Understanding Secondary Suites

The following information is supplied to assist the real estate industry, and is intended as general information only. It is based on the City of Calgary Land Use Bylaw (2P80) and The Municipal Government Act, which are to be consulted for specific rules and definitions.

This information has been simplified, and should not be interpreted as conclusive or comprehensive. Each property and situation is unique. The following gives a description of the three different categories of suites

Legal

These suites were constructed with proper permits. They currently met all the rules at construction time, and they currently meet present-day rules. They may also have been approved on a development permit, which allows relaxation of the rules.

Illegal

These suites were built illegally without all the required permits. They did not meet the rules. We often hear of these suites referred to as “mother-in-law” suites.

 Non-Conforming

These suites were built legally at the time of construction, but they do not meet the present-day rules. These are usually the result of the land use (zoning) being changed, or the rules being changed. This term is often referred to as “legal” non-conforming because they are considered to be legal. This status may be lost if a building is destroyed or damaged to more than 75% of its value, or if building use is discontinued for more than six months.

The bylaws controlling private property have changed over the years. These changes have also included changes to the rules and definitions.

Without getting into a long involved legal discussion it is best to simplify the changes that have occurred.

The following describes the way the City of Calgary enforces the rules:

Prior to 1970:

The courts have determined that anything constructed (or in use) prior to 1970 is considered to be non-conforming.

 1970-1983

Effective bylaws said that cooking facilities such as a stove, 220 volt wiring, hot plate, microwave oven or toaster oven were not allowed in a basement suite.

 1983 to 2007:

The bylaws said that a kitchen (cooking facilities as above, and also sinks, lower cabinets and counter tops) were not allowed in a basement suite.

There are many ways you can determine the age of a suite, such as contacting previous owners; interviewing neighbors; judging the age of fixtures, moldings, cabinets, wiring, etc.

The City of Calgary responds to complaints about illegal suites, and inspects these properties to see if there is a violation of the Land Use Bylaw. Their Development Field Technicians (through their investigations) determine the date of construction. They also apply the rules as listed above. If a violation is found, the property owners are required to remove either the full kitchen or just the cooking facilities. If the owners fail to comply, legal action is taken against them.

The City of Calgary will not inspect properties and determine the legal status of the suite for the benefit of lawyers, realtors, or perspective buyers, nor will the City give a “letter of comfort” for this purpose.

A common misunderstanding occurs with R-2 properties. In order for two suites to exist, the rule states that the property must have a minimum 15-metre frontage AND 466 Sq Metres of lot area.

The City of Calgary launched a Secondary Suite Registry and sticker program today, in an effort to promote the importance of legal and safe secondary suites in the city. The online, searchable registry tool and registered sticker program helps Calgarians verify if a secondary suite has been inspected by The City and has met the requirements of Alberta’s building codes at the time of its approval.

“Alberta’s building code requirements for secondary suites are important in protecting the public,” says Cliff De Jong, Special Project Coordinator with Planning, Development and Assessment at The City. “The registry program allows Calgarians to verify if a home they are considering meets these requirements.” The online registry and mapping tool allows Calgarians to enter an address, registry sticker number or community to verify a legal and safe secondary suite.

Registered secondary suite owners also receive a registered sticker that can be used to promote their suite to current and future residents. The individually numbered sticker corresponds to the suite’s address, which can be verified online.

“Safe secondary suites provide critical safety features that allow people to escape in the event of an emergency, such as a fire,” says De Jong. “Responsible secondary suite owners on our registry have put human life first, and should be recognized for taking the necessary measures to help prevent further tragedies in our city.”

Secondary Suite Process Reform


The development permit fee for all new secondary suite applications is being waived until 
June 1, 2020On March 12, 2018 City Council, approved amendments to the Land Use Bylaw that allows secondary suites as discretionary use within R-1, R-C1, and R-C1L land use districts. Applicants can now apply for a development permit as the first step in building a secondary suite in these land use districts.

Council directed Administration to return with:

  • standards relating to the design of backyard suites across all districts before the end of 2018.
    Backyard suites applications in R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L land use districts will not be accepted until the standards are approved by Council;
  • proposed draft amendments to the Suite Registry program

Backyard Suites Guidelines

Council directed Administration to help make new backyard suites more acceptable and fitting in communities. To do this, The City is looking at changing some of the Land Use Bylaw rules and developing policy and design guidelines.

Administration was asked to return with guidelines relating to the design of backyard suites across all districts before the end of 2018. Backyard suites applications in R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L land use districts will not be accepted until the guidelines are approved by Council.

Current work

City staff have been reviewing feedback from citizens from previous engagement on secondary suites, the discussions that have been had at Council, and the feedback from adjacent land owners on past backyard suite applications.

This work has given city staff a preliminary overview of the major concerns that neighbours have about the impact of backyard suites. Targeted discussions and workshops with Calgary’s community associations to review these concerns and discuss others that may not have been captured are currently underway.

Those discussions will form the basis for proposed policy solutions as well as proposed design guidelines for backyard suites. The proposed policy and guidelines will be presented for feedback to the public beginning in June.

Timeline

  • Research and policy discussion – March 2018 – May 2018
  • Initial workshops with Community Association members – May 2018
  • Public Engagement – June 2018
  • Policy and report writing – July – September 2018
  • Planning and Urban Development Committee – Q4 of 2018

 R – C1L

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-C1L.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite and a notice posting will be placed at the front of your home for public comment.

Secondary suite requirements:

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.*
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space for the use of the suite tenant that:
  • Is outdoors.
  • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through development permit application.

development permit, and a building permit application would be required to approve the suite.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites applications in R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L land use districts will not be accepted until standards relating to the design of backyard suites are approved by Council. Administration is to return to Council on this topic before the end of 2018.

 R-C1Ls

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-C1Ls.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Secondary suite requirements:

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.*
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space for the use of the suite tenant that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the Land Use Bylaw rules explained above are met, a secondary suite within this district would be exempt from obtaining a development permit, and a building permit application would be required to approve the suite.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-C1Ls.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Backyard suite requirements:

    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-C1

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-C1.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite and a notice posting will be placed at the front of your home for public comment.

Secondary suite requirements:

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.*
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space for the use of the suite tenant that:
  • Is outdoors.
  • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through development permit application.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites applications in R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L land use districts will not be accepted until standards relating to the design of backyard suites are approved by Council. Administration is to return to Council on this topic before the end of 2018.

 

R-C1s

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-C1s.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Secondary suite requirements:

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.*
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area, or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suitewithin this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-C1s.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Backyard suite requirements:

    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area, or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-C1N

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-C1N.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Lot requirements:

  • Minimum property width of 9 m
    Or
  • Minimum property width of 7.5 m when located on a corner property or a property with a lane; and three or more motor vehicle parking stalls are provided on the property

Secondary suite requirements: 

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.*
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-C1N.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Lot requirements:

  • Minimum property width of 9 m
    Or
  • Minimum property width of 7.5 m when located on a corner property or a property with a lane; and three or more motor vehicle parking stalls are provided on the property

Backyard suite requirements:

    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area, or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-C2

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-C2.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Lot requirements:

  • Minimum property width of 9 m
    Or
  • Minimum property width of 7.5 m when located on a corner property or a property with a lane; and three or more motor vehicle parking stalls are provided on the property

Secondary suite requirements:

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.*
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2 when the property width is less than 13 m, and have no maximum when the property width is greater than 13 m.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area, or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suitewithin this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-C2.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Lot requirements:

  • Minimum property width of 9 m
    Or
  • Minimum property width of 7.5 m when located on a corner property or a property with a lane; and three or more motor vehicle parking stalls are provided on the property

Backyard suite requirements: 

    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

 R-1

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-1.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite and a notice posting will be placed at the front of your home for public comment.

Secondary suite requirements:

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.*
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space for the use of the suite tenant that:
  • Is outdoors.
  • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through development permit application.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites applications in R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L land use districts will not be accepted until standards relating to the design of backyard suites are approved by Council. Administration is to return to Council on this topic before the end of 2018.

R-1s

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-1s.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Secondary suite requirements:

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.*
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suitewithin this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-1s

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Backyard suite requirements:

    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-1N

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-1N.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Secondary suite requirements:

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.*
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-1N.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Backyard suite requirements:

    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

 R-2

 Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-2.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Lot requirements:

  • Minimum property width of 9 m
    Or
  • Minimum property width of 7.5 m when located on a corner property or a property with a lane; and three or more motor vehicle parking stalls are provided on the property

Secondary suite requirements: 

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.*
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2* when the property width is less than 13 m and have no maximum when the property width is greater than 13 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suitewithin this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-2.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Lot requirements:

  • Minimum property width of 9 m
    Or
  • Minimum property width of 7.5 m when located on a corner property or a property with a lane; and three or more motor vehicle parking stalls are provided on the property

Backyard suite requirements: 

    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-2M

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-2M.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Secondary suite requirements:

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.*
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2 when the property width is less than 13 m and have no maximum when the property width is greater than 13 m.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suitewithin this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-2M.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Backyard suite requirements:

    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-MH

Currently, secondary suites and backyard suites are not listed uses in this land use district. To allow for this use, an approved land use redesignation is required.

R-CG

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-CG and M-CG.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, contextual single detached dwellings, semi detached dwellings, contextual semi detached dwellings and row houses. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Secondary suite requirements:

  • A maximum suite floor area of 70 m2 when the property width is less than 13.0 m; when the property width is over 13.0 m there is no maximum floor area.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall in addition to what the property currently requires; however, no parking stall is required when the floor area of the secondary suite is 45.0 m2 or less.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suitewithin this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a Development Permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-CG and M-CG.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings, contextual single detached dwellings, semi detached dwellings, contextual semi detached dwellings or row houses. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Backyard suite requirements:

    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
    • 0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite. This may be reduced to zero when:
    • The accessory residential building or backyard suite on the adjacent property has a setback of 0.1 m or less at the shared side property linefor any portion of the building that is recessed 0.6 m or greater from the front façade or the rear façade of the building and is setback less than 0.6 m from the side property line.
    • The building setback is not greater than 0.1 m from the side property line for any portion of a building that is recessed 0.6 m or greater from the front façade or the rear façade of the building and is setback less than 1.2 m from the side property line.
    • The wall at the shared side property line is constructed of maintenance-free materials and there is no eaves overhanging onto an adjacent property.
    • All roof drainage from the building is discharged through eavestroughs and downspouts onto the property.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m between the closest facades of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 7.5 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires; however, no parking stall is required when the floor area of the secondary suite is 45.0 m2 or less.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

There is no requirement for a building setback from a property line with a party wall.

* Suite area does not include common area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

M-CG

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in M-CG.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings and contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Secondary suite requirements:

  • A maximum suite floor area of 70 m2 when the property width is less than 13.0 m; when the property width is over 13.0 m there is no maximum floor area.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall in addition to what the property currently requires; however, no parking stall is required when the floor area of the secondary suite is 45.0 m2 or less.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suitewithin this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a Development Permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in M-CG.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings and contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Backyard suite requirements:

    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
    • 0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite. This may be reduced to zero when:
    • The accessory residential building or backyard suite on the adjacent property has a setback of 0.1 m or less at the shared side property linefor any portion of the building that is recessed 0.6 m or greater from the front façade or the rear façade of the building and is setback less than 0.6 m from the side property line.
    • The building setback is not greater than 0.1 m from the side property line for any portion of a building that is recessed 0.6 m or greater from the front façade or the rear façade of the building and is setback less than 1.2 m from the side property line.
    • The wall at the shared side property line is constructed of maintenance-free materials and there is no eaves overhanging onto an adjacent property.
    • All roof drainage from the building is discharged through eavestroughs and downspouts onto the property.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m between the closest facades of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 7.5 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires; however, no parking stall is required when the floor area of the secondary suite is 45.0 m2 or less.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

There is no requirement for a building setback from a property line with a party wall.

* Suite area does not include common area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-G or R-Gm

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-G and R-Gm.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings, and row house buildings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Secondary suite requirements:

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.*
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suitewithin this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as permitted use in R-G and R-Gm.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings, and row house buildings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Backyard suite requirements:

    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

***For any other land use disctict not listed in this section, please contact the Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311***

Alberta Building Code – New and Existing Suites

City approvals are required to build a new secondary suite. These approvals are determined through the Alberta Building Code. The following list highlights some of the main criteria to consider if you are building a new secondary suite. Please note this list is not all-inclusive. Contact the Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311 for more information about secondary suites and backyard suites.

Ceiling and Door Heights

The Alberta Building Code requires a minimum floor to ceiling height of 1.95 m for basement suites.

  • Ceiling heights can be reduced to 1.85 m where ductwork and beams make drop ceilings necessary.
  • Doors within the suite may be reduced to 1.89 m where required.

Entry and Exit Points

The main residence and suite must have at least one exit that leads directly outside. This may be a door that leads to an exterior stair or a door to a common set of interior stairs that is separated from both the main residence and suite.

  • A stairway used in an exit requires a minimum width of 860 mm and must have at least one handrail.
  • Handrails should be mounted between 800 mm and 965 mm above the stair. The height is measured vertically from the front edge of the stair tread.
  • At least one light fixture that can be switched both on and off at the top and bottom of the stairs is required.
  • landing must be provided at the top and bottom of all stairs. The landing must be at least 860 mm long and at least as wide as the stairs.
  • Doors serving the exit are required to be a minimum of 810 mm wide and 1.89 m high. Utility rooms, laundry rooms, furnace rooms and all other doors leading to the exit must also be at least 810 mm wide.

Bedroom Egress Windows

Each bedroom must have at least one window that can be fully opened and used to escape during an emergency.

  • The window must have an unobstructed opening of 0.35 m2 in area and a minimum height and width of 380 mm. See the acceptable window style illustration below for examples and additional requirements.
  • When a window well is required, a clearance of 760 mm must be provided in front of the window. If a casement-type window is used, it must swing open a full 90 degrees. See the window well illustration below for more details.
  • Security bars serving a bedroom window must be removable from the inside without the use of tools, keys or special knowledge. A large majority of security bars do not meet the requirements and are not accepted.

Shaded areas illustrated below represent unobstructed openings that must be 0.35 m² with no dimension less than 380 mm.

Each bedroom must have at least one window that can be fully opened and used to escape during an emergency.

  • The window must have an unobstructed opening of 0.35 m2 in area and a minimum height and width of 380 mm. See the acceptable window style illustration below for examples and additional requirements.
  • When a window well is required, a clearance of 760 mm must be provided in front of the window. If a casement-type window is used, it must swing open a full 90 degrees. See the window well illustration below for more details.
  • Security bars serving a bedroom window must be removable from the inside without the use of tools, keys or special knowledge. A large majority of security bars do not meet the requirements and are not accepted.

Acceptable window styles

Shaded areas illustrated below represent unobstructed openings that must be 0.35 m² with no dimension less than 380 mm.

Adding new windows or increasing the size of existing windows in a concrete foundation impacts the wall’s ability to resist soil pressure. Adding or increasing window size:

  • The Alberta Building Code restricts opening sizes and configurations. For example, a single window may be 1.2 m in width while two windows, spaced less than their average width apart, are considered one large opening. When adding multiple windows in one wall, the maximum width of all window openings that exceed any of the above requirements must be designed by a professional engineer registered in Alberta. This is typically called a lateral support design. It must include the engineer’s details andrecommendations on how to provide adequate support for the openings, in accordance with Part 4 of the Alberta Building Code.
  • Safety codes officers can require that a registered engineer be hired to make any structural changes or alterations to your property, based on the size and complexity of the project.

Energy Efficiency Requirements

Your secondary suite may be required to meet energy efficiency requirements under Section 9.36 of the Alberta Building Code. If the application for the building of the house was submitted on or after Nov. 1, 2016 any new renovations must comply with these energy efficiency requirements. If the application for the building of the house was submitted before Nov. 1, 2016 you do not need to comply with the energy efficiency requirements of Section 9.36 of the Alberta Building Code.

The changes for the secondary suite must include building construction and mechanical components (furnaces, air conditioners, water heaters, etc.) that perform as well as, or better than, any similar existing construction or mechanical components that are in the home or that are being replaced. In addition to energy efficiency requirements, all changes must also meet applicable Alberta Building Code requirements.

New heating, ventilation, air conditioning and service water heating systems are always required to be properly certified.

New work and replacement of “like for like” mechanical components and systems normally requires building, gas and/or electrical permits. Please see the  Alberta Permit Regulation and the Calgary Building Permit Bylaw for details.

When maintaining and repairing building components or mechanical components in homes, replacements are allowed as long as you replace the component with a similar material or part that performs as well as, or better than, what you are replacing. This includes exterior cladding, windows, doors, mechanical systems, etc.

Exterior Stairways

There are additional requirements to consider when the only exit for a suite is served by an exterior staircase.

  • If the exterior exit staircase is not fully enclosed with walls and a roof, the windows themselves must be protected. This is achieved by installing fire-rated glass block or wired glass in fixed steel frames. This is required for all windows located within 5 m vertically, 3 m horizontally or 10 m below the exit staircase. This will protect the basement exit from being compromised if a fire occurs.
  • It is important to know that only fixed windows can be fire-protected in this way. Bedroom windows must be operable.

Protection of secondary suite exits

There are additional requirements to consider when the only exit for a secondary suite is served by an exterior staircase. If the exterior exit staircase is not fully enclosed with walls and a roof, the windows themselves must be protected. This is achieved by installing fire-rated glass block or wired glass in fixed steel frames. This is required for all windows located within 5 m vertically, 3 m horizontally or 10 m below the exit staircase. This will protect the basement exit from being compromised if a fire occurs. It is important to know that only fixed windows can be fire protected in this way. Bedroom windows must be operable.

The Alberta Building Code requires all foundation footings in Calgary to have at least 1.2 m of ground cover for protection.

  • New exterior exit stairs must include a shallow foundation design by a registered professional engineer, since stairwell excavation impacts the required frost cover.
  • Retaining walls required alongside the new staircase opening often retain greater than 1 m of soil. In these cases the retaining wall may be required to be included in the engineered design.

 

Plumbing

Secondary suites must have:

  • A supply of hot water and at least one kitchen sink, bathroom sink, toilet and a bathtub or shower.
  • A space for laundry facilities in each residence, or a common location that is easily accessible to all occupants.
  • A back-flow prevention device on the branch drain of the sanitary sewer line.

Electrical

A common electrical panel can serve both units, provided there are no shared branch circuits between the suites. It is recommended the electrical panel be located in a common area, or that sub-panels be installed in each suite.

Smoke and Fire Protection

Preventing the spread of smoke and fire is essential for safety. The Alberta Building Code requires the installation of a smoke tight separation between the main residence and suite.

  • A smoke tight separation is constructed by installing a minimum of 12.7 mm (0.5 in) thick drywall on the ceiling and on both sides of wall studs that separate a suite from main residence. All drywall joints must be taped and filled with drywall compound to provide a smoke tight joint.
  • Any services, such as pipes or ductwork that pass through a protective separation, need to be tightly fitted and sealed with a drywall compound. In retrofit situations, existing furnace rooms may have many obstructions that make smoke tight separation difficult to construct.
  • One option may be to remove all existing HVAC ducts to ease the installation of drywall. Once the separation is constructed, new holes may be cut to install ductwork.
  • Doors installed in smoke tight separations must be solid core wood at least 45 mm thick and have a self-closing device.
  • Smoke detectors must be installed at or near the ceiling on each floor level in the main residence and suite. They are also required in each bedroom, common space and any supplementary spaces. They must be interconnected, so the activation of one smoke detector causes all units in the home to sound.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are required in each unit. They should be installed at the height specified by the manufacturer. The CO detectors should be located within 5 m of any bedrooms, interconnected and permanently wired. One detector should be centrally located in the main residence and the suite, and one CO detector is sufficient. A CO detector that is a combined smoke detector and carbon monoxide unit is permitted at the owner’s discretion.

For pre-existing secondary suites, the use of a single heating and ventilation system to serve both the main dwelling and the secondary suite is acceptable under the Alberta Fire Code.

Airport Vicinity Protection Area

On a property locaed inside the airport vicinity protection area (AVPA), the suite must be located in the basement of an existing single-family development.

For more information on current regulation pertaining to secondary suites, please visit:

City of Calgary – Secondary Suites

For a printable download of this information which reviews these different types of secondary suites, visit the download box below.


To find additional helpful guides and documents, visit: //firsttimehomebuyercalgary.com/packages-for-available-for-download