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How Can “Infill Building” Make Your Neighbourhood Functional & Beautiful Again?

Infill building can revitalize declining neighbourhoods by attracting new residents!

The term “infill building” refers to the practice of building new homes in established neighbourhoods on existing lots. New builds may include single-family homes, two houses on a large lot, multi-family dwellings, or townhouses.

Infill building occurs in neighbourhoods where the demand for housing is on the rise. An infill build will almost always see a brand new home to replace an older home. Typically, older neighbourhoods have houses built on much larger lots than new homes built in newer residential areas leading to the potential for a subdivision, something highly desirable to new home builders. Bylaws have relaxed in several Canadian cities to allow for subdivided lots in older residential areas because of the need to revitalize declining neighbourhoods by making it both more affordable and attractive to live in.

Older neighbourhoods have a great deal of appeal to a new resident, including:

  • Existing services such as roads, water, sewer, garbage pickup, and snow removal
  • Proximity to downtown and other established shopping centers (most neighbourhoods with proximity to their city’s downtown are under tremendous housing pressure)
  • Access to transit, schools, parks, recreational centres or community clubs
  • Walking and cycling trails and parks that are very desirable to new residents

Moreover, city leaders look forward to collecting new tax revenue to maintain the upkeep on several of the existing amenities mentioned. By increasing the appeal of the neighbourhood to new residents, efficiencies for tax paid for services can be improved and restored.

Pros and Cons for Allowing Infill Building in Your Declining Neighbourhood

Pros

  • Revitalization of declining neighbourhoods
  • Provides new housing options – the expansion of housing options in highly desirable locations can improve access to shopping, restaurants and reduces commute times to downtown jobs for new residents
  • Draws more people to make use of stores, restaurants, community centres and other infrastructure, more walkable shopping
  • Can increase in taxes to sustain the infrastructure and allow for improvements to be made for all homes in the area
  • Cost effective use of existing infrastructure like roads, transit, water/waste system piping, garbage pick-up and snow removal
  • Reduction of urban sprawl and fewer tax dollars that need to be spent to build new infrastructure in the suburbs
  • Reduces the amount of farmland taken out of production to satisfy demand for new housing
  • Encourages bylaw changes that reduces the incidence of garage suites or illegal income suites ensuring development codes and safety codes are met
  • Allows for multi-generational living – allows more housing types on existing lots
  • Multi-family dwellings are a big business opportunity for speculative builders and landlords and create more housing in desirable neighbourhoods
  • Properly designed infill buildings can make efficient use of existing land resources within the city

Cons

  • Improper or discordant building designs can negatively impact the character of existing neighbourhoods
  • Destruction of mature trees and landscapes – can negatively impact the appearance of older neighbourhoods
  • Increased demand for street parking
  • Higher demand on older infrastructure requiring upgrades to roads, sewers, water works, electrical and other community assets like parks, community clubs, cycling paths and transit
  • Crowding of multiple dwellings on a lot can create zones where no lawns or greenspace exist – making these areas very unlike existing houses
  • Inconvenience and noise for existing homeowners as new housing is built – infill permits can be more expensive and take longer to get approved and variances may be required
  • Some salvageable older character homes may be torn down to accommodate multiple housing units
  • Creates more absentee landlords and renters who may be more transient than homeowners and less likely to do upkeep of the properties
  • Builders save money by building the same layout and plan repeatedly causing cookie cutter effect that decrease the aesthetics of a community
  • Increased population density that creates traffic congestion, extra noise and reduced green space
  • For families buying an older home the option of tearing it down to build an infill home can be more expensive than to build or buy new construction in a suburban setting

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