Saskatoon bans fourplex infill homes

A City Park resident is upset that new houses being built in her neighbourhood are out of place and dwarf existing homes.

City council bans fourplex homes in City Park neighbourhood

Anne Smith wants a ban on fourplex homes in the City Park neighbourhood.

A Saskatoon resident is upset that new houses being built in her neighbourhood of City Park are out of place and dwarf existing homes.

Anne Smart wants a ban on fourplex homes in the area made up largely of bungalows and two-storey dwellings.

"Fourplexes are often built by developers with a minimum amount of input into how it's designed and quality of the buildings," Smart said. "There's some lovely old homes here in City Park. And to tear them down in favour of something that is not as well-built and not as attractive and brings in a whole lot more people in an area that's already jammed."

The issue was before city council Wednesday night where members decided that fourplexes should be kept out of City Park. One such project, however, is already approved for construction. City council also approved a plan by officials to put together some guidelines that would outline what is appropriate for an infill project.

In need of infill

Mark Bobyn, past president of the Nutana Community Association and a building designer, said the city needs infill projects to house the city's rapidly growing population, which grew by 10,000 people in 2012. The City of Saskatoon estimates that 450,000 people will make the city home by 2032 and it could reach one million residents by 2063.

Bobyn said the trick is to build homes that fit the character of the existing neighbourhood.

"I guess the issue that creates the most amount of conflict is large massing and scale, large blank side walls facing the neighbours so they really feel that they're sort of divorced from what's happening next door, and so there's no sort of neighbourly relation anymore," he said.

"The quality of what's happening is getting better and better over time," Bobyn added. "But it's still hitting a fairly low mark.  I would say that probably 60 per cent of what's being built is of the right quality for the neighbourhood."

But it isn't only the aesthetics of the area that Smart is worried about.

"I don't think the city infrastructure can sustain that kind of development all down the street," she said. She worries that large infill projects will strain the already aging roads, sewers and watermains in her area — structures that were only built to a certain carrying capacity.

Guidelines coming

The city has already started work on potential guidelines for what infill housing in Saskatoon should look like.

Alan Wallace, the City of Saskatoon's planning manager, hopes to have those guidelines approved and in place by early next year.

"We're trying to change people's attitudes around infill," he said. "It's big part of the city's growth plan in the future to encourage more infill. But it has to be done with some assurances that it's going to fit within the overall neighbourhood."

Guidelines governing infill projects will be unenforceable unless there are also changes to provincial legislation. Talks are underway between city and provincial officials to bring that about.