Guest Blog: Seven Myths About R-CG Zoning Debunked

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As part of our ongoing blog series, Calgary’s Future is sharing community perspectives on issues impacting Calgarians. Housing affordability and availability impact everyone. That’s why we’re sharing this piece – to help us all understand the issues better and to show our representatives that we will not accept inaction or misdirection.

Today’s entry is authored by Peter Koning, a local housing and sustainability advocate, who wrote this list of commonly shared myths about the City of Calgary’s proposed R-CG zoning changes. Peter debunks these myths and shares important information Calgarians need to know leading up to next week's public hearing.

 


 

On April 22nd the City of Calgary will host a public hearing on proposed changes to Calgary’s zoning bylaws. Following the hearing, City Council will vote on whether or not to implement blanket R-CG zoning that will make it easier to build more housing in our city. 

Blanket R-CG upzoning is one of the recommendations that was made to City Council by the City of Calgary’s Housing Affordability Task Force. As insufficient housing continues to intensify Calgary’s housing crisis, more and more Calgarians are at risk of becoming homeless. In fact, one in five Calgary households cannot currently afford their housing costs. That’s over 84,000 households.

That’s why we need to build more homes, and we need to build them fast. R-CG zoning will help us do that, but the proposed changes have sparked fear in many Calgary homeowners. In truth, much of the fear caused by the inclusive zoning conversation is based on myths. Read on to learn about seven common myths fueling the backlash against R-CG zoning and get the facts about why inclusive zoning is a critical step towards keeping Calgary affordable and liveable. 

 

Myth 1: My opportunity to have a say about what happens in my neighborhood will disappear 

 

While it is true that the rezoning will take away one of the opportunities for citizens to comment on new builds, all redevelopments will still require a Development Permit. The process for a Development Permit includes the following notifications and opportunities for citizens to provide input:

  • A sign may be posted on the property for 30 days with information on the proposed redevelopment and how to submit comments.
  • Directly adjacent homeowners on all four sides of the property are notified by mail.
  • During what is called the “Circulation” phase, comments from your community association, Councillor or other third parties such as Enmax may be required. These groups are given 21 days to submit comments to the Development Permit file manager. 

Comments, input, and feedback submitted by citizens as part of these processes may influence whether a permit is granted or the kinds of restrictions that are included in a permit. That means we all still have opportunities to get our voices heard in the process of new building initiatives. 

 

Myth 2: This is a broad and sweeping change to our property rights

 

With R-CG zoning, homeowner rights to make decisions about their properties remain unchanged. The only change on the table is the administrative process that a proposed redevelopment must go through. The new process includes provisions for notification of neighbours and opportunities for community members to provide comments. 

R-CG zoning proposes to remove an inefficient use of City staff time for rezoning while maintaining opportunities for public consultation. By taking a city-wide approach to rezoning, the City of Calgary will be able to redeploy resources previously consumed by rezoning applications. City staff will be able to focus more time on Development Permit application reviews. 

 

Myth 3: Rezoning won't lead to affordable housing / New upzoned builds won't be affordable

 

It is true that many redevelopments involving infill duplexes have property values that are not considered “affordable”. But that’s because the neighborhoods  that are currently economically viable for redevelopments are highly desirable areas. Rezoning eliminates one part of the redevelopment process that is currently very costly ($10,000-$15,000) and time consuming (8-10 months) to developers. 

One of the things causing Calgary’s housing affordability crisis is that our housing supply is not keeping up with demand. By making it easier to build more houses we can increase Calgary’s overall housing supply. R-CG zoning will streamline the new development process and is expected to enable more housing stock to be added to the market quickly in more areas across the city. This increase in the supply of housing can be expected to contribute to downward pressure on housing prices. In fact, research shows that a 1% increase in housing supply results in a 10-30% reduction in average rent. Imagine what a difference that could make for Calgary’s housing affordability crisis. 

 

Myth 4: This will change the character of my neighborhood

 

Even with inclusive R-CG zoning, the Development Permit process ensures that proposed redevelopments are compatible with the surrounding community. For example, neighborhoods developed before 1985 will have an R-CG designation under the rezoning. The maximum height of a new development in an R-CG zone is 11 meters, which is about the size of a typical two-storey home. Apartments are not permitted under R-CG zoning (Notice of Hearing, p. 15). Rezoning will allow for a range of low-density homes, including single-detached, semi-detached (duplexes) and rowhouses. Under R-CG zoning, all houses must have their front doors at ground level.

These requirements ensure there will not be any dramatic changes made to the character of a neighborhood as a result of R-CG zoning. City administration, in its submission to Council, “strongly support” the proposed R-CG zoning changes and note: “This proposal represents an incremental density increase in residential areas, allows for development that is compatible with the character of the existing neighbourhood and is in keeping with the applicable policies of the MDP” (Notice of Hearing, p. 8).

 

Myth 5: Parking on the street will be a mess wherever the city allows these changes

 

R-CG zoning requires developers to provide 0.5 parking stalls per unit. Assuming a 50’ wide by 110’ deep lot, R-CG zoning provides for a maximum of four units (e.g., a row house) with the option for each unit to also have a secondary suite and/or a backyard suite. That translates to a maximum of 12 housing units for the lot, which requires developers to provide parking stalls for 6 vehicles. This invariably limits developers, because twelve units and six parking spots are not likely to fit on a single lot.  R-CG parking stall requirements and the limited size of residential lots will keep parking supply in-check with demand.

 

Myth 6: I’ll lose my privacy or my yard could be shaded by a large building going up near me

 

This has always been a possibility, and R-CG zoning does not present any new threat to homeowners. With R-CG zoning, owners can still decide what to do with their properties as well as provide input and feedback on new developments in their communities. But R-CG zoning doesn’t make it any more or less likely for property owners to build upward or in a way that might impact their neighbours. With or without R-CG zoning, there is no guarantee that your property won’t be affected by new developments.

R-CG zoning does enable us to reduce the strain on high-demand and expensive neighbourhoods by allowing densification to occur contextually in all communities.

 

Myth 7: This is going to allow “monster” homes or duplexes

 

The “C” in R-CG zoning is for “context”. R-CG zoning requires proposed developments to conform to the current “context” of surrounding properties. This assessment of conformity will be part of the Development Permit application review process. Furthermore, R-CG zoning provides for a maximum height of 11 meters, no higher than a typical 2-story home. 

Most existing neighborhoods with single-family homes have existing zoning requirements that provide for a maximum lot coverage of 45%. R-CG limits increase the lot coverage to a maximum of 60%, while maintaining the side yard requirement of 1.2 meters. 

What does this mean? It means that R-CG will make it easier to put more housing on a single lot, provided that housing fits within the “context” of the neighborhood. 

 

Conclusion

 

While it's understandable that “blanket” upzoning might sound like a big change, the reality is that R-CG zoning is only an incremental step towards densifying our neighborhoods. In truth, R-CG zoning does not pose a threat to homeowners or anyone else in our communities. Much of the fear around R-CG zoning is based on unfounded myths. 

That’s why it’s so important to understand the implications of R-CG zoning and what we stand to gain through its implementation. Densifying established communities will allow the City of Calgary to address the housing crisis directly. It will also encourage more tax dollars to be invested in improving established neighbourhoods rather than diluting our resources to support sprawling developments on the outskirts of the city.

 


 

Ready to help fix the housing crisis by making sure City Council knows how important R-CG zoning is? Email your City Councillor and say you expect them to vote in favor of R-CG zoning changes on April 22nd.

Email your City Councillor now!



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