Over the last several decades, the demographic makeup of our cities have changed significantly. Societal and economic conditions have led to people moving away from the core ー settling on suburban fringes. Unfortunately, this loss of people in central neighbourhoods has and continues to cost Canadian cities billions in new infrastructure and servicing ー as existing physical, social and cultural infrastructure are not efficiently and effectively used. With more and more space between us, we reinforce ー less interaction with one another; a necessity to drive from one place to the next; and location of amenities, services and hospitality, as mere mirages, often miles away from convenient reach.
This urban shift, however, has inspired many municipalities to develop proactive strategies to nurture a more compact urban form. In Edmonton, it took shape in the form of an “Infill Roadmap”.
In 2014, the inaugural roadmap was adopted by city council, in response to the municipal development plan goal of achieving 25 per cent of new residential units within older neighbourhoods. It focused on adding "gentle density" to core and mature neighbourhoods by enabling regulatory changes to allow low-scale and low-density infill development.
Welcoming more people and new homes in our communities
Throughout 2017, Edmontonians were asked, “How do we welcome more people and new homes in our communities?” These conversations led to the development of the City’s second Infill Roadmap (2018), which turns its gaze on medium-density or ‘missing middle’ housing forms. The term ‘missing middle’ refers to multi-unit housing that falls between single detached homes and tall apartment buildings. In Edmonton, it includes row housing, triplexes/fourplexes, courtyard housing and walk-up apartments. These housing forms are considered “missing” because they have been largely absent from urban streetscapes throughout Canada.
Since its inception last summer, 15 of the 25 actions in the Infill Roadmap have already been initiated, with 13 slated to be fully completed by the end of 2020. 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”) of the Infill Roadmap was achieved earlier this year, allowing as-of-right development of semi-detached and duplex housing in RF1 (Single Detached Residential Zone) and RF2 (Low Density Infill Zone) zones. This milestone resembles a historic move made by Minneapolis in 2018 that eliminated single-family only zoning and enabling triplex developments on lots once reserved for single-detached homes.
In embracing the "missing middle" this year, Edmonton launched a juried design competition to transform five lots in one of the city’s older neighbourhoods ー fulfilling Action 5 in the Infill Roadmap (“Pursue partnerships to pilot innovative housing”). The competition has attracted housing proposals from across Canada. The winning team will be given the opportunity to purchase the site and build their winning design.
For Edmonton, the 2018 Infill Roadmap supports fiscal, social and ecological sustainability by making better and more efficient use of existing infrastructure, with wide community support. To fully realize all of the actions, the City of Edmonton has ensured the Infill Roadmap is adequately resourced, with staff to make it happen.
The team eager to make it all happen
Sean Bohle and Ania Schoof, who represent nearly 13 combined years at the City of Edmonton, are joined by Carley Holt, new to the City ー all tasked with advancing the Infill Roadmap from now until the end of 2020.
Sean has been at the City for nearly 6 years, and has a history with infill policy. He led the creation of policies C582: Developer Sponsored Affordable Housing and C599: Community Amenity Contributions in Direct Control Provisions, both of which focused on providing transparency and creating shared benefit from rezonings.
For Sean, infill development has the potential to improve the economy, revitalize communities, and improve the City's fiscal situation — a win-win-win when done right.
“It’s a win for community members, the City, and for the development industry,” Bohle noted.
He added, "The infill roadmap was carefully prepared with extensive research, consultation and debate, and offers a clear path forward. Council's support, combined with the passion of community members, developers and City staff make this the right time to reduce barriers to infill and pave the way for more vibrant and sustainable communities."
Ania Schoof, began her career with the City of Edmonton in 2012, and has worked on a range of city planning initiatives from land development planning solutions with various stakeholders to transportation planning. With a Master in Environment and Management, Schoof is eager to get started on Action 2 of the Infill Roadmap (“Review infrastructure capacity in Edmonton’s older neighbourhoods and identify the infrastructure investments needed to support infill”).
“A big part of this action will be to assess infrastructure capacity in Edmonton’s older neighbourhoods with our many stakeholders,” says Schoof. “This will help to provide us with a clear picture of where there is available capacity for services such as stormwater, sewer, water, and transportation. Understanding the existing levels of service will help the City better understand what upgrades are necessary, and provide better certainty for industry when making development decisions.”
Carley Holt, holds a Master of City Planning from the University of Manitoba, and joins the City after years of work in the private sector. With an eye for design ー nurtured through her training at the University of Alberta in industrial design ー Holt is excited to move forward on the actions in the Infill Roadmap with a keen design and architectural lens.
“I am excited to join the Infill Roadmap team and to help build on the great work of the many city builders, councillors, and planners before me who helped advocate for this important infill imperative,” says Holt. “What I hope to bring to this work is a human-centered approach ー ensuring the voices of all types of people are included, so we can enable housing typologies and built environments that nurture everyone ー regardless of age, ability, sex, gender, cultural background or wealth.”
For more information about the Infill Roadmap or to get involved, email Sean.Bohle@edmonton.ca.