Calgary MLAs seek to make Alberta basement suites less dungeon-esque.
the Gauntlet

Basement suites getting safer

Publication YearIssue Date 

Two Calgary MLAs formed a committee to address the existence of basement suites across Alberta.

The committee, co-chaired by Calgary Currie MLA Jon Lord and Calgary East MLA Moe Amery, is proposing a new set of building codes, which basement suites do not have.

Currently, basement suites are built according to the duplex and apartment building codes. Because many suites across the province are converted in single dwellings, they do not comply with existing building codes and can be shut down.

"Right now, the building inspectors are being asked to look the other way," Lord said, noting if safety is compromised, it puts the city in a liable position.

The proposed code for basement suites allows for lower ceilings, which many older basement suites have, and less restrictions on how a furnace has to be installed in exchange for installation of windows large enough to facilitate emergency escape and smoke detectors wired together on each floor of the building.

Lord hopes creating this new building code will help ease some of the problems with affordable housing and homelessness in the city.

"We would have plenty of affordable housing if we would only be pragmatic and legalize these [basement suites]," he said.

Lord also hopes it will encourage landowners who are operating suites illegally to make the changes and legalize them.

The Students' Union's off-campus housing program does not currently look into the legal status of accommodations they list, leaving that up to the landowners, which means some students could be occupying illegal suites.

Lord and Amery are inviting public response to the proposal.




I bought a house (built 1960) with suite that met compliant/non-compliant laws. However, neighbour complained and apparently the stove had been removed years earlier for longer than six months and the city took the suite away. I have asked for the evidence of this and been denied any paperwork. I also feel this unfair that the suite was here with stove when I bought the place, had been rented as a suite prior, and now I've had to move the stove and the property value has decreased.
Larger and modern windows are to installed in the spring and I'm very fussy about my properties being safe and well maintained and having quality renters. I feel loss of the suite is unfair, but I have been left with no recourse. Your comments would be appreciated. Thanks Gale Boughner

I agree that illegal suites should be legal, there is shortage of affordable housing for everyone especially seniors. What about families taking care of their elderly parents?I have no problem with my neighbors taking care of their extended families. As long as these suites are safe and pass these safety codes, in the long run this will save thousands of dollars for taxpayers, (families taking care of their elderly parents versus putting them in a nursing home, that the province would have to pick up the tab for.)

What is the difference from a basement suite and motherinlaw suite? Is it cost? Windows? Entrance? What?
If you could answer, on this that would be great.