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Calgary council to vote on $10k secondary suite incentive for homeowners

A City of Calgary committee voted to move forward with a program to encourage the building and registering of secondary suites in homes as part of council’s housing strategy.

If the secondary suite incentive program is approved, qualified homeowners will receive up to $10,000 to register their secondary suite. An extra $5,000 may be rewarded for meeting accessibility standards, as well as an extra $1,250 for energy efficiency improvements.

The fund is expected to provide incentives for up to 3,000 suites during the first year.

Under the program, only secondary suites would receive funding, with backyard suites or laneway housing not included.

The community development committee voted 5-2 to send the program to a vote for council approval later this month. Councillors Dan McLean and Andrew Chabot voted against it.

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“If this was a loan that we gave to homeowners to build secondary suites and asked them to pay us back, because (they’re) going to get rent out of this, (they’re) going to get equity out of this … We’re giving people to money to make more money,” McLean said at Wednesday’s meeting.

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Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said the program aims to boost safe housing options for Calgarians.

“How many decades have we talked about invisible homelessness? People couch surf, people living in their basement already. It’s already happening so this incentive is key because since we know it’s happening, we’ll have more safer ones for those people to live in,” he said.

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Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong said the fund will help offset construction costs for homeowners, but raised concerns about whether it’s enough.

“When you take a look at the cost of constructing new homes, the cost of renovations is also high … When you take a look at the incentives that are there, are the incentives enough for people to say, ‘Yes, I want to jump in a make it happen?’” said Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong.

Mark Graham, the general manager of Basement Builders Calgary, said there has been a big increase in the number of homeowners wanting new basement suites this year.

“A lot of homeowners would really love an incentive program to be able to alleviate some of those costs … And that’s just going to help take care a lot of the cost associated with basement suites,” Graham said the starting price for a basement suite is around $80,000.

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