Photo by Mariah Wilson

Student politicians pitch secondary suite reform at City Hall

By Tina Shaygan, March 14 2018 —

Students’ Union vice-president external Puncham Judge was among Calgarians speaking to City Council on March 12 regarding secondary suite reform on behalf of University of Calgary students. Calgary City Council reviewed proposed amendments to bylaws regarding secondary suites that would delegate the process from council to an administrative body.

Prior to presentations from members of the public, mayor Naheed Nenshi emphasized that the hearing only concerned removing the process of approving individual secondary suites from council.

“This is about whether it’ll go to council or administration. It is not about who can rent their home,” Nenshi said. “Anyone can rent their home to whoever they want. I can rent my home to a university fraternity if I really wanted to.”

According to the CBC, roughly 20 per cent of council’s time is spent on secondary suites. The cost to process a secondary suite application under the current system is roughly $5,000.

In her talk, Judge said the SU spoke to many candidates during the October 2017 municipal election, who expressed that discussing individual secondary suites at council is “inefficient.”

“[The SU] met with 77 candidates to discuss meaningful change [on secondary suites] and the majority said it was a waste of time to discuss this in council,” Judge said.

Judge added that unsafe living conditions can become a life-or-death situation for students.

“It’s about people’s lives — students’ lives. We are too often reminded of the dangers that exist in unsafe secondary suites,” Judge said.

Among other speakers at City Hall was Mount Royal University vice-president external Aria Burrell.

“While I speak here on behalf of students, it is worth reminding that renters and owners of secondary suites are diverse in perspective,” Burrell said. “We owe it to those who can’t be heard today to consider their best interests.”

Burrell emphasized that secondary suites are often the most affordable options for students.

“Students put up with violations of their rights as tenants in the real fear of losing their homes,” Burrell added. “Students shouldn’t be put in a position that they have to put up with unsafe conditions.”

The bylaw amendments were approved Monday night by a vote of 96. Secondary suite applications will now be processed and approved by public servants in the planning department instead of individual cases in City Council hearings.

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