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Unauthorized secondary suites and renters: a life course perspective

Abstract

Secondary suites, or accessory dwelling units as they are sometimes known, are usually discussed as a response to market demand and regulatory frameworks in which questions of legality are related to the supply side of such housing. This paper takes a different perspective in that it focusses on the demand side by making the renter the unit of analysis. Interviews with 32 renters of unauthorized secondary suites located in single family houses not designed for subdivision in the Canadian City of Calgary reveal that these spaces play a transitional role in the life course of the renter. Five types of transition are identified which demonstrate how this type of housing plays a role in status shifts and allows for reorganization of personal identities of the renter. Somewhat surprising, the matter of legality was not viewed as problematic by these renters; however, the stigma of basement living was, which reinforced the perception of this housing form as transitional.

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Correspondence to Harry H. Hiller.

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Goodbrand, P.T., Hiller, H.H. Unauthorized secondary suites and renters: a life course perspective. J Hous and the Built Environ 33, 263–279 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10901-017-9559-0

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Keywords

  • Secondary suites
  • Illegal secondary suites
  • Renters
  • Life course transition
  • Subdivided houses