The City of Calgary has kicked off a series of public information sessions around a major proposal that would see zoning rules changed for thousands of residential properties across the city.
The proposal, which is a recommendation in the city’s housing strategy, would see the default residential zoning changed to allow for more housing types.
Currently, more than 60 per cent of residential properties in Calgary are zoned to only allow single family homes as a default.
“We know this is a big change that’s proposed,” said Josh White, the City of Calgary’s director of city & regional planning. “We want to communicate why this has been proposed in relation to our city’s housing strategy, and talk about the reasons why rezoning can help contribute to housing affordability in Calgary.”
According to the city, the proposal would see base residential zoning changed to RC-G in established communities, which allows single-detached, semi-detached, duplexes, secondary suites, and rowhouse-style housing.
R-G would be considered in newer communities, which also allows for single-detached, semi-detached, duplexes, rowhouses and secondary suites, and includes cottage housing clusters.
H-GO would also be considered in some newer communities, which would allow for higher-density housing that “maintains direct ground-level access for all homes.”
The City of Calgary has an interactive map on their website, which lets property owners see what is being proposed for their property.
“We want people to understand what it means for the city, what it might mean for their community or their street, and most importantly how they can provide public input,” White told Global News.
Currently, any changes to zoning need to be approved by city council before a builder can seek a development permit.
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It’s a process Alkarim Devani knows well. The co-founder of inner-city developer RndSqr said getting approvals can be both lengthy and costly for anyone looking to redevelop a property.
“The vast majority of applications are approved by council anyway, but we have this massive time loss where it’s taking us 12 to 14 months to get through land use and a development permit,” Devani told Global News. “Every month you sit around waiting for your project to get approved, you’re taking on more and more costs which get translated onto Calgarians.”
Devani said the rezoning proposal would remove a hurdle, provide more predictability for builders while reducing costs for consumers and increase the city’s housing supply.
He added that checks and balances would still be in place when builders apply for a development permit; a process that won’t change under the city’s zoning proposal.
“My hope would be by creating a process that’s a little bit more predictable for all, we can actually focus on making sure those outcomes are good for those communities and future residents,” Devani said.
Over the coming weeks, the city will be holding several information sessions both in-person and online, as well as a walking tour through a “typical growing neighborhood” to discuss the different zoning districts.
Some city councillors are also holding public sessions of their own. Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp said she heard concerns from the public around the sessions, as well as the 500,000 postcards sent out to notify Calgarians of the proposal.
“A lot of folks didn’t even realize what it was … Some are calling it administration propaganda,” Sharp said. “We have to be very mindful that anything on those cards isn’t making Calgarians think that we’ve already made a decision.”
Sharp said it’s important for each ward to have its own information session due to the differences between neighbourhoods across the city’s four quadrants.
However, some Calgarians against the move are calling for the decision to be out of city council’s hands altogether.
Mary Moran, the former head of Calgary Economic Development and main proponent of the city’s 2026 Olympic bid, said that while she supports the housing strategy, the zoning proposal won’t result in more housing affordability.
“Frankly, it should go to plebiscite. I’m not a big fan of plebiscites, but this truly affects people more so than the Olympic Games did,” Moran told Global News. “I believe that a plebiscite is warranted here.”
The deadline for feedback to be included in a city administration report on the proposal is Feb. 23, with that report being made public on March 7.
City council is also holding a public hearing on the rezoning proposal on April 22, before coming to a decision.
A list of information sessions have also been provided:
January 30, 5:00 to 8:00 PM – Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre (197 1 Street SW)
February 1, 5:30 to 8:30 PM – Dalhousie Community Association (5432 Dalhart Rd NW)
February 3, 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM – Bowness Community Association (7904 43 Ave NW)
February 6, 5:00 to 8:00 PM – Best Western Premier Calgary Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre (formerly the Coast Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre, 1316 33 St NE)
February 7, 5:00 to 8:00 PM- McGivney Hall, St. Mary’s University (14550 Bannister Rd SE)
February 10, 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM – Grace Lutheran Church (3610 Sarcee Rd SW)
There will also be an online session on Feb. 8 from 7:00 to 8:30 PM.
More information on the rezoning proposal and public feedback can be found on the city’s website.