Rezoning for Housing

Rezoning for Housing information session and Q&A. Recorded the evening of April 10, 2024. Featuring Ward 8 Councillor Courtney Walcott and Lisa Kahn, City of Calgary Planning

 

 

Questions & Answers

Technical R-C1 Questions: 

If passed can anybody build "anything" on an R-C1 lot without asking? Would neighbours still provide feedback on new developments?  

  • There will be no change to the development permit process. An approved development permit and subsequent building permit would still be required to build new buildings, and only “Uses” listed in the rules for that district may be applied for. 
  • Neighbours will still be able to provide feedback about proposed development permits that are ‘Discretionary Uses’ to the City. Neighbours will still be able to provide feedback directly to the applicants. 
  • A Use is the purpose for which a building, structure, parcel is intended to be used for. 
  • Uses are further categorized into ‘Permitted’ or ‘Discretionary,’ types. Permitted Use means the use is considered compatible with the surrounding area and will have no or very little impact. Discretionary Use means the use is considered compatible with the surrounding area, but additional considerations must be made to ensure impacts are reasonable and managed appropriately. 
  • R-CG would allow single-detached, semi-detached, rowhouse, fourplex, and townhomes.  
  • Notably, all these housing forms are grade-oriented, meaning they have a front door facing the street. 

What sort of housing (rental units, condominiums, houses, apartments, townhomes, studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, three-bedroom, price point, etc.) is Calgary lacking? 

  • We are seeing high demand for all types of housing.  
  • As certain types of housing become too expensive for average buyers, demand for other forms of housing increases.  
  • You can look up CREB statistics and see it for yourself:  
    https://www.creb.com/-/media/Public/CREBcom/Housing_Statistics/Calgary_Monthly_Short_Summary.pdf 
  • It’s also important to remember that the cost of housing is driven by market demand. What determines the price is not just the materials, labour, and land cost that goes into a home, but also the number of people bidding for that home on the market.  

Why is the proposed re-zoning so extreme in the density that it would allow? Can we not reach the desired result with something more modest such as 2 or 3 living units on a 50-foot lot? 

  • R-CG zoning allows for a maximum of four units on a typical 50-foot lot, with the potential for each unit to have a secondary suite. All units would have at-grade (street-level) access. 
  • Two or three units on a lot are entirely possible if that is what the property owner wishes to do.  
  • From a land-use and zoning perspective, units that have at-grade street access are not considered high-density.   
  • R-CG is a successful land-use type: there is market demand for it. 

According to the proposal, up to 4 homes and 4 basement suites may be allowed per lot. If one assumes simplistically 2 people per property this means 16 people per lot. If each family has one car this means 8 cars with only four parking spots required. My questions are: 

Why not go for a more modest uplift (say allowing 2 homes and 2 basement suites)? 

Existing single-family owners will no longer be able to have friends over to visit (by car) since there will be no parking available. Has the city considered building parkades in high-density areas as a solution? This is what has been done in other cities with high density.  

  • R-CG, as a land-use or zone, has been in place since 2014 and has been successful, in that property owners apply for it, Council generally approves it, and units get built. Since it’s been successful, the idea is to make it more widely available.  
  • City analysis of neighborhoods that have experienced substantial redevelopment show that while street parking immediately in front of your house might not always be possible, there still remains street parking capacity in these areas. It just means you might have to go up or down the block, or around a corner.  

General Rezoning Questions 

What are some potential drawbacks of rezoning that you foresee? How will you work with Council to address or mitigate these? 

  • Some inner-city neighbourhoods that have seen a lot of R-CG activity might see redevelopment activity slow, while neighbourhoods further out in established areas might see new redevelopment activity. There might be some adjustments there. 

Will the higher taxes I pay to live in an R-1 area go down so that I pay the same as everyone in Calgary? 

  • Taxes are based on assessed value. Much of the assessed value has to do with the physical land footprint, in addition to the structure on top. If your property has a lower land footprint, it’s possible that your assessment value may be lower.  
  • There is no evidence to suggest that the presence of more homes decreases property values.  
  • More generally, having denser or more compact urban form means the City can be more efficient in how it delivers services, as it reduces the need to build out infrastructure on the city’s edges. So there’s more “bang for your buck” in terms of taxes there. 

My reading of the proposed re-zoning strategy leads me to believe that even if a city lot falls into an area in which 4 homes (plus suites) could be allowed on one lot, the process would still include the Development Permit process, which would ensure the proposed redevelopment would fit into the character of the community and be appropriate for that particular lot. Thus, I would not expect to see a 4-plex be automatically permitted by the Development Permit process in the middle of a block in for example Rutland Park where only single-family homes or duplexes exist at present, but might expect to see such a development allowed on a busy street which is on the edge of that neighborhood?  

  • You are correct that the Development Permit process remains a mandatory step. This is where the “nuts and bolts” of a project get discussed – where does parking go, how tall will it be, what do the massing and shadows look like, what will the slope of the roof look like, or the setback, or vehicle access. All that is part of the Development Permit process.  

Why are some houses near parks in your ward being re-zoned to H-GO and some are not? Looking at the rezoning map near parks in terms of H-GO rezoning, there does not seem to be any rhyme or reason.  

  • Rezoning to H-GO (Housing – Grade Oriented) is proposed for parcels that have been identified in the three approved Local Area Plans as suitable for H-GO. The three approved Local Area Plans where this approach has been actioned are: 

 

Other forms of housing Questions 

Why aren't mobile home parks for mobile homes and manufactured houses not being considered? 

  • Separately from the rezoning proposal, modular and pre-fabricated housing options are being considered for the rapid establishment of housing for families in need. This was Action 1.A.1.i of the Housing Strategy.  
  • Housing for families in need (calgary.ca) 

Other Questions 

As the next little while unfolds, what impact with the new housing rezoning in Killarney have on on-street parking, crime rates, and already-established home values? 

  • Killarney is seeing a fair amount of redevelopment activity. As the availability of land for redevelopment is broadened to other neighbourhoods because of this proposed rezoning, it’s possible that redevelopment slows in Killarney.  
  • On-street parking availability can continue to be managed through parking policy (permit restrictions to residents), offering on-site parking, and encouraging people to use other transportation modes. 
  • Housing types don’t correlate to crime rates. Things like economic opportunity, inequality, and social cohesion are major contributing causes.  
  • Having two, three, or four rent—or mortgage-paying families on a lot instead of one typically increases property values.  

What portion of proposed development plans are denied due to the community contesting the development? 

  • The planning process contains multiple stages, so it depends on which part of a “development plan” you are referring to. 
  • Land use changes are evaluated based on their planning rationale and merits.  
  • 151 of 155 R-CG applications have been approved by the current Council. 

How can the city advance on this proposal when no environmental impact assessment has been done on the effect on trees, water, and green spaces? Aren’t you worried about legal challenges? 

  • Environmental impact assessments are required for environmentally sensitive areas. The Rezoning for Housing initiative is proposing more homes on established residential streets.  
  • Manicured lawns aren’t particularly environmentally friendly.  
  • Compact urban design creates a more impactful reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions than maintaining a mature tree.  
  • This is not the first City-initiated rezoning in Alberta; Edmonton approved similar changes last year.  

Why do we require blanket rezoning in Ward 8 when only 18% of the homes are single-family?  

  • The goal of the Rezoning for Housing proposal is to increase housing across the city. By including all areas, we prevent redevelopment activity from focusing in any one particular area.  

Is this rezoning a Federal Government mandate for getting funding? 

  • The City of Calgary applied and signed an agreement for the Housing Accelerator Fund. The fund will provide over $228 million in funding to support initiatives to build housing.  
  • A substantial part of this funding is contingent on the implementation of zoning changes.  

In anticipation of the re-zoning, developers have put flyers in the many larger lots on my street. And many have sold to them. Can you comment on how the city can approve such massive pressure on this quiet tree-lined street overnight with multiple H-GO developments in the middle of the street? Can you include a discussion on the complete lack of parking that will result (some people cannot walk blocks with groceries in hand or in general) and the removal of the mature tree canopy lining the street?  

  • Neighbourhood Connector areas are characterized by a broad range of housing types along higher activity streets. These areas may accommodate small-scale commercial uses to meet residents’ daily needs and often provide connections to other communities. The public realm may include features such as wide sidewalks and cycling infrastructure. 
  • Neighbourhood Flex areas are characterized by a range of commercial and residential uses. Buildings are oriented to the street with units that may accommodate commercial uses, offices, personal services, institutional uses, recreation facilities and light industrial uses on the ground floor. Uses may be mixed horizontally or vertically within a building or a block. 
  • Parking availability should be informed by the availability of public transit or active-modes infrastructure. Feedback can be provided at the Development Permit stage. 
  • Private trees are not governed by the City. There are Tree requirements for new homes (calgary.ca); tree canopy concerns can also be addressed in the Development Permit stage.  

Without disclosing the names of individual donors, what percentage of your campaign contributions come directly or indirectly from developers? 

Housing Affordability Questions 

What real-world case studies has the City of Calgary used to show that Upzoning increases housing affordability?  

Comments have been made by city councillors that developers can save upwards of 10,000 $ by streamlining the approval process. What physical proof do you have that the savings would be passed on to the home buyer in a free market?  

  • Market dynamics apply to housing, just as they do to other commodities. Under market competition, a producer who unnecessarily inflates the cost of the goods or services they provide will be undercut by competitors who can deliver the same product for less. 

What sort of restrictions should or will be placed on those properties that will receive direct or indirect public funds? Specifically, what plans will be in place to ensure the intent of the program is met, i.e., subletting (in any form), rent control (pegged to inflation plus capital improvements), etc.? 

  • Assuming this question is about non-market affordable housing: non-profit housing providers who partner with the City are selected based on applications. The specific form of subsidy and rules surrounding housing provision are determined as part of the agreement.  

 

Utility and Roads Questions 

There are many new apartments and row houses in the process of being built on 37th Street SW. Will existing water and sewer infrastructure support this construction? Who pays for any required changes? 

  • Neighbourhoods around the inner city have historically experienced population decline. Around 37th Street SW, Killarney/Glengarry and Roscarrock are only now recovering population levels that they initially had around 1970. This means that there is latent capacity already existing. Modern utilities also tend to be more efficient in their infrastructure use (low-flow showers and toilets, for example). 
  • The existing process triggers infrastructure upgrade costs on the developer whose proposal will meet or exceed existing capacity.  
  • The City is launching an Established Area Linear Levy Pilot that will distribute these costs more evenly among developments, so that they are not placed squarely on a single project or developer when meeting or exceeding existing capacity. 

How can a 30-storey Condo development in the old Viscount Bennett school location not have severe negative consequences on the Richmond and Killarney neighbourhoods? Traffic, utilities, parking, schools, etc. will be strained beyond any reasonable amount.   

 

Submitted questions through Teams Q&A   

 

Could you explain what the difference between R-G is in new communities and the proposed R-CG/H-GO in established areas? Would this change bring established areas in line with newer suburbs? 

  • Generally, yes. You can read more about the difference between R-G in new communities and R-CG/H-GO here: 

How has R-CG zoning impacted housing prices in those areas currently zoned R-CG? It appears that the high cost of new builds - duplex and row houses - are driving up the prices of existing housing versus increasing affordability. 

  • Newly built homes generally fetch a higher price because they are made of new materials and have not yet accrued maintenance costs.  
  • Without rezoning, the only structure that can be built on an R-C1 lot is a single-detached home. 
  • The median assessed value of a new R-C1 (single-detached home) is $1,640,000 dollars. 
  • The median assessed value of a new R-CG (rowhouse home) is $586,000. 

Is there any plan to encourage the city to not destroy healthy trees when they're clearing space for future development?  

  • Public (City-owned) trees are not removed unless absolutely necessary. 
  • Council recently directed City Administration to explore incentives or rules for tree preservation on private land. 

How would this affect home values in established areas already? 

  •  There is no evidence to suggest rezoning has a negative effect on property values. Generally, demonstrating that a standard lot can accommodate four mortgage- or rent-paying families has a positive effect on property values. 

Calgary is a very car dependent city, will there also be additional investments in transit and multi use path infrastructure? Otherwise, I can see problems of streets being flooded with cars. With some row homes, we have issues with large amounts of roll out bins in the back lanes. 

  • Rezoning is likely to result in a 1% chance of redevelopment per lot, per year. This is a relatively slow pace across the city. 
  • Last year, Council approved the RouteAhead 30-year Strategic Plan, and the 10-year implementation plan includes substantial investments to achieve higher frequency service.  
  • Council has invested a total of $56.4 million over four years in active mobility. 

What safety considerations are being taken with the increase in street parking that results from lacking residential parking spots. Visibility/safety at crosswalks and intersections, and driveway entrance/exits are impacted by significant street parking.  

  • Parking policies are implemented based on street congestion / demand problems and are area/neighbourhood-specific. Parking policies or restrictions are "escalated" when warranted through permits and signage as congestion increases. This helps maintain efficient use of street and curb space. 

Is there a percentage mix requirement for R-CG zones - eg percent of single, percent of duplex, percent of row houses? 

  • No, as property owners ultimately decide what to do with their property. 

Can you review the types of properties that would be permitted on the throughway streets, including 26th, 29th, 33rd? These streets are predomninantly single detached and attached homes.  

  • Please consult the Rezoning for Housing map: 

How does the appeal process work under R-CG zoning for citizens if they disagree with a development permit decision made by City administration? 

  • If the approved DP is proposing a discretionary use, an appeal can be submitted within 21 days of advertising its approval.   

 

How does the minimum parking stalls per unit of R-CG compare to R-C2?   

  • R-C1 only allows for single detached dwellings, secondary suites, and backyard suites. Single Detached Dwellings require one motor vehicle parking stall per dwelling unit, and one per secondary suite or backyard suite. No bicycle parking stalls or mobility storage lockers are required.
  • R-C2 only allows for one or two dwelling units, secondary suites, and backyard suites. Semi-Detached Dwellings and Duplex Dwellings require one motor vehicle parking stall per dwelling unit, and one per secondary suite or backyard suite. No bicycle parking stalls or mobility storage lockers are required.
  • R-CG allows for single detached, semi-detached, duplex, townhouse, and rowhouse dwellings. For all of these uses, 0.5 motor vehicle parking stalls are required per dwelling unit and secondary suite or backyard suite, and 1 bicycle parking stall or mobility storage locker is required for every unit that does not have a motor vehicle parking stall.
  • Read more from the R-CG fact sheet

 

What is public opinion saying about this?  

  • Survey results show that 94% of Calgarians consider housing affordability to be an issue today, and 83% support building more housing across the city, including allowing for a variety of housing forms.  
  • Housing affordability is higher for residents of Ward 8 than the City average. 

How do you deal with the perception that this change is tantamount to a form of expropriation with new rules of engagement. Why not look to another method of implementation that is specific to certain areas and not city wide. 

  • Rezoning would empower private property owners to build more homes, if they so choose, on their own private property.  
  • Expropriation is defined as the action by the state or an authority of taking property from its owner for public use or benefit. This is not what is happening, or what anyone is proposing. 

 

Does the City count secondary suite residents in its community population statistics? Are suites considered as a "dwelling unit" for dwelling count (i.e. not as per the Land Use Bylaw)? 

  • Yes, secondary suite residents are considered in population statistics.  

 

I loved Victoria park 2000 it was a family neighbourhood that never excluded anyone, why all the highrises downtown? IT's not inclusive and they're absolutley unaffordable. 

  • Developments are proposed by property owners, not the City. 
  • Increased demand for housing is also increasing demand for condos and purpose-built rentals. 

 

Please define "affordable housing" as it relates to family income. 

 

If the population growth rate is a major driver of increased housing cost then it would be important to know if the high population growth is actually beneficial to Canadians. How can we influence the federal government to conduct a study like this? 

  • Population growth is related to labour market demand. These links may be of interest: 

 

Calgary is growing quickly. Is there a model that would show what community density would look like with blanket rezoning for the city growing to 3 million people? 

  • It is important to remember that the Rezoning for Housing initiative is likely to introduce redevelopment gradually across the city over time.  
  • I am not aware of any models like what's suggested here. However, the Government of Alberta’s population projections may be a place to start. 

 

Is the City willing to define specific goals for home pricing reduction over time to determine if this blanket rezoning worked (e.g. a over 2 year period)? 

  • Given the current level of housing demand projected population growth, it is likely that housing costs will increase in any scenario. The Rezoning for Housing proposal will slow housing cost growth by allowing more units to be built faster. 

 

More of a comment, but are we not dissecting this under the microscope to an excessive degree? If we asked a less-engaged individual in the neighbourhood and asked them if they thought row homes would ruin the neighbourhood, I imagine many would shrug and just say "this is fine". How are those voices represented / weighed in this discussion? 

  • You are correct: those who find the rezoning proposal acceptable are likely not those participating in these discussions. 

 

You compared R-CG to R-C2. However, you did not compare it to R-C1. It seems clear that a new project (comprising 4 units on a single parcel) will not fit in seamlessly in a community like Mount Royal or Elbow Park. How is this an equitable result for existing homeowners in these areas (who will now face more traffic, shade, noise, less privacy, greater strain on already over-capacity inner city schools, etc.)? To be clear, greater "choice" (meaning allowing multiple units on a single parcel) in these areas is not viewed as a positive. 

  • Why wouldn’t they “fit in?”  
  • Cities are defined primarily as concentrations of people living together. Living in a city means one often must interact with other people in public. 
  • The definition of “equitable” being employed here is very interesting. 
  • The comparative cost of land in these neighbourhoods makes redevelopment unlikely. 

 

 

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