Lot sizes spark debate
Smaller lots don't create affordable homes, council hears
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 23, 2013 06:00 am
Monday night’s public hearing on how many lots of what size residential developers are allowed to build should have been straightforward and relatively quick.
Mayor Nolan Crouse is the chair of the Capital Region Board, which pushes the communities around Edmonton to increase their population densities, meaning the number of dwelling units built in a given hectare.
The city itself also requires developers to set aside 30 per cent of any new development for multi-family developments in an effort to keep entry-level housing stock on the market.
Yet councillors debated, asked questions and listened to presentations from developers for more than an hour before adjourning the public hearing until the summer as it struggled with complex equation: changing how many lots of a particular size are allowed in a low density residential development (R1) could change how some city services are offered.
“By changing the lot mix, you are offering more housing stock at a broader demographic, but you are changing something else,” Crouse said. “Space for trees, places to put snow, places to park, so we have to really think this through.”
The proposed amendment reduces the maximum large lot requirement from 50 per cent to 30 per cent. Lots in any new development are considered large if they are 14.5 metres square. As well, extra small lots (10 metres square to 11.5 metres square) can make up as much as 40 per cent of the lot mix in any development.
But more extra small lots means houses closer together and less room for trees and parking, said Crouse. “You begin to change the nature of your neighbourhoods.”
There are also concerns about fire protection if houses are built more closely together, he said. There is also less tax revenue in more homes on smaller lots than on fewer homes on larger lots.
“The trade-off is this – a different look on your street, more complex service, less tax revenue but a slightly broader demographic appeal and I think that will win out in the end because it will attract younger families,” Crouse said.
Extra small lots are becoming more significant not only due to density concerns, but also in the interests of providing affordable housing. But the term “entry-level” might be more appropriate.
Jordan Davis, a developer with G3 Development Services, said a home will be cheaper because it is built on less land, but it won’t necessarily be “affordable.”
“You might not be able to categorize those small lots as affordable, but there’s no arguing that lot is less expensive than the bigger lot,” Davis said.
Davis and David Bromley of Avenir, a proposed development in northeast St. Albert, spoke against the newer distribution, arguing that putting caps on how many lots of what kind a developer can build makes it more difficult to offer a wide range of lot sizes.
“It makes it more difficult to try to mix those,” said Davis. “If you have one without the other, it’s a lot easier. Single-family and walk-up apartments – you won’t have anything in between.”
Davis simply asked the city to keep its fingers out of lot sizes.
“Let the market take care of the market.”
Council voted to reconvene the public hearing on June 17.