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Students weigh in on affordable housing discussion

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Finding affordable housing can be a struggle for students. The city has recognized that and launched a $25,000 pilot grant program to help landlords develop legal secondary suites. Secondary suites, also known as basement suites, can help lighten the financial load. However, due to City of Calgary bylaws, this choice is often an illegal one.

Students from both the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University had a chance to voice their opinions and experiences to CitySpaces Consulting Ltd., which is evaluating the grant program and consulting the public for the city. Representative Brenda McBain was at a round table forum Wed. Oct., 20.

Students shared both positive and negative secondary suite experiences. Poor safety, uncleanliness and high cost were some of the negative assessments of the less desired suites, while stories of good landlord relationships and the inexpensiveness of other suites were more positive.

Many students spoke out in support of creating safe and affordable secondary suites. They were also able to voice their concerns with the city's grant program. Many students worried the current program was intimidating to homeowners with illegal secondary suites, as it is both expensive and risky to get approved.

Students also offered advice at the session. They presented perspectives on how more secondary suites would help the market with affordable housing, and how they would like to see the grant program run. The importance of creating more legal suites near the university or along transit lines to make suites more attractive to students was also discussed.

"The turnout was great," said McBain. "It was great to hear from a mix of students from both campuses and to hear that their experiences [were] the same."

McBain will also be hosting forums with developers, realtors and homeowners.

Interested students are invited to fill out an online survey at calgary.ca/affordablehousing under related links. There will be another set of events in the spring, including an open house at the end of the city's pilot of the grant program.

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