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The Impact of Zoning on Infill Housing

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The Impact of Zoning on Infill Housing

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Municipal officials in Edmonton are poised to make adjustments to the zoning bylaw so that our city can meet the growing demand for infill housing.

Building a more compact and efficient city means constructing narrow-lot houses, semi-detached homes of all shapes and sizes, and more seniors’ housing. This kind of density is crucial in making the cost of land more reasonable, increasing the effectiveness of the infrastructure already in place, and sustaining community schools and businesses in mature areas.

In order to achieve this type of progress it is necessary to revise the zoning bylaws so that infill is easier for everyone to build. In addition, the permitting process needs to be reformed to reduce the hassle and cost that some associate with infill projects.

The residents of communities such as Bonnie Doon – where infill is quite common – need to be engaged in meaningful discussions about what it will look like and when it will occur. The City can facilitate this through the development of infrastructure and amenities to help communities adjust with the effects of taking on more residents.

Secondary Suites on Infill Housing

A secondary suite is supplementary to the main unit on a lot. The suite is often located in the principal dwelling (single family, duplex, townhouse) and some municipalities allow a suite to be located in an accessory building. Secondary suites provide an opportunity for more housing choices in neighbourhoods, while maintaining the single-family spirit.

Considerations for local officials when crafting zoning to allow secondary suites:

  • Zones in which secondary suites are allowed – single family, townhouse, etc.
  • Process required to legalize existing suites
  • Maximum gross size of secondary suite, in proportion to the principal dwelling
  • Density Bonus if a secondary suite is included in construction
  • Utility fees that reflect a suite’s additional use of infrastructure
  • Management of perceived traffic and noise impacts, and management of suites

As the infill market matures, different housing options should be more common in mature areas of the city. The truth of the matter is that no citizen should be forced to leave their neighbourhood because the type of housing they need is not available.

Portions of the zoning bylaw still create needless procedures and barriers. Further effort is needed to ensure that it better balances prospects for renewal while still ensuring design quality control. Getting through the permit process takes too long and represents a cost and hassle that makes infill less feasible and less competitive.

Final Thoughts

New zoning classifications and changes to existing categories can expand the allowable housing types in existing areas, increasing the return on infrastructure investment while reducing carbon emissions and energy use. By utilizing strategies that include infill housing, smaller lots, and secondary suites, the benefits of dense communities can be realized. Local officials can encourage infill by strategically pre-zoning key neighbourhoods, while also securing amenities and infrastructure upgrades from new development.


Have you had experience(s) with the Edmonton zoning bylaws while building?

Do you have any advice for people interested in DIY home improvement projects, such as basement suites, etc.?