The Alberta government has issued new safety standardsfor basement suites in homes.

The new rules apply to any self-contained unit in a single family home.

The rules — which include standards for fire protection, windows, ceiling height and smoke detectors — will apply to newly constructed suites at the end of the year. Existing suites will have until the end of 2008 to comply.

Municipal Affairs Minister Rob Renner said such suites provide affordable housing in communities with low vacancy rates.

"The building code police are not going to be going up and down the block looking for illegal suites to shut down," he said.

"I suspect some of the existing suites may be regulated out of existence. But at the same time, I think there [are] a number of people that may look at the opportunities that developing their basement may provide to offset their mortgage."

Renner said municipalities will continue to use zoning regulations to decide when and where basement suites will be allowed.