A Calgary city council committee has thrown its support behind a proposal to extend the city’s secondary suite amnesty.
Last year, council approved the amnesty as a way of encouraging property owners with illegal secondary suites to bring them into compliance.
Under the amnesty, the city waives development permit and suite registry fees while ensuring existing suites comply with minimum safety standards.
The amnesty runs until the end of December 2021.
The city was hoping that would result in 5,000 safe and legal suites being posted on its registry of inspected secondary suites.
That registry has now topped 6,500 suites.
Administration is proposing that council approve extending the amnesty by another two years in hopes of reaching 13,000 safe suites.
Council’s infrastructure and planning committee gave its support on Wednesday to the extension.
The committee’s chair, Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, said continuing with the amnesty period will encourage more owners of illegal suites to upgrade their properties, get them inspected and then be added to the city’s registry.
“The amnesty program really [incentivizes] landlords and tenants and the city to work together to bring the suite in question up to code so it’s safe for people who live there,” said Carra.
“We’ve got thousands and thousands of Calgary households that are living in these suites.”
In 2013, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation estimated there were at least 16,000 illegal suites in Calgary.
A coordinator of issues management with the city, Cliff de Jong, told the committee that even with the amnesty in place, complaints about safety violations are still acted upon.
He said the city will work with the property owner to ensure compliance but also provide education on how to legalize their suite.
If they refuse, de Jong said the courts have handed out hefty fines for safety violations.
He suggested that extending the amnesty could provide an avenue for property owners to avoid court appearances by upgrading their suites.
“It actually helps people come forward because that’s what we’re asking people to do. Trust us. Come forward. We’ll work with you,” said de Jong.
The committee gave its support to the proposal which will be discussed by city council as a whole later this month.
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