Rolled as an election promise by Mayor Naheed Nenshi, secondary suites have gone from being
the best idea among 12 Smart Ideas of Mayor Nenshi for Calgary, to being an issue, that has seen
a long, tiring tug-of-war between Councillors every time it was on table for a vote, but always
resulted in a stalemate. Both sides of the argument have their own reasons for voicing for or
against allowing city-wide secondary suites.
With around 50% of the Calgary City Council’s time spent on debating upon the homeowner’s
applications for secondary suites in single family dwelling units, the policy paralysis continues to
exist. The issue has been procrastinated to be discussed around the next municipal elections in
2017. While the tight rental market keeps widening the gap between demand and supply of
affordable housing, status quo on secondary suites has only worsened the situation of housing in
In this paper, we begin by stating the land-use regulations that guide the zoning of Calgary city,
provincial regulations that govern the building types in Calgary and then state the arguments of
those for and against secondary suites based on the issues of land use and building codes. We
provide a theoretical base to the politics of land use by relating the problem to the Home Voter
Hypothesis of William Fischel and examine the viewpoint of City Councillors in the light of the
theory. We then suggest various remedies to overcome the political stalemate on secondary
suites using the Median Voter Theorem, and learning from various cities that have successfully
implemented the idea in Canada.
Thaker, Purvi. (2015). Examining the Politics behind Secondary Suites in Calgary ( Unpublished master's thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.