Basement Suites Supported By Edmonton City Council for Duplex Infill Homes
Cities across Canada are now identifying secondary suites as a reliable source of rental housing. These municipalities also provide financial support for families intending to buy a home. A good example is the City of Edmonton in Canada. It advocates for the development of secondary suites in a bid to increase safe and affordable housing.
Angela Mao is one of the beneficiaries of this scheme. Courtesy of a rental suite in the basement, she managed to buy her Forest Heights home around 7 years ago. That $900 monthly rent was crucial for her family’s $1,500 mortgage payments per month. The council is now considering to extend this subsidized payments to owners of row houses, duplex houses and skinny homes. Angela Mao says it’s a fair move and the best way to attract other families into the neighborhood.
“On a broader view, infill isn’t quite affordable. It’s the garage suites and the basement suites that makes it affordable”, said Angela, who lives in an older bungalow, but watched three duplexes and four skinny homes coming up on the other side of her neighborhood. “Parking in these homes has never been an issue. This is because most homes have garages in the backyard”, said Mao, a mother and civics director at Forest Terrace Heights Community League. Increase in residents has significantly helped in the development of social amenities such as increase in school enrollment and the opening of two daycares last year.
Angela knows that the increasing number, if not monitored, can be contentious. Some residents of various neighborhoods such as Gold Bar, The Greater Hardisty, Capilano and Fulton Place have shifted into organizing restrictive orders in a bid to prevent any population increase. “This is not the case when it comes to Forest Heights, we want more people to come for better bike paths, better transit. We really want to bring more people into the neighborhood”, explains Angela.
On Tuesday, Executive Committee voted in to prepare the bylaw amendments allowing secondary suites in duplex units. Councilors will also consider allowing secondary suites in skinny homes and row housing. But because metropolitan staff are busy with other substantial neighborhood zoning projects, a report regarding the changes won’t come back until towards the end of 2017.
“Affordability is the main issue here”, explained Coun. Bev Esslinger, who invited administration to outline the options, after listening from various constituents with illegal suites. “They’ve been paying taxes on these constituents, without having any idea that they were illegal.” City officials fear that there are potentially thousands of illegal secondary suites in skinny and duplexes homes. If made legal, relevant officers can emphasis on ensuring that they’re safe with right fire exits.
This is the same thing that was done in 2007 in single-detached houses, noted Coun. Ben Henderson. At that time, it was viewed as a good way of creating affordable rental spaces. “Since this was implemented, I haven’t come across any severe consequences”, said Henderson. Allowing secondary suites in skinny homes and duplexes will be a huge step in coming up with decent neighborhoods. Secondary suites are selling out, signaling a huge market for them.
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