Rezoning Daily Rollup

The Rezoning for Housing Public Hearing has begun. Check-in on this post and it will be updated throughout the Hearing with learnings and impressions. 

Day Twelve - April 6

  • A speaker who grew up in The City lamented that the lifestyle that she enjoyed growing up was under threat and that the lot next to them would be a prime candidate for redevelopment
  • A presenter read the letter from MP Aitchison into the record and parts of Poilievre’s housing platform stating that this conversation had become hyper-partisan and unfortunately politics are sometimes required to refute overly political moments in our debate. You can find the letter here: MPs dive into debate over Calgary housing | LiveWire Calgary
  • A presenter spoke about her experience with low-income individuals and their inability to find housing. She spoke in opposition of the proposal and asked Council to focus on placing housing close to transit stating that not all neighbourhoods are a good place for R-CG zoning
  • "As a homeowner I feel it is critical for Council to commit to retaining community involvement in the planning process"
  • Another presenter currently living next to an R-CG row house shared her experience of living next to a redevelopment project with windows looking into her back yard, extensive lot coverage and the impacts of increased parking a waste disposal requirements
  • “How do you slow things down when localized issues arise?” This speaker urged Council to slow down least things get away from Council and the local planning authority
  • A speaker spoke about how upzoning will add “options” to properties in Calgary and therefore impact the land price, by making it a better investment, working against the stated goals of adding affordable housing
  • A policy expert living in a bungalow came to speak to the merits of the policy in its ability to provide more affordable housing over time
  • A planner spoke about how he has been the target of public pressure for relatively minor landuse bylaw changes and how this opposition keeps cities & towns from evolving
  • A Ward constituent spoke after dinner, thanked me for the phone call, and then urged me to vote no on the proposal
  • A presenter shared 20 recommendations with Council related to affordable housing, urging Council to focus on any of these and abandon the rezoning proposal
  • "Please don't turn single family neighbourhoods into cauldrons of anxiety"
  • "How we act toward those on the margins is the true measure of our greatness as a society. Let's be great."


Day Eleven - April 3

  • The day started with a speaker admonishing Council that they shouldn’t be deciding on such a big change
  • A former planner spoke about the ability to give more certainty to communities by creating more detailed planning. He spoke about some of his former Transportation Oriented Development work and appealed to Council to abandon the zoning change and push density around transit
  • He further spoke about government (Federal, Provincial) being in the best place to quickly deliver housing in this manner and making it affordable (below market/subsidized)
  • A presenter spoke about how this is a massive change and that Calgarians need to be fully apprised of what this means and referenced the worst-case scenario property from Bowness
  • “It feels like your approach is: we are just going to rezone the whole City and see what happens.”
  • A speaker after lunch came with a list of suggestions for The City to consider to accelerate the delivery of housing while also cautioning about the impacts of redevelopment in established neighbourhoods (Microsoft PowerPoint - R-CG proposed Land Use Change v2.0 - Jason New.pptx (
  • Another presenter brought pictures of a project next door. This was a suite above a garage that impacted the sunlight, privacy and use of the backyard
  • The real roadblock to building affordable housing is interest rates, labour, materials, etc.
  • A presenter shared his analysis of the submissions submitted to The City to demonstrate the wide support for densification and affordability while imploring Council not to divide Calgarians by passing the proposal. The presentation closed with a warning that the policy change would drive the politics of the next election and would likely be reversed
  • Right afterwards a policy expert argued that this proposal is well founded and the fears in the community, while understandable, are generally overstated and in some cases unfounded
  • A speaker spoke about the proposal appearing to require every neighbourhood to become a high-density neighbourhood and that it would be extremely damaging to our culture and livability
  • A student spoke about his journey to arrive in support of the proposal by approaching it with an open mind and listening to presenters on both sides of the debate


Day Nine & Ten - April 1-2

  • A former Alderman spoke about his dismay that the outcome of the rezoning appeared to be already solidified
  • A speaker joined her voice to many previous submissions asking Council to work to reclaim the unity displayed during the 2013 floods and have a better conversation
  • “The neighbourhoods constantly change regardless of zoning. The city is a living, breathing thing, not a picture postcard of the day a home was constructed."
  • The same speaker in conversation with a Cllr spoke about how the Public Hearing process has provided an excellent opportunity for a very difficult conversation
  • A speaker spoke at length about the need to restrain the commercialization of housing in our City
    • In questioning the presenter stated that the levers for this are primarily with the Feds and Province
  • A couple of speakers made a complimentary presentation that stated rezoning would drive up the price of land and therefore negate one of the key stated objectives of Rezoning for Housing by making homes less affordable
    • Cllr's questioned these speakers at length 
  • The same speakers spoke about concerns that The City has moved so slowly on helping land around Transit stations develop into housing
  • A presenter showed up to speak to his values and his excitement of the prospect that he might receive more property rights and the ability to keep taxes lower by having more people in our established neighbourhoods 
  • A speaker in support of the rezoning also stated that there should be a move to protect the ability of the community to engage on the change in their communities
  • A speaker spoke about the need to evolve our City for our good (long-term resiliency) and how making more housing choice available by right, aids in that goal
  • A presenter used the analogy of a house fire and that you don’t worry about water damage to the home when you are fighting the fire—making the argument that the policy tradeoffs of getting more housing supply online shouldn’t stop us from acting where we can
  • A speaker that I interacted with spoke to concerns with infrastructure and services and his belief that we have the creativity and capacity here to meet the challenges we are facing and that City Hall should largely stay out of the way
  • A presenter spoke to the impacts of a monstrosity being developed next to her home and emotionally implored Council to make sure that we learned from her experience
  • A subject matter expert gave an excellent presentation which encouraged The City to utilize the lot coverage as a carrot to incentivize better outcomes

Day Eight - Tuesday, April 30th

  • Early on a speaker shared photos from actual Calgary infill projects and gave commentary on how they can thoughtfully add more units in contextual ways in our City

  • R-CG allows for flexibility and adaptability for existing homes and homeowners to add units
  • We need to sort the objectives of this proposal out from the objectives of HATF to build community buy-in and move forward in a more deliberate way
  • A speaker spoke of the impacts on her street in Edmonton when bungalows were torn down and “tall skinnies” replaced them
  • Blanket rezoning shuts down creativity and conversation with people in their communities
    • Our communities are treasures, and we need to pull the conversation onto a better track without the ideological lines
  • A speaker spoke about how the missing middle housing typology gives both more units for more people and also preserves the community that can often feel elusive with high-density development like apartment towers—this resonates with me
    • This proposal will help build a better tomorrow with more housing opportunities for more people—opening more doors for people to participate in housing in a more efficient manner
  • “Let’s build bridges to connect the generations” A passionate speaker implored Council to work towards bringing the generational gap in this conversation together with a better plan to move forward
  • A presentation from an experienced planning outfit in Calgary talked about how few properties in Calgary would actually be feasible for a 4x4 higher intensity R-CG


Day Seven - Monday, April 29th

  • Day seven started with accusations that The City has not been responsible with their own land in building housing
  • One speaker used the analogy of picking fruit in an orchard and how this means the “easy picking” will happen in the early days after the change and leaves the harder work (infrastructure, amenity changes, problem areas) to be comprehensively dealt with later. The appeal was for a more planned approach vs. the blanket zoning
  • The same speaker had an exchange with a Cllr about the similarities and differences between the secondary suite debate and vote and this Public Hearing
    • Secondary suites are within the envelope of the existing dwelling unit
    • This is fundamentally different and we need to make sure we are following the rules and dealing with impacts to the surrounding community
  • Council had a long conversation with this speaker and discussion around the landuse and development permit stages and the speaker spoke strongly in favour of putting modifiers on individual applications to give certainty to both industry and the residents next door

  • Council is sinking infrastructure renewal costs around main streets growth should be focused around these areas
  • Aukland is having to deal with some very real issues related to their three floors, three units, base zoning (stormwater, parking, etc)
  • A speaker presented form comprehensive community engagement and that was submitted as a “What we heard report” as a submission to Council
    • The biggest concern was the potential loss of park / green space
  • We need to be incentivizing people who own property to add housing instead of just developers
  • A lawyer from the community shared that Council needs to make sure the bylaw is actually able to address the housing affordability challenges and pointed to the 200k gap asserting that this is the stated “why” for it coming forward in the first place
  • A presenter spoke about his understanding of the appeal process and how he believes that it isn’t very helpful in ensuring the community is heard. He pointed to the Landuse Redesignation process as the key place to provide feedback
  • Can you display that it will work? Is it reasonable? A speaker asked these two questions and challenged Council that the proposal doesn’t get a passing grade on either.
  • After a multiday stretch of only hearing from those against, some presenters in favour of the proposal are starting to weave into the hearing again
  • Housing diversity has greatly enhanced my experience of my neighbourhood
  • “Let’s balance our love for our roots with our care and consideration for the future”


Day Six - Saturday, April 27th

  • The day started with a speaker suggesting that permitted parking across The City could deal with issues cropping up due to growth
  • Many speakers spoke of feeling moved by the plight of the younger generation and new Calgarians but at the same time feeling unfairly singled out as the problem (especially when they are engaged in philanthropic initiatives in The City)
  • Most speakers spoke of their disappointment of not being able to vote on the proposal in a plebiscite
  • "Council I am not asking you to abandon your core beliefs but to embrace a balanced approach to deliver a better result"
  • Many speakers spoke about how rushed this proposal felt and how that inflamed fears and suspicions
  • Input was given that The City should more squarely target the housing affordability challenges vs. chasing zoning that will have dubious results
  • "We hope there will be a fruitful movement to a well-reasoned middle ground"
  • A presenter stated that Administration and City Council are exhibiting strong confirmation bias in their preparation and communication an that he saw signs of recency bias moving us into extreme reactions when it is small incremental adjustments that actually turn a large ship
  • We need to work in cooperation with ALL levels of government (insinuating that Council is out of sync with the Province and favouring Federal cooperation)
  • The City should be looking at utilizing pilots to measure outcomes and move forward in a detail driven way—this will build transparency and trust with the community as they learn what the policy decisions are tethered to
  • A presenter brought a white hat that she was given to represent our City at the Olympics and pleaded Council, through tears, to find a compromise in conversation with the community
  • "A lot of us coming out to speak against are here to really ready to engage, we believe we have a problem and want to be part of the solution"
  • Numerous presenters spoke about their general plummeting trust in government and particularly Council
  • A young man finished up the evening speaking to the knowledge gap between what this proposal aims to achieve and how it achieves it and that his support would remain elusive until that is filled


Day Five - Friday, April 26th

  • Are we going to make it easier for people to use their capital to provide housing for family members and others in our community, on their own property?
  • A speaker pleaded for a “middle path” this morning talking about regulations in Vancouver that slowed down financial speculation
  • Calgary has high livability … are you not concerned that you are going to erode that with this proposal?
  • There is a “donut of decline” in our City that desperately needs to renew and this will enable more people to find a home in a desirable neighbourhood at a more accessible price point
  • Today we tipped past the even “For” and “Against” panels. Council will be hearing exclusively concerns from Calgarians for the next stretch
  • There needs to be more consideration of some of the worst-case scenarios and redevelopment drastically impacting next door neighbours
  • Concerns about the way this proposal has been handled and how it is eroding trust and dividing Calgarians—one speaker emotionally stated she is heartbroken with how this is dividing Calgarians
  • A lot of fear in our community and this issue and decision point is the lightning rod for it right now—a suggestion that this is the most divided moment in our civic history
  • Questions between a Cllr and former developer highlighted how few properties in R-G (Ward 12 and some other edge communities) would be viable for redevelopment into rowhomes
  • Isn’t there a way to tackle this affordability and housing challenge by working together instead of pitting us against each other?
  • Another speaker spoke of how this creates uncertainty and frustration when there is a desire in the community to tackle these challenges together
  • Densification should start along major streets and not be able to skip deep into neighbourhoods
  • Many speakers highlighted their concerns about the disconnect between the state goals of the rezoning and its ability to actually deliver affordable housing
  • After dinner a speaker raised an emerging issue that we are starting to run into at Public Hearing on individual applications in solar panels. The suggestion was to create a bylaw that mitigates this issue of existing panels being shadowed by a neighbouring redevelopment
  • Shortly after a presenter shared they had previously bought and renovated a home only to have a redevelopment next door that forced a move, they further shared their frustration that the same thing could happen again


Day Four - Thursday, April 25th

  • The day started with feedback directed at how the growth changes in our City are concerning (transit safety, rising costs, infrastructure strain, service strain, etc)
    • Property tax hikes alone cannot support the costs
  • “No community should experience radical change but also no community should be exempt from change” enable bottom-up incremental change / the sky will not fall
  • A speaker who grew up in another City and watched this debate spoke of his experience of witnessing housing pressures build up and resistance from existing homeowners buffeting change for the same worries we are facing today. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.”
  • “Spread the growing pains equitably”
  • Blanket zoning will lead to a wild west of development and force developers to utilize restrictive covenants
  • People will move to apply for Direct Control (DC) zoning to protect their streets
  • Concerns about the amount of black, blue and green bins that clutter the street as higher-density moves onto streets
  • More students lined up to speak about their concerns about finding housing in this City and one tells Council he is leaving this August to find more affordable housing elsewhere after graduating at UofC – When asked he said housing was the biggest factor for his decision to move to Winnipeg
  • After lunch there were accusations of City Council that we had created this problem by restricting Green Field growth
  • Another student challenged the comparisons of shadowing, parking, etc weighed against people having better access to housing, and urged Council to act for those on the outside looking in on the housing market
  • A presenter compared R-CG zoning to a small area of M-CG zoning in Hillhurst/Sunnyside and shared pictures of how The City’s landuse bylaw had managed the growth considerations for redevelopment/renewal very well in these neighbourhoods. The basic proposition was that all communities poised to move to R-CG could very likely see similar results and shouldn’t be afraid of this change.
  • An older gentleman punctuated many of these points from his perspective in Calgary right afterward 
  • One presenter shared his deep concerns with the overall economic system and a future he sees where private ownership disappears and government overreach extends onto our streets
  • “We already have a blanket zone, its called R-1”
  • Concerns about the impact on the urban canopy and increase of hardscaping that will make our City hotter and the ground less able to absorb rainwater
  • Commentary about how ideal rowhomes, townhomes and similar housing is for larger families that cannot make an apartment work and how helpful a secondary suite is to allow for an intergenerational family situation (child and senior care). Assertions that these setups are becoming more necessary due to financial pressures including the cost of housing


Day Three - Wednesday, April 24th

Listening to the speakers today here is some of what has left an impression on me:

  • The day started with a few speakers all coming back to the idea that while they believed that we need to upzone that the blanket zoning approach wasn't a good idea
  • One speaker was asked if he would be interested in dealing with upzoning attached to the Local Area Planning process and his response focused on previously feeling disregarded and overlooked
  • A little further in there were a couple of speakers who referenced the lack of evidence to support this proposal and read quotes from planners, researchers and pundits that spoke to the unresolved data on whether this policy change would have the intended impacts
  • Another speaker spoke about how she reluctantly brought up zoning with her father and found unexpected support
  • Around 10:50 a very reasonable presenter spent a great deal of time speaking about the need to place growth on nodes and corridors
  • Shortly after this there was a long exchange with a presenter that challenged Council not to contribute to the polarization and erosion of trust in institutions that we are all lamenting right now
  • Additionally, the challenge extended to working with the approval process and streamlining it instead of taking away the voice of the community at the Landuse stage
  • Infrastructure featured prominently again and one perspective that stuck with me was the fact that our infrastructure dollars are becoming increasingly scarce, both to create new projects and maintain existing
  • The UrbanCSA sent a representative to speak on behalf of nearly 150 students and here are the high notes:
    • Young people are weighing their choice to stay in Calgary on housing affordability, and we could lose the talent necessary for the future
    • We need to make investments in a resilient city and do it now--implying that the rezoning would nurture more housing investment
    • This proposal isn’t a silver bullet but it will increase supply across the whole continuum
    • A challenge to make smart decisions today in defence of tomorrow
  • There was commentary about how secondary suites are increasing across The City as mortgage helpers. This aligned with what I have been hearing about new builds in Ward 12 (up to 37% of housing starts in some communities)
  • Many speakers warned Council of trying to offset Federal immigration and another chastised Council for trying to blame immigration when our zoning has been an impediment and many other jurisdictions have already upzoned
  • Later in the evening a speaker implored Council to enable The City to adapt to the change it is navigating and spoke their support of the proposal as a strong step in enabling that adaptability
  • A speaker shared a story about his childhood home having many children out on the street and now his parents getting a trickle of trick-or-treaters every Halloween--illustrating the fact that established neighbourhoods are well below peak population
  • "Growth is a dance, not a light switch. The proposal needs to be far more graceful and ask for the help and support of Calgarians. Sit down with your communities in a spirit of collaboration and come up with a better plan, because Calgary deserves it."


Day Two - Tuesday, April 23rd

  • Those speaking against Rezoning today seemed to key in on frustrations that the conversation between the community and City Hall has been eroding, particularly around planning matters
  • The climax of this was summarized by a conversation between some of my colleagues and a representative of FCC. Here the concern was largely based on The City's communication related to rezoning which makes it difficult for Calgarians to understand what affordable means and therefore the goal of the proposal
  • In a similar vein, one great exchange focused on the wide gap in understanding in our community of what affordable actually means and that the idea of R-CG adding affordable housing in neighbourhoods was misleading. The Cllr and resident exchange ended on this proposal adding housing on a rung of the housing ladder, adding supply and therefore helping others lower down the housing ladder. Both agreed that they didn't think 1.4 million dollar units were what was needed
  • An inner-city resident expressed concerns that growth is already straining schools, roads, and other services and amenities and was concerned that more density in her neighbourhood would be detrimental. I found this notable in how closely it mirrored feedback I have received in Ward 12
  • There were a great many scoldings and electoral threats for Councillors that would consider voting yes on the proposal
  • One memorable presentation started with the gentleman talking about all the benefits of living in a cul-de-sac, in an established neighbourhood and then pivoted to a challenge to be open to change while also recognizing that this change could eventually impact his sleepy cul-de-sac
  • There was A LOT of encouragement from the speakers to Council to consider pressing pause and going back to a collaborative Local Area Planning style conversation with communities--instead of telling the community what was going to happen
  • Notably, Dr. Byron Miller, engaged in a spirited and detailed exchange with members of Council around his plea to come back to the Municipal Development Plan and build a plan from that widely supported growth plan. One concern that was new for me was the possibility that blanket upzoning might sterilize excellent areas for even higher density by building an R-CG and make it economically unviable to go higher, many years into the future
  • A speaker presented some stats in graphs around R-CG and housing starts by type and suggested through his presentation that he was concerned that market factors were a major headwind for delivering redevelopment at affordable price point
  • In this vein, there were a few speakers who spoke to this proposal feeling like Council was gambling with their most valuable asset with only winners being developers
  • Many speakers in favour of the rezoning spoke to the necessary nature of the proposal to accelerate the delivery of more units to the housing supply, at different price points, to enable younger generations and new Calgarians a better chance of finding housing
  • This was connected, multiple times, to long-term economic flourishing by ensuring that young talent stays in Calgary vs. leaving as they have in Cities such as Toronto and Vancouver
  • One speaker suggested that Council should utilize advanced analytical tools to build strong rationale for a more targeted approach to upzoning
  • One speaker wanted to make sure that Council and other Calgarians knew that townhomes are already permitted on corner lots and discretionary midblock to clarify a conversation from the day before between Council and the inner city builders association
  • Just after the dinner break multiple young homeowners presented, emphasizing that it isn't just young people outside of homeownership that support the proposal


Day One - Monday, April 22nd

Today's public hearing started with a presentation from Administration and the updated visuals are helpful in illustrating what this proposal is meant to enable:

You can find the whole presentation deck here and you can watch the presentation here.

Of note was the outlining of Administration very specifically moving multifamily developments to discretionary from permitted to ensure that community members may follow Development Permits closely and challenge them if the developments are not well considered.

Listening to the speakers today here is some of what has left an impression on me:

  • The level of preparation for this public hearing is high and the alternating panels of For and Against feel like it has elevated the experience for both Council and Calgarians 
  • There are 115k Calgarians at risk of homelessness, as reported by Vibrant Communities Calgary
  • MDP targets by units sit at 62% in new communities and 32% in established areas and a community member pointed out that The City 2039 goal is 33%. These numbers are encouraging but switch considerably when you look at them through the lens of population it skews to 85% new community and 15% established, well off of MDP targets
  • The local rental market has tipped into a predatory area in its extremes as vacancy rates drop below 1%. One of the most sobering anecdotes was from a presenter who suggested that in extreme cases this leads to people being exploited beyond monetarily 
  • I appreciated a presentation that talked about the housing ladder as it helped connect some dots for me on the overall impacts to the housing continuum when missing middle homes are missing or scarce. When a home is not available at your price point and needs you move down the ladder and displace others as you compete with each other on that housing ladder rung
  • There was an in-depth conversation with some members of industry that went to great lengths to talk about how restrictive and gentle R-CG is as a landuse in our established neighbourhoods (obviously this is hotly contested by many Calgarians living in established neighbourhoods)
  • The same industry members spoke about the benefit of rezoning removing an artificial $200k lift (on some properties) due to the scarcity of R-CG zoned properties
  • There were a couple of presentations that spoke to the design of our communities impacting community life. I was particularly taken by the diversity of views presented and how much both preference and past experience informed this


Don't hesitate to reach out as the Public Hearing unfolds to share your feedback.

[email protected]


Evan Spencer

Cllr. Ward 12

  • Evan Spencer
    published this page in Blog 2024-04-22 21:28:52 -0600