Asking our communities how to get infill right
Why infill is important:
Edmonton is growing, and it is growing fast. In 2013, Edmonton welcomed 38,000 new residents. By 2044, Edmonton’s population is expected to reach 1.5 million. With this increase in population comes an increase in the demand for housing. To meet this demand, the City is expected to average 10,820 newly constructed units annually from 2014 to 2023.
I believe that growing UP, IN & OUT is key to Edmonton’s success. However, as it currently sits, most of the City’s residential development falls under the OUT category as 80% of the residential development within Edmonton is occurring on the urban fringes of our city, outside of the Anthony Henday. This type of growth is unsustainable in the long-term, and has serious consequences for Ward 10 communities and taxpayers.
Over the last 40 years, the population of mature neighbourhoods throughout Edmonton has declined by 73,000 people. In addition, the number of residents under the age of 49 has declined by 114,000 people. This trend negatively impacts mature communities in numerous ways which I describe in detail in this previous blog post http://www.michaelwalters.ca/infill.
Barriers to infill housing within Edmonton:
- RF1: The majority of Ward 10 communities are zoned RF1, which means they are zoned for single family homes and exclude other types of housing.
- MNO: The Mature Neighbourhood Overlay acts as an additional line of defence to infill development. The MNO acts to ensure that new low density development in Edmonton’s mature residential neighbourhoods is sensitive in scale to existing development and maintains the traditional character of the neighbourhood. However, in my years of community organizing I have too often seen it used as a tool to resist any sort of intensification or change. We need tools that result in positive outcomes for both sides.
- There are very tight restrictions on garage or garden suites within RF1 zoned communities.
- On average, it takes 7-14 days for suburban homes to receive their development & building permits. In comparison, the permitting process for infill projects average roughly 2 months. This adds additional time to the process, and minimizes economic viability and discourages builders if the project takes more than 1 year to complete.
To address these barriers, I will support the following:
- That allowance of garage and garden suites and the sub-division of 50 foot lots within RF1 zoning city-wide.
- A dedicated staff for infill applications in the Sustainable Development office to decrease the amount of time for permits to be issued.
- That alternatives to the Mature Neighbourhoods Overlay be explored and public engagement strategies be centred on specific community needs and demographic data.
- Ways in which we can address the logistical concerns of those who wish to complete infill projects and ensure the least possible effect on existing neighbours.
- New zones similar to Residential Mixed Dwelling Zone, Residential Small Lot Zone and the Urban Character Row Housing Zone be explored.
What’s next and how you can be involved?
Three items related to infill will be on the August 19th agenda:
1. The 2014 Growth Monitoring report: Which provides an annual summary of Edmonton’s growth and change.
2. The response to my RF1/RF3 inquiry that asked administration to look at infill rates compared to these zonings in mature neighbourhoods, why mature neighbourhoods are zoned the way they are, and the impact of zoning on infill and revitalization.
3. The Infill Roadmap:Which includes 23 action items (including 8 priorities- is there a link to these) to support infill in Edmonton over the next two years. This roadmap is based on what was heard and learned from the public engagement exercise undertaken by administration over the last year. Over 1,000 Edmontonians contributed to the discussion, including many of you.
These changes will take time, and there will be many opportunities to formally (at Public Hearings) and informally (discussions with me at the local level) to dig into these ideas to encourage infill, and determine how Ward 10 neighbourhoods can best contribute to the growth of our City, and how infill can be done properly, with good design and improve our neighbourhoods.
I would appreciate continuing to hear from residents and the leagues and I welcome the opportunity to discuss these potential changes and strategies further with you at a local level. Please don’t hesitate to call my office if there are questions or ideas.