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Secondary suite push joined by Calgary business leaders

Calgary’s business community is lending its clout to the push to legalize secondary suites.

Lack of affordable housing hurts local economy, says chamber of commerce head

Geoff Mullback, WestJet's director of talent, says recruitment to his company has suffered because of Calgary's shortage of affordable housing. (CBC)

Calgary’s business community is lending its clout to the push to legalize secondary suites.

A group of business leaders, from small shops to large corporations such as WestJet, voiced their support for secondary suites at an event put on by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Friday morning.

WestJet’s talent director Geoff Mullback said the rental crunch is hurting recruitment.

"We have a very diverse workforce, with very diverse incomes," he said. 

"Anything that brings more people to Calgary and is more inclusive of the diversity of the workforce, not just for the people that are on the upper pay scales. I think it is important for the community and for WestJet as well," he said.

Mullback said some flight crew employees, whose jobs are based in Calgary, choose to live elsewhere.

"They'll commute and not live in Calgary because it's not affordable."

5 councillors on the fence

Speaking to the chamber of commerce on Thursday, Mayor NaheedNenshi said Calgarians should put pressure on the councillors who are on the fence Peter Demong, Sean Chu, Ray Jones, Shane Keating and Joe Magliocca.

"There are five members of council who are smart and open minded and thoughtful on this issue. And they probably need just a little push to remind them how important this is,” Nenshi said.

Some councillors and community associations argue secondary suites could create transient communities and parking problems.

Coun. Druh Farrell said the parking issue can be overcome. 

"That's one of the benefits of being last, you can learn from just about every other city in Canada," she said.

Chamber president Adam Legge said the lack of affordable housing in the city makes it difficult to attract workers.

"More people are finding out, 'Hey, Calgary doesn't have housing' or 'It's too expensive' or 'I can't afford the rent' or 'There is nothing available,’” he said.

“That labour is going to go elsewhere. We can't afford that as a business community and as an economy."

City councillors are set to vote on the issue at Monday's council meeting.

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