Edmonton’s Established City Core Neighbourhoods Need New Residents
Edmonton is filled with lovely old neighbourhoods with big houses on large lots and lots of nostalgic character. The thing is, those neighbourhoods are in danger of fading away if new families don’t move in. But property prices in the city core are much higher than in the outskirts, prompting developers to build more new homes on the fringes of the city.
The key to getting new families into the city core is to build more affordable single family homes in that core. That would mean a change in not only the zoning, but the mindset of current residents. Though the city is taking its time in changing bylaws in its more established neighbourhoods, there has been some movement on the affordable housing front.
Some neighborhoods allow duplexes, which paves the way for homeowners or builders to take one large lot and divide it into two, putting a narrow, but tall, single family home on each half. This is a good beginning, but more could be done. Suggestions include allowing those with huge lots to subdivide in every city core neighbourhood, encourage building up rather than out and allowing extra suites to be added to existing homes. Allowing residents to add front garages along with driveways would also help. This can be done creatively and tastefully so the ambiance of the neighbourhood remains intact.
As far as the subdividing of lots, this is more appealing to families who don’t want a duplex. They would rather have their own, even somewhat smaller home that they can make truly their own. It is much more affordable than spending $350,000 on a 50-foot wide lot, the typical size in some of Edmonton’s signature neighbourhoods.
Adding an extra suite to an existing home, whether attached to that home or over a detached garage, would give the homeowner some additional income. That extra cash could mean the difference between being able to afford their dream home. Expanding the height restriction in the zoning laws from the current 8.7 metres to 11 metres allows for basement suites to be built at least partially above ground level, doing away with the dungeon effect and making a more appealing rental unit.
The addition of new families with children means keeping the neighbourhood schools open. The creation of rental suites in existing homes can help retirees better afford staying in their own homes much longer. Not everyone will agree with the proposed changes. But, if the changes are done slowly and tastefully, you have a much better chance of changing the mindset of established residents. As long as the character of the neighbourhood is respected, the changes should go off without a hitch, or perhaps one or two.