Why is Infill so Expensive?
The below comparison of two narrow lot homes in a mature neighbourhood vs two RPL homes in a new sub-division will give you some financial figures around one of the reasons why infill is so expensive.
The Missing Middle: Your Guide to Identifying an Emerging Housing Type
You may have heard the phrase missing middle, but what, exactly, is it?
The phrase ‘missing middle’ refers to multi-unit housing forms like duplexes, triplexes, row housing, and low-rise apartments – bridging the gap between small scale single-family homes and larger scale apartment buildings. Coined by architect and urban planner Daniel Parolek (Principal and Founder of Opticos Design Inc.), missing middle Housing was once common (think pre-World War II), but has more or less vanished over the last 60 to70 years, giving way to single detached houses and soaring apartment towers.
Driven by consumer demand, small-scale multi-unit housing is coming back into vogue. This type of infill housing has the ability to blend relatively seamlessly into a typical mature neighbourhood, it offers a bit more affordability than a typical house, and it often boasts nearby shopping and transit, amenities that appeal to millennials and downsizing baby boomers alike.
How to Identify Missing Middle Housing
Still relatively rare, it helps to have a guide in hand to help you spot this emerging housing form.
- It’s usually within walking distance to various amenities and services, and tends to have less on-site parking than a typical house.
- It typically offers a small to medium-sized living area. Missing middle residents are often trading square footage for good design and a convenient location.
- It adds housing options, but remains unobtrusive in existing neighbourhoods.
- It tends to sell at a lower price point than single detached housing in the same area, since unit sizes are smaller.
What Makes Missing Middle Housing so Great, Anyway?
- *Since most infill housing is situated within mature communities that are close to commercial destinations and various amenities, opportunities to use alternate transportation such as walking, cycling, or transit are more easily available. This helps reduce overall emissions within the city.
- *Infill also encourages better utilization of existing infrastructure and services, so that city spending can be focused more on maintenance and/or upgrading costs as needed (vs continuously building new infrastructure as the city continues to expand outward).
- *Another advantage is an increase in housing options. Whether you’re looking to upgrade, or downsize, missing middle housing provides options to stay within a neighbourhood that you love while choosing a home that best suits your needs and budget.
- *Local businesses and community services can be sustained through increased density and usage (for example coffee shops, grocery stores, schools, recreation facilities, etc.)
The missing middle is an key form of infill. IDEA recognizes that the missing middle will help shape Edmonton into a collection of dynamic neighbourhoods. As our city grows infill will play a greater role in the redevelopment and overall sustainability of our city. We are excited to see Edmonton evolve as the missing middle takes shape. IDEA is working actively with administration and Council to promote the missing middle in Edmonton.
Establishing a Consistent Criteria for Quality Infill
While some would contend that no infill is good infill, we must be realistic and recognize that no city is perfect and no neighbourhood is perfect. Infill is an opportunity for improvement.
Here are some criteria that IDEA believes will enable an infill project to improve a neighbourhood:
Densification is the process of adding more units to a property. This can mean housing units, and commercial and retail spaces. Replacing an existing older home with one new home is not densification.
The project allows people to live in the neighbourhood who previously couldn’t, and for people to stay in their neighbourhood as their housing needs change. For example:
- Homes that are affordable for young families and new immigrants
- Secondary suites and other rental units
- Seniors housing that allows people to stay close to their friends and neighbours and everything they have become familiar with
- Barrier-free housing that welcomes people with diverse mobility needs
Our neighbourhoods should reflect the rich diversity of our city.
The project is constructed of high quality, long lasting materials, inside and out.
As a result of advances in building science, improved quality of construction materials, and stricter building code requirements, new houses are more energy efficient than most of the original housing stock in mature neighbourhoods. Net Zero Energy, PassivHaus, and other highly energy efficient projects should be encouraged.
Many of Edmonton’s mid-century neighbourhoods were designed to be car-centric. There was little consideration for the impact of urban design on our health, our energy use, and our relationships with our neighbours. In the intervening years we have learned that moving our houses closer to the street creates opportunities for neighbours to get to know each other and to watch out for each other. It makes our neighbourhoods more vibrant and interesting and encourages people to walk through them.
Mature trees add significant value to our mature areas, and should be preserved where possible and replaced by new trees when not. Care should be taken to ensure that the front yard and front façade of the house improve the quality of the public space it faces. For healthy neighbourhoods, public streetscapes must be attractive to pedestrians and enhance neighbourly relationships.
According to Vitruvius, an architect of the first century BC, a building must exhibit the three qualities of solidity, usefulness and beauty. If our infill projects can follow these principles our mature neighbourhoods will necessarily be improved.