Secondary suites should be an election issue, says a city councillor who used money from his office budget to study a painstaking system that's unheard of for a city of Calgary's size.
Ward 11 Coun. Brian Pincott, who is not seeking re-election this fall, and Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell paid $2,500 each for a study that analyzed 265 secondary suite applications council heard from 2014 to 2016.
Calgary's time-consuming and rare secondary suite process sees members of the public plead for council's OK to legally have a stove in their basement before elected officials deliberate and vote on every individual application.
"Most members of council would agree the existing system isn't working," said Farrell. "We wanted to discover if there was a common thread, a common element to justify councils' decisions."
The study found 83 per cent of suites were approved over the two-year period and the reasons for refusal were random and not based on planning rationale, with applicants more likely to have a suite approved if they told a compelling personal story regarding their desire for a change in zoning.
"That feeling that it's a bit of a crapshoot for applicants when they come to council is actually true," said Pincott.
"When you look at how council makes its decisions around secondary suites, they don't seem to be based on planning principles and that's what we're supposed to be making decisions on."
For several years, council has unsuccessfully attempted to fix the system including an 8-7 vote last July against a comprehensive seven-part pitch from Coun. Shane Keating. Calgary's elected leaders also defeated a motion to legalize secondary suites city-wide in 2011 and voted down a proposal to allow legalized secondary suites in four inner-city wards in 2015.
Pincott said he doesn't think the current city council will settle on a fix before the October municipal election.
"I think it should be an election issue and I think the next city council ideally will just say very quickly they're permitted use for everybody," he said.
Farrell said the time spent approving secondary suites every month is wasting everyone's time, not to mention a costly $10,000 for every four hours in overtime spent keeping council chambers open.
"It will be an election issue," she said.