Basement living: Meet Calgary secondary suite renters

Calgary city council threw its support behind secondary suites in 2018. Renters talk about what they pay and ups and downs of living in in-house apartments.

Near Westbrook Mall, Southwest Calgary


Name: Lindsay Geiger, 25

Monthly Rent: $1,295 split with a roommate, both paying $647.50 (basement suite)

Location: Near Westbrook Mall, Southwest Calgary

Affordability: Geiger said she would not classify $1,295 for their two-bedroom basement suite in Southwest Calgary as affordable housing.

More than anything, Geiger says the location is why she chose the secondary suite. The 45 Street LRT station is easily accessible from the area, where Geiger can get downtown to work at her job as an experiential marketing coordinator with Boardwalk Rental Communities. She grew up in Southwest Calgary which is why she chose to stay there. The neighbourhood is nice and easy to navigate, according to Geiger.

While Geiger doesn’t see many downsides to her living situation, she plans on moving to an apartment by herself when her and her roommate’s lease is up. She says it “kind of sucks living in a basement,” as the secondary suite is technically a basement in a house. The only other downside, she says, is living below your landlord, which can also be a positive thing, depending on how you look at it.

Text and photo by Amber McLinden.

Kincora, Northwest Calgary

Kelly Doonan

Renters: Martina Kelly, 21, and Tyson Doonan, 21

Monthly rent: $850 plus one-third of the utilities (basement suite)

Location: Kincora, Northwest Calgary

Affordability: For Martina Kelly and Tyson Doonan, their basement secondary suite’s size, affordable price and location make it their ideal first home together. Kelly, a respiratory therapist at the Foothills Hospital, and Doonan, an airplane mechanic at the Springbank Airport, both love their quick 20-minute commutes to work each day. However, they say there are some cons to living in this suite, including a lack of natural light and cooler temperatures in the basement.

Text and photo by Jolene Rudisuela.

Mount Pleasant, Northwest Calgary


Renter: Anna MacLaren, 22

Monthly Rent: $800 (basement suite shared)

Location: Mount Pleasant, Northwest Calgary

Affordability: Anna, a part-time nanny, and her partner live in a secondary basement suite because it is so affordable compared to other rental spaces in Calgary. They split the cost of rent evenly so that they each pay $400 per month, which is reasonable given their wages.

Renting a secondary suite makes living in an inner-city neighbourhood that’s near transit, school and the downtown core an affordable option for Anna and her boyfriend, Kellen. As well, they are able to cover their expenses without sharing space with a roommate, which would be necessary if they had to pay higher rent in the neighbourhood.

The only con she finds of living in a secondary suite is privacy and access to shared spaces. They share their washing machine and dryer, as well as a hallway with the tenant in the upstairs unit. Depending on who is occupying the upstairs suite, they sometimes find it necessary to lock up their personal belongings as they could potentially access their unit.

Text and photo by Megan Atkins-Baker

Northwest Calgary


Renter: David Engel

Monthly Rent: $900 (basement suite)

Affordability: Engel finds his secondary suite affordable as he is a university student and is supported by his parents. He finds he has more privacy than living with a roommate; he has his own washer and dryer and his own entrance to the house. However, he doesn’t get full use of the backyard and would like to be able to put up a hammock.

Text and photo by Mackenzie Jaquish.

Brentwood, Northwest Calgary


Jessica Phillips front living room

Renter: Jessica Phillips, 26

Monthly Rent: $775 (basement suite)

Location: Brentwood, Northwest Calgary

Affordability: Jessica Phillips finds this two-bedroom suite very affordable and convenient for her lifestyle. The suite is built into the basement of the house. Complete with a full kitchen, one bathroom, living room and two bedrooms, Phillips is very happy with her lodging.

“I’d say the biggest pro of living where I do is that it’s cheaper. Having other people living upstairs makes the utilities and internet bill cheaper which is awesome. It’s also great because finding housing in such a prime location would be impossible without secondary suites.

The only cons really are that it can be kind of noisy having people living upstairs at times, and it’s a lot harder to lug groceries into the basement. Otherwise I think it’s been a lot more positive than negative,” says Phillips.

Text and photo by Polly Eason.

Ranchlands, Northwest Calgary


Renter: Mark Ferguson, 23

Monthly Rent: $500 + utilities (basement suite shared with roommate)

Location: Ranchlands, Northwest Calgary

Affordability:  Ferguson works as a music educator, sound engineer and administrative assistant for a business called Airdrie Music Lessons. He works about half-time (20+ hours a week) but is still able to afford the rent with the pay that he is making. Mark also works as a musician, which helps makes ends meet from time to time. He is a frugal spender, helping him to make rent.

Text and Photo by Will Cowan.

Altadore, Southwest inner city Calgary



Renter: Zach Laing, 22

Monthly Rent: $700 per month (basement suite)

Location: Altadore, Southwest inner-city Calgary

Affordability: After recently scoring a job as a multimedia reporter for the Calgary Herald/Sun, Laing says the suite is very affordable for him and his girlfriend.

“It’s not perfect, it definitely has its flaws like our living room doesn’t have any lights on the ceiling, nor does our bedroom, but you pay for what you get … It’s perfect for a young couple looking to save money,” says Laing.

Text and photo by Paul McAleer.

Westgate, Southwest Calgary


Renter: Marie Constant

Rent: $850 (basement suite, soon to share)

Location: Westgate, Southwest Calgary

Affordability: This two-bedroom basement suite costs $850 per month, but Constant has a roommate moving in at the end of March which will cut the cost in half. She finds it affordable because the central location allows her to save on gas.

A pro for Constant is having a set rent. Because she doesn’t have to pay extra for utilities, her rent never fluctuates. She expressed that a con can be living with loud neighbours or ones who are sensitive to sound. However, she has built a relationship with the owners living upstairs and hasn’t come across a problem yet.

Text and photo by Amy Simpson.

Balmoral, Northwest Calgary

Lena Victor

Renters: Lena Staple, Victor Manson, and baby Micah

Monthly Rent: $800 (basement suite)

Location: Balmoral, Northwest Calgary

Affordability: Both in their early 20’s, Victor works full time at Best Buy as a sales associate and Lena works part time as an occasional nanny. They believe this is an affordable place to rent.

They say the pros of living in a secondary suite are cheaper rent and the suite is cool in the summertime. As well, they have in-suite laundry and yard space. However, they can hear noise from upstairs, often have higher heating bills and, if plumbing in the house is backed up, then they get hit with it first.

Text and photo by Kate Paton.

Editor: Polly Eason |