R-CG in Calgary
The City of Calgary introduced R-CG into the land-use bylaw in late 2014 to find a solution to the “missing middle”: an arrangement of dwellings that can be smaller in size, reduced in price, and within desirable inner-city neighbourhoods. By 2016, the city started seeing the first R-CG style developments begin to break ground.
Since R-CG came into place, there has been an influx of developments throughout the city creating more diversity in available housing options. As the built form of row houses have become more popular, with hundreds built throughout Calgary, it has become more common to see structures like this in your favourite neighbourhoods.
The general goal of the R-CG district is to better enable a broader variety of housing in existing low density neighbourhoods. Existing inner city communities have seen a reduction of population over the last 40 years. These communities are often located in highly desirable and vibrant areas of the city with previously developed infrastructure and public amenities. R-CG development leads to a gentle increase in density which makes better use of this existing infrastructure in a city battling expansive urban sprawl. Additionally, R-CG helps increase population in existing neighbourhoods which directly helps local schools and community services stay active and thriving.
R-CG offers varied housing options that allow for a broader range of income levels and families to enjoy and take advantage of developed communities. Through the development of these projects, Calgarians make better use of existing infrastructure, help increase population growth, and promote use of Calgary’s many green spaces and parks.
NCD has designed several row house developments in Calgary since 2017, for developers such as Urban Craft Homes, Eaglecrest Construction, Stone West Homes, Urban Indigo Homes, Sunstar Homes, and Pen Ventures, among others. You might see some of our work in communities such as Killarney, Mount Pleasant, West Hillhurst, Banff Trail, Renfrew, and Altadore.
Below the frequently asked questions are some examples of our R-CG developments that have been completed in recent years.
R-CG is a land-use district in Calgary aimed at providing accommodation for rowhousing in the developed communities within the inner city. Developed by the City of Calgary in 2016, this zoning was meant to increase density, better use existing infrastructure, allow better access to inner city amenities for more Calgarians, and provide alternative dwelling solutions.
There are two primary ways in which a lot would become an R-CG.
A private developer may apply for a land-use amendment (LOC) to convert an existing R-C1 or R-C2 (or others, depending on specific circumstances) to an R-CG. This process typically takes 4-6 months and includes three phases: the Planning and Development department at the City of Calgary reviews applications based on their merits, and if deemed acceptable, recommends the plan for approval at the next phase, Calgary Planning Commission (CPC). CPC is a collection of councillors, administration, and members of the public with experience in development, who make recommendations to City Council based off of planning merits. In the next phase, City Council holds a public hearing where City administration will speak in support of the proposed application, the applicant for the LOC can share information and perspective on application merits, and members of the public can voice any support or opposition. Finally, councillors will debate whether they approve or deny the application.
Alternatively, the City of Calgary can initiate larger scale land-use redesignations through community specific Area Restructure Plans (ARP) or Municipal Development Plans including projects such as city Main Streets. These redevelopments are long term and also include more thorough and lengthy public outreach and engagement processes for affected community members.
A row house is made up of multiple units, typically between 3 and 4 and potentially secondary basement suites, joined together in a single structure and generally located on corner parcels. A row houses built form is essentially 3 or 4 smaller single family homes with shared walls, also comparable to two smaller semi-detached homes. Each unit averages at around 1200 square feet of above-grade developed space.
The allowed R-CG height is 11.0m measured from grade to peak. For comparison, a single family or semi-detached home in their respective district would have a maximum of 10.0m measured from grade to peak.
The allowed R-CG lot coverage is dependent on how many units will fit on the lot. Depending on parcel sizes, R-CG lot coverage varies from 45.0% to 60.0%, meaning on a larger lot, more site coverage is allowed.
Setbacks on an R-CG lot are typically less than a comparable R-C1 or R-C2 lot. Based on the lot’s orientation to the rest of the block, the front setback must be 3.0m. A side setback onto a street is permitted to be 0.60m. A side setback onto a neighbouring parcel is permitted to be 1.2m. A rear setback has no limit, however a detached garage will be required with a setback of 0.60m.
In addition to the building height, lot coverage, and setback constraints, the land-use bylaw has several other conditions that must be met in order for a row house to be approved and built.
The junction of building height, lot coverage, and setback constraints is where building massing constraints are created. A buildings massing is the overall form of built structures on the lot and the relationship with neighbouring parcels and community context. Good practice in row house design means being respectful of neighbouring properties, minimizing shadowing and privacy concerns, and using articulation and building form to create attractive and interesting developments.
Each dwelling unit in a rowhouse requires at least one parking stall provided on-site. This is typically through the use of a detached garage accessed through the back lane.
For instances where a rowhouse includes basement suites, the parking requirement of one parking stall still applies, but can be relaxed based off of proximity to public transit such as LRT and BRT bus routes.
Bicycle parking is not required by the bylaw, however, it is encouraged to help store mobility alternatives to a car.
While the land use bylaw dictates what is allowed to be built, we as designers work within that spectrum by employing design tools to minimize the loss of privacy that a neighbour may feel will occur. Some of the tools we can use include reducing amounts of windows, adding window obscurity, and using privacy screens and fencing as needed.
There are two R-CG land uses: R-CG and R-CGex. The R-CGex zoning prohibits any secondary suites from the parcel, while secondary suites are permitted within the R-CG zoning.
Should a developer decide to include secondary suites within a rowhouse, they would be required to provide parking on-site. However, relaxations for parking requirements can be obtained provided three criteria are met: the site has to be within 600m of an LRT platform or within 150m of frequent bus service (3 stops per hour), the suites must be a maximum of 484 square feet, and lockable bicycle storage must be provided on-site.
Should a developer decide to include secondary suites, it must be included within the Development Permit application. It is both impractical and not permitted to add secondary suites to an already completed rowhouse.
Waste, recycling, and compost bins are the responsibility of the individual unit owner/tenant and must be dealt with as per city regulations. Bin storage is provided either within each garage unit or in a specified area on-site.