Legal Secondary Suites Needed

Calgary post-secondary students say the economy hasn't boosted the supply of safe and affordable housing close to campuses and it's time for the city to legalize secondary suites.

"Students have to keep going further and further away to find somewhere affordable to live," said Brigitte Matheson, president of SAIT's students' association.

She says housing is a chronic problem, but this year's economy has made it more difficult. The cost of living has gone up and many are still struggling to find something student-friendly and affordable.

First-year-student Jenna Johnson spent months hunting for an apartment close to campus because of the shortage, she says. When she and her sister finally found a two-bedroom "quaint but nice" apartment about half an hour away from campus, they grabbed it — for $1,800 a month in rent.

"If their electrical box is shooting sparks or they don't have a stove that works...if their landlord's abusive...they feel they can't complain for fear of being kicked out." - Levi Nilson, U of C students' union

"That's a lot of money, and it's kind of the average cost from what I've heard," said Matheson.

Those who do find a place on a budget often land in illegal or unsafe units, according to Levi Nilson, president of the University of Calgary's students' union.

"A lot of the places that people do end up getting are basement suites which are illegal in a huge part, in huge amounts of the city, so it's tough for people to find housing that works for them that's also up to fire code," he said.

"If their electrical box is shooting sparks or they don't have a stove that works, or what have you, if their landlord's abusive and won't listen to their concerns," they feel they can't complain for fear of being kicked out, Nilson says.

Nilson and Matheson want city council to legalize secondary suites so that students don't find themselves living in unsafe units, in order to stay close to campus and keep costs down.


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