Edmonton must change rules to allow needed redevelopment of mature neighbourhoods: planner

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Making it easier to build homes on small lots is one way to help increase Edmonton’s affordable housing, planner Simon O’Byrne says.

Larry Wong / Edmonton Journal

The city needs to allow a wider variety of housing in mature areas so the population and amenities in these communities don’t stagnate, an Edmonton urban planner said Wednesday.

Too many neighbourhoods contain almost exclusively traditional single-family houses when they should also offer skinny homes, places where several generations can live together, and condos for empty-nesters, said Simon O’Byrne, Stantec’s vice-president of community development.

He suggested city officials update zoning laws to make it easier to create small lots, secondary and garage suites, corner duplexes and buildings up to about 12 storeys high along major thoroughfares.

This would increase the city’s stock of affordable housing, he said after a lunch speech to the Edmonton chapter of NAIOP, an international commercial real estate development association.

“To have complete communities, we need to have a wide variety of neighbourhoods,” O’Byrne said.

“Developers are kind of leading the (charge) on some of this … It’s not that they don’t want to build single-family housing anymore. They just know that a shrinking percentage of consumers can afford to buy it.”

Edmonton suburbs are built far more densely built than many older areas, he said, adding new subdivisions can have 12 to 15 units per acre compared to two to three units per acre in Glenora.

One issue is what he called NIMBY — not in my backyard — groups that fight redevelopment in some neighbourhoods, an approach O’Byrne attributes to concern about change and potential lost property values.

“They forget what it was like for themselves to be in their 20s and 30s and starting a new family, and the price point that they were able to buy in at.”

Increasing housing variety brings more residents, who in turn put more kids in local schools and keep nearby businesses busy, as well as letting people with a variety of income levels live beside each other, he said.

Otherwise, the city centre will become an enclave of the wealthy, O’Byrne said.

“It creates an inequity where those who have jobs in the core and live in the core might have five- or 10-minute commutes, but people who live on the edges, especially as we double in population in the next 20 years, might face longer and longer commutes,” he said.

“If we’re to make Edmonton a more just and egalitarian place, then I think it’s nicer when a broader cross-section of society can afford to live in central Edmonton.”

gkent@postmedia.com

twitter.com/GKentYEG



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November 9, 2017 |

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