Crunching the data on secondary suite appeals


The Calgary Journal inquired into the on-going battle over secondary suites at the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board and found conflict between neighbours and suite owners.

A secondary suite is an apartment in a home or above a home’s garage. For a secondary suite to go ahead, it needs to meet a host of regulations governing size and parking to get a development permit issued by the City. A homeowner can appeal if he or she is denied a suite, and neighbours can also appeal if a suite is approved. The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board heard 20 secondary-suite appeals over four years from 2010 through 2013. Here’s how things were decided at the ground level.

Finding 1:
Neighbours are most likely to appeal

55Neighbours initiated 11 of 20 appeals to overturn a secondary-suite approval.

45Homeowners initiated 9 of 20 appeals to reverse the denial of a decision.

Finding 2:
Parking and privacy topped the reasons for neighbours’ appeals

parkingNeighbours don’t want to compete for street parking and they don’t want to be peered at from nearby above-garage suites.

Finding 3:
Neighbour appeals are most likely to be successful

9110 of 11 neighbour appeals were successful. They resulted in either overturning the suite’s original approval (4/11) or obtaining conditions more favourable to neighbours (6/11). Only one neighbour appeal failed to prevent the suite from going ahead as is.

Finding 4:
Homeowners were rarely successful in appealing denied suitesdenied

Only 1 of 8 homeowners were able to get their secondary suite approved once it had been denied.

Finding 5:
Community associations seem to have influence on the appeal process

Of the four appeals involving community associations, three managed to get their way and deny a secondary suite or have conditions attached to it.

The Crescent Heights Community Association (N.W.) argued it didn’t support any relaxations, or rule bending for a secondary suite leading to a denial.

The Bowness Community Association (N.W.) wanted a denied suite to stay denied. It did.

The Parkdale Community Association (N.W.) obtained conditions for a garage suite — the first in the neighbourhood.

Only the Abbeydale Community Association (N.E.) backed a homeowner who was still denied the right to a suite.

Beyond parking and privacy, two community associations mentioned threat to neighbourhood aesthetics as a concern.

Finding 6:
Lawyers and representatives weren’t necessarily helpful during the appeal processlawyers

Of the 20 appeals, five cases — 3 homeowners and 2 neighbours ­— had a lawyer or representative present for the proceedings. These included Geoffrey Horne, Peter Schryvers, Doug Badke and Mike Macdonald. Only consultant Doug Badke had a successful appeal for his neighbour clients (Scotiabank tried to talk at one appeal but was dismissed as not relevant).

Finding 7:
Garage suites were more likely to be approved upon appeal than in-house suites67

We found 4 of 6 garage suites were approved (0 approved; 2 denied; 4 approved with conditions).

4 of 14 in-home suites were approved (1 approved; 10 denied; 3 approved with conditions).

Finding 8:
Where the suite is, matters

The N.W. is more likely to appeal and to get suites denied.

Suites in Calgary’s N.W. quadrant drew most of the city’s secondary-suite appeals (9 in total). Of these, 5 appeals saw the suites go ahead, and 4 saw them denied.

The S.W. (4 in total) had 2 approvals and 2 denials.
The N.E. (4 in total) had 2 approvals and 2 denials.
The S.E. (3 in total) had 1 approval and 2 denials.

Graphic by April Lamb map

Finding 9:
The number of secondary suite appeals rose over the four years examinedarrow3

2013 had the most appeals (7) of all years studied (2010 to 2013) — 2 were approved while 5 suites were denied.

Finding 10:
Appeals were spread across 18 neighbourhoods

Of the 20 appeals analyzed, 18 were from separate neighbourhoods.The communities of Chaparral and Renfrew had 2 appeals each.


We contacted the City of Calgary and asked for all Subdivision and Development Appeal Board decisions with the words “secondary suite” in the subject line for the years Mayor Nenshi was elected (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). 20 appeals were provided.

We wanted to know: who appeals the suites and what factors result in denial and approval of them?