Updated: Aug 20
The city of Edmonton is ever-expanding; in fact, a population of 2 million is to be expected within the foreseeable future. One of the major ways our city council plans to accommodate our growing population is through an increase in infill housing development. The idea behind infill housing is to revitalize ageing neighbourhoods by building new houses on older lots. This would provide new homeowners with the benefits of living in developed neighbourhoods without diminishing the luxuries that come with a newly built home. Infill housing has the potential to reduce our environmental impact by providing space for new homes without the outward expansion of city limits. Infill housing is crucial to our city’s sustainable growth plan but, our municipal government cannot ignore the critical issues associated with these developments.
Edmonton’s Nakota Isga is made up of a diverse array of communities, both old and new. My goal throughout this campaign is to speak with as many residents as possible. In my conversations with those residing in older communities, the topic of infill housing almost always surfaces and is rarely spoken of in a positive light. Interactions with domineering contractors, carelessness in construction sites leading to property damage, and an inability to pursue legal action against new developments due to an absence of appeal processes are just a few of the common complaints that have been brought to my attention. Developers need to be held accountable; stiff penalties and fines need to be issued to those who turn a blind eye to bylaw infractions. Strict regulations and ongoing enforcement of infill compliance need to be met to minimize negative impacts on Edmontonians residing in established communities.
Numerous infill developers in our city have been known to split up a single lot between multiple new developments in an attempt to increase land usage, and profit. In situations like this, complete disregard for building codes, bylaws, and standards for lot grading and spacing between homes is obvious. Yet, these developers rarely face fines or bylaw intervention. I feel that in some cases it would be more appropriate to revamp existing houses in order to preserve the appearance of established communities. This would also limit the potential damage to adjacent properties in the event of residential fires and flooding due to improper lot grading and drainage. Older houses are typically built of high quality materials like douglas fir and stunning hardwoods. When older homes are demolished these building materials are not preserved or reused, everything ends up in our landfills. This increases our city’s carbon footprint exponentially compared to renovation projects. In a growth plan rooted in sustainability, garden expansion and biodiversification should be a focal point but this is not the case in Edmonton. Multi story infill houses tower above fence lines and are much taller than existing homes in their areas, causing detrimental impacts on sun exposure to neighbouring yards. People’s home gardens will cease to exist and so will backyard privacy. If my neighbour's house was torn down and replaced by not one, but two multi-story homes that stuck out like sore thumbs on our block, I'm fairly confident that my level of frustration would match that of the people I've spoken to.
The term sustainability has a nice ring to it and tends to possess a feel good quality that strikes the heart chords of many, but what about affordability? Our city is currently battling a housing crisis. In September of last year an estimated 1,900 Edmontonians did not have access to permanent housing with roughly 600 individuals left to battle the elements without a roof above their heads. Affordable and accessible housing is essential in order to support the most vulnerable within our city. The price of an infill home in Edmonton can be upwards of a million dollars. We are slowly emerging from a global shut down that caused record breaking job losses and an increase in household debt; these house prices are far from attainable for many. An influx of costly properties in our city could act as a catalyst that turns our city into a real estate investment market causing a surge in rental prices. With city council actively allowing corners to be cut to preserve profit driven agendas, I fear that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of larger Canadian cities and push more Edmontonians to the brink of homelessness.
Infill housing has the potential to be incredibly beneficial to the expansion of our city but it must be done right. The number of disputes could be minimized drastically if a stronger emphasis is put on community engagement and communication. The voices of community members must be heard and their concerns taken into account before the city approves future development permits. Our city council needs members that are willing to look at every potential outcome related to this issue. If we do not have proper enforcement in place, this city growth plan could prove to be more detrimental in the long run. It is imperative that your elected officials represent your community values and have your best interest at heart when making decisions for the betterment of our city.