Big Moves: Inclusive Communities and Building Better

Edmonton is growing rapidly, and more and more of that growth needs to be in the core. The next challenge is make that new housing in the core more affordable. This is focus of the Infill Roadmap 2.0. But first we need to reflect briefly on our recent efforts.

According to the 2017 Growth Monitoring Report, Edmonton’s population has increased by over 120,000 people (from 812,201 to 932,546) since the 2011 federal census. Edmonton’s development is growing rapidly as we become a more innovative and thriving city, which is shown through the thousands of people who decide to make Edmonton their home.

For the city to grow along with its increasing population, we have to use less farmland and ensure respect for existing neighbourhoods. As a response to this, Evolving Infill was formed in 2014, which established a roadmap to improve building and infill practices. The 2014 Infill Roadmap set out 23 actions for the City to implement, and of those 25, 15 have been successfully completed and 8 are still ongoing.

Through this Roadmap, the city grew significantly, and the number of infill homes grew with it. The City created a better way to build that focuses not just on the number of homes, but also the impact it has on communities, surrounding residents, and Edmonton overall. The City formed 3 infill working groups: the Infill Liaison Team, the Infill Compliance Team, and the Residential Infill Development Approvals team. The City also moved forward 11 bylaw changes to support better construction. The Infill Roadmap Statistics report for Infill 1.0 states that 1,112 infill houses were built in 2016. Additionally, some valuable lessons were learned through Infill 1.0, such as the impact it has on many City departments, and that we need new construction practices for neighbours living closely together. We continue to listen and learn as we grow, and the Infill Roadmap 2018 is a response to these lessons.

Edmonton Row Housing
The next moves!

In alignment with the City’s goals to consistently expand Edmonton and build more opportunities for affordable housing, Infill 2.0 was formed. To do this, we engaged with residents, various communities, and builders to form the best way forward for all parties. The 2018 Infill Roadmap was created with people and communities in mind, and carves out a new way forward to improve the process overall.

Infill 2.0 lays out 25 actions that the City must initiate within the next two years. Out of those, I’d like to outline a few that I find particularly pertinent.

Action 1: Build an approach to prioritize infill at key strategic nodes and corridors.
We must strategically prioritize certain areas and make important decisions on Edmonton’s key investments. To do this, research and data will be gathered to inform our decisions surrounding areas to develop further.

Action 2: Review Infrastructure capacity in Edmonton’s older neighbourhoods and identify the infrastructure investments needed to support infill.
This action will look at larger areas of Edmonton’s older neighbourhoods to determine where there is not only space to build, but also to indicate where there is capacity for services like proper drainage and transportation.

Action 13: Monitor and make the necessary improvements to regulate how the City addresses emerging issues related to infill construction.
This action aims to address construction-related issues that may emerge during building. The City is committed to monitoring these issues and ensuring that the process be as smooth as possible. This may include instituting regulatory changes or forming educational programs.

Action 16: Develop an equitable, transparent and predictable system to share the costs of infrastructure upgrades and renewal costs for infill projects.
We have to establish a transparent, straightforward system that divides costs of required building and upgrades to increase infill development. The City is committing to seek out resources that would support good development and determine the most strategic options.

Action 18: Undertake a review of Edmonton’s middle density residential zones and associated overlays to identify what regulation changes are needed to reduce barriers preventing the development of “missing middle” housing.
Currently, Edmonton is developing housing sites for either high income or low income residents. There is an obvious gap in housing opportunity, which works against the goal of inclusive communities in our city. In order to combat this “missing middle,” the City aims to conduct a review of the best medium-scale housing practices across North America to help inform our way forward in this area.

Action 21: Pursue regulatory changes in RF1 and RF2 Zones that allow semi-detached housing to be permitted uses and to be located mid-block.
The construction of semi-detached housing is currently limited to corner suites in Single Detached Residential Zones (RF1) and Low Density Infill Zones (RF2). This action will permit construction of semi-detached houses anywhere on a block in those areas. Implementing this will allow more homes and more opportunity for development.

Other actions include creating a publicly available infill map, developing new tools for affordability, and improving timelines for development permitting. The new Roadmap, overall, lays out a process to improve the building process and include more voices in the conversation to inform infill housing and affordability.

Building Together

To build the more compact city many seek we need every voice. Edmonton is a collective community, and in order to build the greatest city possible, it needs to be collaborative. So thank you to those who helped form this new way forward, and those still shaping it as we continue break ground together.