The Land Use Bylaw (LUB) is one of the primary regulatory tools available to the City of Airdrie. Land Use Bylaw B-01/2016 now allows the development of Secondary Suites in many Airdrie communities, as long as they are eligible and compliant with LUB requirements.
This page summarizes the requirements of the LUB and provides links to specific sections and additional resources.
In addition to the LUB, a Secondary Suite must meet requirements of the National Building Code.
What is a secondary suite?
A Secondary Suite is a secondary dwelling unit located within and accessory to a single detached dwelling.
In order to be considered a Secondary Suite, there have to be five separate elements in place:
Secondary Suites can be allowed in most residential land use districts and must be approved through a Accessory Suite - Application Form
Secondary Suites are a Discretionary Use under the LUB, which means a Development Authority may use discretion in deciding to approve or not approve a Development Permit if the application meets the purpose and intent of the land use district, the provisions of the LUB and is compatible with the surrounding area.
Secondary Suites can’t be developed on the same property as a Bed and Breakfast, Child Care Facility, Supportive Housing Facility, another suite , or a home business that interacts with clients at the property.
Specific regulations that apply to Secondary Suites are covered in Section 6.19.3 of the LUB, a few important requirements are worth noting here:
The Suite must be proposed within a Single Detached Dwelling (they are not allowed in a duplex, townhouse or other types of residential units).
The property (not the house) containing the suite must be at least 13.0m (approx. 42ft) wide and at least 400m² (approx. 4,300ft²) in area.
There must be two parking spaces provided for the main dwelling, plus one space per bedroom (up to a maximum of two) for the suite itself. All parking must be located on the property. On-street parking does not meet Bylaw requirements.
In situations where Bylaw standards can’t be met, the City is able to determine whether the standard can be relaxed (which is called a “variance”) to allow for a Secondary Suite application to be approved.
There are two important tests to determine if a variance can be granted:
Allowing the variance cannot allow the development of the Suite to negatively affect the amenities of the neighbourhood or neighbouring properties.
The variance must be something that is unique or specific to the property (i.e. why should the variance grant an exception to the rule?)
Development permits and approval streams
A Development Permit is required for a Secondary Suite and typically takes approximately six to eight weeks to complete once a fully completed application has been submitted.
The Development Permit application for any Accessory Suite is $250. A variance requires a separate additional fee, but can be processed under the same application.
As long as there is no variance being considered, a Development Permit application for a Secondary Suite can be reviewed and approved by City of Airdrie staff. If there is a variance needed for the application – it has to be referred to the Municipal Planning Commission for approval.
After a Development Permit is approved, the City will issue a Notice of Decision. This notice will contain conditions of approval and other advisory comments to applicants.
After a Development Permit is approved, the City has to post a Notice of Approval and it is subject to a 21-day period where anyone who feels that they are affected by the approval has the right to file an appeal with the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board.
Once all conditions are resolved and the appeal period is over, a final permit is provided with an “issuance letter."
Secondary suites - basic code requirements
Minimum Ceiling Heights for living spaces within a Secondary Suite
The ceiling height within a secondary suite must be no less than 1.95m (6’-4 ¾”). Ceilings are permitted to be reduced below ductwork and beams where necessary but these areas are subject to evaluation by the Safety Codes Officer.
Exiting from a Secondary Suite
The main residence and a secondary suite must have at least one exit that leads directly to the outside. This may be a door that leads to an exterior stair or a door to a common set of interior stairs that is separated from both the main residence and suite. The walls and ceilings for such an exit must be provided with protection from the effects of fire to allow occupants adequate time to evacuate.
A direct exit from a suite may also be provided by cutting through the foundation for a door to the outside with steps leading to ground level. An exterior staircase that is not fully enclosed with walls and roof will require separation from unprotected openings from the main residence.
Fire protection between suites
A secondary suite and the main residence must be separated from each other and from any common/shared spaces to allow occupants of either unit to evacuate in the event of a fire or other emergency. This is achieved by providing a continuous smoke tight barrier of minimum ½” drywall on both sides of common walls and on the underside of floor systems. Rooms containing gas-fired furnaces and/or hot water tanks need to be enclosed in a room separated by minimum ½” drywall on the walls and ceilings.
Windows in bedrooms are required to provide an alternate method for exiting in the event of a fire or other emergency. A bedroom window must have an unobstructed open area of not less than .35 m² (3.76 ft²) with no dimension less than 380mm (15”). Windows, if below exterior grade, must be provided with a clear space in the window well in front of the window of not less than 760mm (30”). The window must be openable and remain in an open position without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge. Security bars are likely not permitted.
Homes containing a secondary suite must have smoke detectors that are interconnected to provide early detection and warning to occupants in both the main dwelling and the secondary suite. All new developed areas require a smoke detector in every bedroom and on every storey. Each smoke detector must be hardwired into an electrical circuit with a battery backup. All smoke detectors must be interconnected so they will operate in unison.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms (CO)
CO alarms are required in every residence with a fuel fired appliance or an attached storage garage. CO alarms must be located within each bedroom or located within 5m of each bedroom. All CO alarms must be interconnected so they will operate in unison.
Heating and Ventilation
An independent heating and ventilation system along with independent temperature control is required for secondary suites. No ductwork can be shared between the main residence and a secondary suite. There are various ways in which this requirement can be achieved. One common method is to install a second furnace serving only the secondary suite. Another popular option is an alternate heat source (electric baseboard or boiler heat) along with a means to provide adequate ventilation such as a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). Home owners are encouraged to investigate heating options with local heating service companies to minimize costs.
When a secondary suite is added to an existing property a service demand calculation must be completed and submitted as part of the permit application.