​Cambridge looks to improve housing affordability with secondary suites

The City of Cambridge is looking to make it a lot easier to retrofit homes to include a legal secondary suite - a move that it hopes will address housing affordability in the city.

New process would reduce red tape, open up rental market

If the planned changes go ahead, homeowners would no longer have to go through a lengthy process, outlined in the Planning Act, to renovate for a secondary housing unit on their property. (CBC)

The City of Cambridge is looking to make it a lot easier to retrofit homes to include a legal secondary suite — a move that it hopes will address housing affordability in the city. 

Currently, all applications to renovate a home to include a secondary residential unit must go through an official city planning process, which includes holding a mandatory public meeting. 

The existing process can be lengthy, taking up to six months.

The new plan would put secondary residential units on the books as an acceptable modification to a home under the zoning bylaw "so you don't need to go through the planning process," Hardy Bromberg, deputy city manager of community development told CBC's The Morning Edition on Tuesday. 

The streamlined process would take closer to 10 business days, said Bromberg. "You simply need to come in, apply for a building permit and start construction."

Supplement income, offset cost of mortgage

The change is "about providing options," said Bromberg. It reduces red tape, he said, and will open up the rental market.

"It may provide options for existing homeowner to supplement their income, help pay for a mortgage and also provide some affordability for new homebuyers to try to get into the market."

He also says by supply and demand, it could reduce the cost of rent in Cambridge. 

The city is holding a public meeting Tuesday night at Cambridge City Hall, where people can share their their questions and concerns about the zoning amendment.

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