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A creative solution to the residential real estate shortage

Although the major housing markets in Alberta have not inflated to the levels seen in other big urban centres across Canada, affordable living space can be tough to find in this province. To combat this problem, many homeowners have turned to a creative type of infill housing to create affordable residential real estate. In many cases, they are also able to help a family member in need.

A Halifax researcher recently published the results of a study conducted on garage suites in Edmonton. There are 115 garage suites in Edmonton at present, and another 10 are under construction. Garage suites take advantage of the footprint of a detached garage. Homeowners are either adding or renovating space above the garage, and creating small but comfortable living spaces.

Of the suites in use, 48 percent are rented to either friends or family of the property owner. Most of them are the owners' parents or adult children. In a city where affordable housing is scarce, the average rent paid by family is just $504 monthly. The construction costs for the owner vary, but the average cost was $145,185. That's considerably less than buying a separate home, and some owners reported a significant jump in the appraised value of their overall property after completing a garage suite.

While regulations for building a garage suite in Edmonton are somewhat relaxed, anyone who takes on a project like this should seek the proper permits, and ensure the plan meets their local bylaws. There are those who oppose such projects in their neighbourhoods, and that could lead to legal difficulties. Any person who finds him or herself embroiled in a dispute over residential real estate zoning bylaws in Alberta would do well to speak with a lawyer for advice.

Source: The Globe and Mail, "Garage suites create 'voluntary affordability' in Edmonton", Sharon Crowther, May 19, 2017

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