The Secondary Suite Idea
Janice Paskey, jpaskey@mtroyal.ca
Faculty editor, Department of Journalism, Mount Royal University

Me, as homeowner. This project arose out of my own conflict about secondary suites. As a homeowner, I grew to resent renters who would take up the street parking in front of my house. I mean, really resent it.  Then a neighbour built a massive secondary suite above a garage that’s bigger than my own house — not that it alleviates any housing shortages because it appears to be used only for a business which seems, in my mind, to be a loophole in the secondary suite rules. To appeal, you need money, time, deep knowledge of planning rules and the stomach to go head-to-head with your neighbours. So I can see why there are so few appeals for these suites.

The renter’s challenge. At the same time, I’d hear story after story from my own students at Mount Royal University about housing costs, competing for rental housing and how little of it there was. They were stressed. Then the rental vacancy rate fell below two per cent — I thought we could look into some of the issues. Numerous faculty members and students pitched in to work on the project. We published our findings in the print issue of the Calgary Journal (calgaryjournal.ca April 2014 issue) and online at calgarysecondarysuites.ca

Thank you to faculty Sally Haney, Paul Coates, Sean Holman and our Journalism Chair Shauna Snow-Caparrelli.

Web Producer Kerri Martin, a grad of our journalism program, designed this site.

Our lead student editors were: Alyssa Quirico, Riad Kadri, Jenica Foster, Andrew Szekeres, Roxanne Blackwell and Lisa Taylor.

1. Examining secondary suite appeals. My third–year journalism students (COMM-3729) read all the appeals at the Calgary Subdivision and Development Appeal Board over four years, summarized them and went to photograph the properties. This class and our fourth year photojournalism projects class (COMM-4727) also wrote human face stories about renters and people who develop suites. They are Olivia Condon, Brittany Fong, Garrett Harvey, Tiffany Ritz, Quinton Amundson, Kelsey Simpson, Cameron Perrier, Daniel Ball, Lucas Silva, Jordan Kroshinsky, Sarah Comber, Caitlin Clow, Haley Anderson, Ashley Materi, Alexandra Rabbitte, April Lamb, Michael Chan, Alyssa Quirico, Danny Luong, Olivia Grecu and Hannah Kost.

2. Mapping the Appeals. Online editor Riad Kadri mapped these appeals using google maps. If you click on the icon you will get a synopsis (coming soon). The graphics for the appeal findings were done by print design editor April Lamb.

3.  The Human Face of the Suites. We often see luxury housing in the media but rarely  more modest secondary suites that many call home. Paul Coates’ fourth-year photo journalism class went in search of renters and owners. Photographers included: Alyssa Quirico, Alexandra Rabbitte, Olivia Grecu, April Lamb, Danny Luong, Micky Chan, Hannah Kost, Arielle Berze, Jessica Phillips.

4. The Mayor’s Stance. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is a champion of secondary suites. Online masthead news editor Alyssa Quirico interviewed the mayor at city hall in March 2014.

5. Opinion. News editor Roxanne Blackwell talks about receiving a City of Calgary warning inspection notice for the secondary suite she rents. She was put on alert that she could lose all her cooking gear the day of the inspection.

6. Graphics. The logo that appears in the header of this site and on the print version of the secondary suite investigation was created by Jodi Egan.