Original Published 00:06 Apr 22, 2022

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Town of Strathmore is exploring options to expand housing options within the community through the potential use of secondary suites, garden and garage suites. 

Megan Williams, with the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC), addressed the topic at the Committee of the Whole meeting on April 13 to discuss the options.

The presentation detailed for council the different types of secondary lodgings which may exist on a plot of land, which abide by the appropriate land use bylaw. 

These include but are not limited to accessory dwelling units, laneway houses, in-law suites and backyard suites.

Currently, according to Williams, the town has 13 lots with approved, legalized garden or garage suites on them and five with secondary suites. 

Previously, Council made a request in 2021 that administration research garden and garage suites with the intent to discuss their implementation into a land use bylaw.

“In order to get a secondary suite, (a resident) would have to apply for a development permit and then part of that development permit includes building electrical and plumbing where they are required to meet building code,” said Williams. “There are specific regulations within building code that (must be met) and that’s where it gets a little bit more expensive.”

Secondary suites were introduced to the residential land use bylaw in 2020 as a discretionary use in low density residential districts. 

Though the ability is there to develop them, according to town administration, it is estimated a barrier preventing residents from retrofitting existing housing units are the costs associated with being able to meet building codes, regardless of the dwelling type.

Similarly, creating a new detached garden or garage suite on the property also presents as prohibitively expensive. 

“I think the council, from what I’ve been hearing between us is, everyone is very interested in lower income housing, or a variety of income housing, but these are not going to be low-income housings,” said Councilor Brent Wiley.

Mayor Pat Fule added that having the availability of affordable, if not low-income suites, will be a boon for the town if development begins more prolifically. 

“In my own thinking, I thought this might add more inventory for different types of rentals so that a family might have the option to rent a garden suite or detatched garage for example,” said Fule. “The other thing is, I thought it might be a good way for a young couple to get started and they can afford an affordable rental.”

Fule added it may be a way for seniors to remain in their homes longer, as the income would be able to help with their mortgage, or bring in extra revenue into pocket if their house is paid off.

In the 2022 budget, the federal government is proposing multi-generational home renovation tax credit, which would provide up to $7,500 to homeowners who create a secondary dwelling for an adult or senior with a disability to live in.

Administration recommended a public engagement session to engage residents and collect feedback about how residents feel about garden suites. There is no set date for the discussion to return to council.

This item reprinted with permission from Strathmore Times, Strathmore, Alberta