Tuesday, February 27, 2024

City council affects homeowners’ investment with zoning changes

Suddenly, zoning and the controls on our communities have come under attack

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It is fair to say that for the majority of Canadians, the purchase of a house is the single-largest investment they will ever make.

Interestingly, the second-largest investment might well be a car, and the significant difference is that we buy a home assuming it will rise in value and provide a certain level of security for our senior years. A car, on the other hand, is something we buy knowing full well the value will reduce to something close to zero after 10 years.

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We also prepare ourselves for old age by investing in stocks, bonds and other securities, and we hope that these, too, will rise in value so that we can maintain a certain lifestyle in our golden years.

Whether we are buying a house or investing in stocks, there are rules of the game for any major investment. The public has little sympathy for companies that deceive shareholders or change the rules of the game after they have put their cash into these stocks. In Canada, we count on contractual law to keep our investments safe and on track.

When you buy a house, you also rely on the terms of the contract to know that you are making a good decision. There are codes to determine the quality of the materials used in the construction, real estate contracts to clearly show the terms of your purchase or the payments on your mortgage, and clear rules and guidelines about the district that your house is located within. None of us want to buy a house and discover later that the house next door is being used as a butcher shop, a funeral parlour, abattoir or even a yard to store livestock or old cars.

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You expect that the house you buy will at the very least fit into the neighbourhood and that the rules under which you bought the house will remain the same, at least until you and your neighbours collectively decide to change them.

Except right now in Calgary. Suddenly, zoning and the controls on our communities have come under attack. It is not you and your neighbours who can determine what your street will be like — whether you have a street of single houses or multi-family houses, or how tall they might be or even how many cars your neighbours might have. The standards that you relied on when you made this major investment are no longer certain and may well be changed by a city council that has a whole new agenda that only they decided on.

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When did we as citizens decide that a group of people at city hall, most of whom you have never met, get to say, “We don’t care what the zoning rules were when you bought your house, we know better and we are changing them.”

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When did we turn over the responsibility for our biggest investment to a group that thinks that even though we might have invested many decades in our community, we must be prepared to change it all to solve their housing crisis?

There is something fundamentally wrong with the way the game is being played right now. Someone is trying to change the rules in the third quarter.

The role of council, in addition to the business of police, fire, parks, etc., is in no small way to include the protection of our investments as citizens. The rules should not be changed at the whim of eight or nine people without regard for the history and the security that we have counted on to protect our investment.

Your house is not your car — it should stand the test of time, and you should not be forced to change without the consent of you and all of your neighbours.

No one was elected to turn on the voters, and this city council must stand up and work for the people who elected them and no one else.

George Brookman is chair and company ambassador of West Canadian Digital.

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