2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Photo by Daman Singh

Students and protestors call on city councillors to approve R-CG zoning citywide

By Nazeefa Ahmed and Reyam Jamaleddine, April 24 2024—

On Apr. 22, the University of Calgary’s Students’ Union (SU) — along with other groups — gathered outside City Hall to pressure city councillors to vote and pass changes to R-CG zoning laws. 

The proposed changes to R-CG zoning would allow for single-detached, semi-detached, secondary suites, and row house-style housing. According to SU Vice President Mateusz Salmassi, the goal is to increase the density of housing units to alleviate Calgary’s housing crisis and provide more options for students.  

Photo by Daman Singh

“If City Council passes this vote today, it means approximately 1500 more units will be built,” said Salmassi. “But if we had changed our zoning bylaws years ago there would have been enough people with spare rooms and suites to house those other students. Today we have the chance not to make that mistake again.”

Salmassi shares stories of experiences by students at the university and how exclusionary zoning laws and lack of affordability are pushing young Calgarians out of the city.  

“My team and I personally spoke to hundreds of students about this vote in the past few weeks. More than 70 per cent of students stated that housing affordability will be the major deciding factor for whether they will remain in Calgary after graduation,” said Salmassi.

Photo by Daman Singh

Salmassi describes how the SU’s previous advocacy to pass recommendations by the Housing and Affordability Task Force set the groundwork for the current advocacy for R-CG zoning. 

“Our most recent push was to ensure a good supply of safe secondary suites in the city. We saw a lot of opposition back then. Now Calgarians accept the changes we have made to make it easier to make it easier to offer secondary suites as a safe housing option. Today feels very familiar.”

Inam Teja, a representative from the Calgary drop-in Centre provided some possibilities for what could happen if the R-CG zoning bill passed. 

“What this does is first of all enable the creation for more basement suites and laneway houses, which tend to be far more affordable than typical. But even beyond that, adding more housing supply eases the pressure on everything else because right now what we’re seeing is people with dual incomes living in the basement suits,” said Teja. 

Steve Bentley, a representative from the Climate Action Hub provided his thoughts about why he was protesting and why it is important for the City of Calgary to address the homelessness crisis. 

“Ultimately we as a city are either in the business of making more homeless people or creating a place where we can find a place to live. It should not be something that is complicated as all this,” said Bentley.

Bentley explains why the R-CG zoning laws are directly related to climate action and the efficacy of mitigating climate change.

“The organization I represent is the Calgary Climate Hub and the reason why climate people care about how we build cities and where we build is actually one of the most important ways you could start reducing your emissions and stop making the climate situation worse,” said Bentley. 

“There’s all sorts of good climate reasons to support housing, but mostly it just comes down to being a human being who cares about the right things and ultimately this is a crisis and the role of leaders during the time of crisis is to help as many people as you can as expediently as you can”

Elizabeth Mclennan the co-chair of the board for the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good provided commentary on the people over the age of fifty who are not typically agreeable to the passing of the R-CG zoning laws.

“The people who will shift are the ones who have children and grandchildren. My grandchildren can’t afford to rent an apartment in Calgary, such a difference from when we first moved here, and I think when we realize we need to do this for the generations that come behind us the people will pick this up,” said Mclennan. 

The public hearings for the R-CG zoning laws began on Apr. 22. To learn more about R-CG zoning laws head to the Students’ Union webpage

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