City of Grande Prairie looks to changes on secondary suites

The City of Grande Prairie may begin to see more secondary suites as it looks to amend its land use bylaw (LUB).

The InvestGP Committee (a subcommittee of city council) directed city administration to bring back amendments to the LUB after a delegation from BILD Grande Prairie suggested the city loosen its restrictions to help with housing affordability locally.

“Currently, there's a shortage of lower-cost homes in Grande Prairie, and at BILD, we are regularly asked to improve entry-level market access,” said Jordan Gregson, BILD chair.

“Many municipalities in Alberta are implementing increases to density and access to lower cost housing by relaxing landless land use bylaws and incentivizing secondary suites.”

Gregson noted that secondary suites are also helping more people buy homes.

“Allowing homeowners to create secondary suites enables them to qualify for higher mortgages which, with the cost of housing as high as it's ever been, not only benefits individual homeowners but also contributes to the overall stability and resilience of our housing market as it's ever-changing.”

Joe Johnson, city director of Planning and Development, said the city currently has many regulations on secondary suites, including that can only be developed in single detached dwellings with a maximum of two bedrooms, including size restrictions, minimum lot widths and parking requirements.

Changes to the LUB could include allowing garden suites, a standalone unit in the backyard, and allowing secondary suites in semi-detached dwellings. Additional changes to development regulations, such as lot size and parking requirements, as well as the radius of the number of suites allowed near each other may also be considered.

“When I go through every other community in Alberta, I see nothing but secondary suites all over the place,” said Coun. Wade Pilat. “I think we have to get our head around this with affordability issues; that's where it's heading; there's also funding coming out from the feds, specifically around secondary suites, and I don't want to see our residents lose out on this opportunity.”

Pilat noted he wants the changes to happen soon, noting the current report took almost two months.

City administration said it plans to work with industry and BILD as it works on the city's future LUB concerning secondary suites.

In a letter to city council, BILD says that if there are no complaints after two years of the loosened restrictions, it hopes city council will consider removing all restrictions to secondary suites.

“It is worth noting that nearly every house being constructed in larger cities is currently being developed with a suite option, highlighting the growing demand for this type of housing arrangement,” reads BILD’s letter.

BILD says that larger municipalities such as Calgary and Edmonton have removed restrictions on their secondary suites.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News