Edmonton mayor says new approach needed for infill homes in pre-war neighbourhoods

The city should look at infill development in some older neighbourhoods in a new way, that will make it more affordable, says Mayor Don Iveson. The mayor is proposing a so-called "missing middle overlay," which would apply to pre-war areas in the city where lots are narrow and deep, and houses are taller.

Don Iveson is proposing a 'missing middle overlay' for pre-war areas in Edmonton

Garneau is one of the pre-war neighbourhoods in Edmonton with narrow, deep lots and some taller houses that should be covered by what Mayor Iveson calls the "missing middle overlay." (Google street view)

The city should look at infill development in some older neighbourhoods in a new way that will make it more affordable, says Mayor Don Iveson.

The mayor is proposing what he calls the "missing middle overlay."

This would apply to pre-war areas in the city, where there are already taller houses on narrow and deep lots. Iveson said where multi-family and higher height infill homes would blend in, he said.

These neighbourhoods include McCauley, Grandin and Garneau.
The missing middle overlay could allow for higher heights, and more flexibility for multi-family buildings, says Mayor Don Iveson. (Cheryl Oxford)

Iveson brought the idea forward at a meeting of the planning committee Wednesday.

The committee was debating changes to the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay (MNO) and heard from residents, community leagues and builders.

Iveson said the MNO treats all older neighbourhoods the same — and that shouldn't be the case.

Proposal has council support

A motion was passed directing city staff to look at pre-war neighbourhoods and come up with a framework specific to those areas, which Iveson called the missing middle overlay.

The plan is to be presented to council in September.

"I think the height conversation is worth talking about ... and density along major transit, that's where we need to not only unleash the innovation but cluster it," said Iveson.

This would create the density that supports walkability, transit and small business without upsetting people in those neighbourhoods where "maybe that change isn't needed, at least for another generation," the mayor said.

This makes a lot of sense, said Coun. Andrew Knack on Thursday.

"If the whole point of the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay is to fit within the character of the community ... you're actually doing a disservice by putting the same rules and regulations in the pre-war neighbourhoods versus the post-war neighbourhoods," Knack said.

Every neighbourhood is still going to see change but the look and feel can be different, depending on the community, he added.

Develop transit corridors

Both Knack and Iveson also support development on roads that are adjacent to a major transportation corridor or LRT.

The city has taken the right steps with infill by allowing lot-splitting, garage and garden suites, Iveson said, "but clearly that alone is not achieving the kind of housing diversity and housing affordability that we want to."

Several builders at Wednesday's meeting told council members Edmonton will not have affordable infill until it allows multi-family projects, such as the fourplex homes Calgary allows on 50-foot lots.

This can be addressed to an extent in this missing middle overlay and will be debated by the council in place following the October municipal election, said Knack.