. 


Jeff Davison

No answer.


Sanjeef Kad

No answer.


Grace Nelson

I Grace Nelson, have been both a home owner and a renter at different times, and have experience with both situations. As a homeowner existing homes I have had to deal with health and safety issues from do-it-your-self efforts of previous owners. Any city wide policy that would support an effort to make it easier for homeowners to develop secondary suites needs to incorporate rules that protect the residents be they homeowners or renters of these units.

The city should have a standardized process for the approval of Secondary Suites in existing homes and should not be dealing with approval of these suites on a case by case basis.  Suites should as a rule be allowed in all neighborhoods where a majority of the home-owners are in favour of them. But only after basic conditions are met related to compliance to building codes for any development, and fire codes for all suites.

Homeowners with existing suites need to come clean with the city and their neighbors and ensure these units are compliant to codes and are a safe place for the residents of city of Calgary to occupy.  The city should consider zoning variances in new developments similar to other jurisdictions where a secondary suite is incorporated in to the basic design of the residence. Such developments might prove to be well suited to different types of family situations, such as where parents would like to accommodate adult children, or where family have to make arrangements for care and support for elderly parents.


Esmahan Razavi

The current process is broken. It is both inefficient, wasting hours of council public hearing time, and divisive, turning neighbour against neighbour. We need to take this process out of Council and into administration in order to have consistency, transparency and dignity. Having set standards and processes will allow for consistency in rulings. The process for setting the criteria for secondary suite applications will require robust discussion at City Council and consultation with residents, but with clear guidelines this process should be removed from Council, increasing consistency and reducing expenses from overtime paid to city staff when Council meetings extend beyond business hours dealing with routine secondary suite applications.


Steve Turner

My answer is yes.


Sean Yost

No answer.



Ward 7


Margot Aftergood

No answer.


Brent Alexander

Let me be the first to say I am completely in favour of Secondary Suites (typically basement suites), Garden Cabins or Lane Way Housing (often known as Mother In Law Suites) as well as other forms of market based housing that are typically less expensive than apartment and single family rental housing.

Secondary suites in Calgary, whether legal or not, provide a significant amount of housing for people of modest means.

Legalizing secondary suites and improving the approval process for new secondary suites throughout Calgary is necessary to provide more options for this form of housing for a few key reasons:

1/ Legalization gives Tenants rights. When living in illegal suites, tenants have no recourse to their landlords for unsafe conditions (or anything else for that matter). If tenants in illegal suites complain, landlords can simply threaten them with eviction. If legalized, tenants can have recourse as per tenants in any legal suite. Landlords can be required to remove safety hazards for instance.
2/ Legalization gives oversight agencies options. Fire, Bylaw and Police are loathe to shutdown illegal suites, no matter how unsafe. They know that by doing so they are likely evicting tenants in to a state of homelessness – even with the relatively highly vacancy rate in Calgary over the last two years. With legalization, these same agencies have tools to work with landlords, tenants and the community to enforce safety and other rules.
3/ Blanket legalization should improve the approval process and increase stock of housing. Many home owners would like to have a secondary suite in their home but with the process so cumbersome, they often avoid putting in a secondary suite all together or do it on the sly with out the proper approvals. Young Families and first time home owners can often use a “Mortgage Helper” suite when they first buy their home. Elderly couples and Empty Nesters often have excess space in their homes that could easily accommodate a tenant to supplement their fixed incomes.


Dean Brawn

No answer.


Druh Farrell

Yes. Please. 

Incumbent's record: supported secondary suite reform.


Marek Hejduk

Yes I would like to change it. I want to create an office dealing with Secondary Suites and reform around existing suites to work in three capacities:
Inform landlords and tenants of their legal rights and legal requirements to make a legal secondary suite.
Have the office staffed with a minimum of two home inspectors to inspect work finished on a secondary suite to ensure safety compliance.
Work with Calgary Housing Corporation to ensure that tenants affected by secondary suite reform either through compliance issues or eviction due to non compliance would have adequate and reasonable housing solutions while the landlord(s) met compliance.
I believe blanket legalization would not address the safety component of secondary suites nor would continuing to allow council to make the decision be beneficial both from a cost and time perspective.



Ward 8


Karla Charest

The 34,000 or so illegal and non-registered secondary suites currently out there in the city of Calgary need to be legalized by working with owners to get them up to code and registered. I support a city-wide secondary suite policy that will encourage the safe development of accessory housing that pays its own way that should be governed under the same city guidelines/regulations that currently exist for development/modification of an existing home. If this has to be revisited or modified to make it a seamless process, I will work on accomplishing this. This must replace the current wasteful, humiliating and arbitrary public approval process before City Council that you have referenced. No one should die in an illegal suite because the city does not want to deal with this issue in its entirety.


Chris Davis

No answer.


Carter Thomson

yes we must approve secondary suites city wide in a fair and efficient manner.


Evan Woolley

Yes! There are an estimated 16,000 illegal suites in the city. They aren’t necessarily unsafe but we need a process that removes incentives to skirt the rules, that ensures the safety of tenants, addresses parking issues and keeps the character of neighbourhoods in the hands of the people who live there.

I believe every Calgary homeowner should have the option to add a secondary suite provided that they comply with clearly established rules and regulations that ensure adequate parking is provided, privacy is maintained and safety codes are respected.

We know the benefits of secondary suites. They allow Calgarians to house their aging relatives with dignity; boost property values and offer homeowners additional income to help pay off their mortgages sooner.

The current public approval process is an unproductive use of Council’s time. We need to instead focus Council’s time on the important job of running the City.

I will continue to advocate for a system that sets clear rules and regulations for secondary suites within an application process that provides greater certainty for homeowners so that secondary suites are built safely, legally and more appropriately in our neighbourhoods.

Incumbent's record: supported secondary suite reform.



Ward 9


Trevor Buckler

I do not support rezoning to accommodate secondary suites.
The largest investment in most people’s lives is their home. They buy it for district, available services, parks, parking ,etcetera.
Allowing secondary suites in a single family zoned area is not acceptable in my opinion.
If secondary suites are in the proper zoned area they must meet all current building and fire codes.


Gian-Carlo Carra

I support the legalization of suites in all R-based residential districts. That would end Council’s involvement in the matter and make it the administrative function it should be.

Incumbent's record: supported secondary suite reform.


Cheryl Link

No answer. 


Boss Madimba

The cost of land has a lot to do with the prices of homes. Demand and suppliers also influence the cost of leaving. At the present because of the economics, the market is undergoing self correction. It will be my duty to ensure that affordable housing become reality and not just more word. I will cut the red tape and suggested a simple process where Citizens will directly submitted their application through City building permit office for approval and council will just receive a quarterly report.


David Metcalfe

No answer. 


Omar M'keyo

This is problem should not be an issue in the first place. The broken system regarding secondary suite in Calgary is a shame and has led the people to take things in their own hands. Hundreds of illegal suites have been built in the city so far. I support making the process simple so that those who want to build secondary suite can do so legally. 


Cesar Saavedra

No answer.



Ward 10


Najeeb Butt

No answer.


Numan Elhussein

No answer.


Gar Gar

As a former President of SAIT Student Association, I had advocated on secondary suites and still believe and supports regulating city-wide by replacing the current wasteful, humiliating and arbitrary public approval process before City Council with an fair and efficient approval process that is based on clear rules and run by City Administration.


Faith Greaves

No answer.


Ray Jones

No answer.

Incumbent's record: did not support secondary suite reform.


Salimah Kassam

No answer.


Issa Mosa

No answer.


Hermann Muller

Yes. The current process is a waste of time when simpler solutions exist in other cities. 


Kamilla Prasad

No answer.


Michelle Robinson

No answer.


David Winkler

No answer.



Ward 11


Robert Dickinson

Yes. I strongly support removing the land use application process from City Council. I feel that basement suites should be a permitted use in all single-detached homes (R1/RC1) and laneway/garden suites should be a discretionary use in all single detached homes (R1/RC1). The current administrative rules are detailed and comprehensive, they address everything from parking requirements to safety codes and building regulations. This change would create a more efficient process and encourage the introduction of more safe, affordable homes across our city. These suites may end up being homes for seniors, students, caregivers, couples, single parents etc., and it is important that they have a safe home to live in

City Council should enable this to be an administrative process, so that it is easier for people who want to build a safe, legal secondary suite. We need to be careful not to add additional unnecessary rules and regulations to the administrative process. This would only make the process more challenging and not support the introduction of safe suites.

Council should then be able to focus on how to encourage the illegal and unsafe suites to be brought up to code and empower bylaw to better enforce problem illegal suites.


Janet Eremenko

In a word, yes. I support secondary suites in principle, but not in process. Secondary suites provide options for people to remain in their homes, add critical rental stock to the market and are a low-intensity option to bring light densification to a community. My role as Councillor is not to say yes or no, but where and how; to create the regulatory framework in which land use changes to R-C1s may occur.

I believe neighbours should have the opportunity to provide their perspective, and this should be taken into account by Administration. I am not in favour of blanket rezoning areas to R-C1s.

The decision to approve - or not - an application for a secondary suite can and should be made by Administration. I would re-iterate a comment in the question above that I think is essential; that the process and the rules/criteria are clear, predictable and consistent. Delegating this to Administration means that it is less political and less discretionary.


Jeromy Farkas

No answer.


Linda Johnson

While I am not supportive of a blanket redesignation of neighbourhoods to allow for secondary suites across neighbourhoods, I believe that the current process for handling secondary suite applications in Calgary is fundamentally broken. Calgary is the only major Canadian city where the City Council votes case-by-case on each secondary suite application, and this process is incredibly inefficient, resulting in inconvenience for property owners, and taking up far too much of Council’s time. As councillor for Ward 11, I would advocate for a change in the land use by-law to allow secondary suites to become discretionary uses in R-1 and RC-1. This would allow for the suite approval process to move to administration from City Council.  


Keith Simmons 

No answer.



Ward 12


Brad Cunningham

No answer.


Teresa Hargreaves

No answer.


Shane Keating 

Yes, I do support that. I would want the new framework to be similar to what I proposed last year.

Incumbent's record: supported secondary suite reform.



Ward 13

Kay Adeniyi

No answer.


Adam Boechler

I support regulating secondary suites city-wide. Home owners should have the right to develop their private property within the regulation if they choose to do so, enabling the freedom to increase their income in these tough economic times while simultaneously making housing more affordable by increasing supply in the housing market.

The current process is flawed in that City Council is currently performing an administrative task. It is bad governance. The Council should approve a policy that endorses Secondary Suites broadly, then set the parameters within the policy such as development standards or code. The process would then become property owners interacting with City staff for permits prior to development and safety inspectors afterwards. The idea of the Mayor and 14 other Councillors talking about and approving a secondary suite is mind boggling.  


Sherrisa Celis

No answer.


Diane Colley-Urquhart

No answer.

Incumbent's record: supported secondary suite reform.


Mark Dyrholm

No answer.


Adam Frisch

No answer.


Art Johnston 

No answer.



Ward 14


Peter Demong

No answer.

Incumbent's record: did not support secondary suite reform.


Kelash Kumar

No answer.