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LETTER: Maintain the integrity of single-family neighbourhoods

Secondary suite development in existing area homes is not the solution to years of affordable housing inaction by government and developers.
Future St. Albert neighbourhoods will no longer be comprised of a single type of housing.

Dear Editor,

Congratulations to Westwind Communities and the Brenda Strafford Society for their upcoming development of purpose-built, affordable housing units for the Okotoks area. New affordable homes have largely been ignored by local government and developers, and continues today with the ongoing emphasis placed on profits.

I support upholding zoning bylaws that protect the character of neighbourhoods with purpose built “single family homes.” My culture is one home, one family, portrayed now as elitest or privileged by some.

An Okotoks strategy was enacted setting a 15 per cent secondary suite limit per defined area. It included a notification process alerting adjacent and area homeowners a suite was being proposed, and an appeal process allowing objections to the suite’s development. This initiative produced no meaningful objections. It seemed an acceptable attempt to accommodate.

That same initiative that once required limiting, notifying and allowing objections to secondary suites was subsequently eliminated. Taxpayers that want their “single family home” community to remain as such are now forced to accept their quality of life will be affected. The potential is there, without recourse, for every house on streets or cul-de-sacs to contain a legal suite, possibly doubling surrounding populations, and the crime, noise, pollution, traffic and parking that follows.

The Town’s elimination of one segment of the population’s rights in favour of another’s appears very Trudeauesque, negating opposition and recourse for a political easy must have.

There is much talk around the benefits of subsidizing homeowners’ costs using suites as an extra stream of income. The effect will be an increase in property value for the next buyer to absorb and the affordability cycle will start over again.

Okotoks appears to have had the least number of low-rise apartment complexes developed in the last 20 years compared to similar communities. This lapse needs to be addressed with a supply of similar alternatives.

Ad-hoc secondary suite development in existing area homes, as politically expedient and “path of least resistance” as it may seem, is not the solution to years of affordable housing inaction by government and developers. Tax dollars used in growing numbers to encourage such development is even more egregious.

Developing new purpose-built secondary suites and stand-alone complexes are the correct solutions to focus on. Long-term, larger-scale affordable housing solutions will need multiple participants, a group that will not put profit ahead of affordability, a much harder group to dictate to.

John Fletcher