Edmonton Needs Infill Homes
As Edmonton residents witness tremendous growth and the Council examines and considers potential tools to help facilitate and oversee this rapid change, infill remains near the top of my list of necessary changes.
For neighborhoods that have not been dramatically changed since their construction, infill is often considered a daunting concept. In their prime, these communities were lively places underpinned and strengthened by expanding families, flourishing schools, and booming retail centers. However, as time has passed, the demographics of these maturing neighborhoods have shifted dramatically. New families are smaller, and properties that used to hold large, growing families now house one or two empty nesters. In the last four decades, population has fallen by over 70,000 people.
But infill presents the opportunities these floundering communities, and our entire city, need to revitalize cultural and commercial viability, maintain vital infrastructure, and retain schools.
The Edmonton Infill Road Map, which will be examined by Executive, contains the following ideas sourced from the public about how infill can be improved.
- Improve density, opportunity, and housing options by working within current zoning regulations (RF1);
- Create and facilitate additional opportunities in established neighborhoods for garage and garden suites;
- Develop a team of city staff solely charged with supporting infill improvement and aiding approvals, dispersing information, and engaging residents;
- And finally, construct an all-inclusive infill centric communication network that will allow information to be shared between the city, residents, and contractors.
Infill development is backed by the majority of Edmonton residents. However, when disinterest or skepticism are expressed, concern is usually voiced over how developers will effectively communicate with residents, and how infill houses will actually be designed. The Edmonton Infill Road Map we linked to above contains several potential solutions to improving communication in every area of the initiative, and it also contains a ‘good neighbor construction guide’ that is intended to help smooth the execution and implementation of the process. Still, “good design” is subjective, and not everyone will agree with all property changes in their neighborhood. While housing regulations and codes do dictate appropriate height, setbacks and house footprints; we may all have to accept that the ‘character’ of a neighborhood is undefinable and cannot ultimately be controlled or prescribed. Communities change continuously as they are replaced and populated by new generations, and many of Edmonton’s oldest neighborhoods have already witnessed several cycles of such change. These cycles are a part of the ongoing process and journey of community renewal and development.
To many, neighborhood revitalization is a Catch-22: we need schools to attract families; but we need to attract families to sustain schools. By designing communities around the modern family, we hope to circumvent this feedback loop by providing positive impacts and benefits to new families through infill efforts and better transportation planning. Today, infill housing prices may be unattainable for many families. But, by opening up zoning regulations, we allow a greater range of market opportunities, which promotes competition and innovation that will eventually introduce affordable housing options.
Our city can’t accommodate growth and revitalization simply by building and developing new neighborhoods. While suburban neighborhoods do provide excellent homes and communities, we can’t let them be the only places where Edmonton grows. If we enable diverse housing options across our entire city through infill based initiatives, we’ll continue to expand into a great city and strong region. Infill is a vital element to rebuilding and revitalizing our city’s mature neighborhoods by continuing to espouse to the urban trends that are already underway in Edmonton.