For an affordable and sustainable Winnipeg that grows up, not out
Overview of our Feb 27th meet & chat
March 1, 2019
On February 27th, we had our third meet & chat event. This time we discussed the infill strategy and reaching out to others.
RESIDENTIAL INFILL STRATEGY
A key point of conversation was the City of Winnipeg’s Residential Infill Strategy. This evolving strategy was formulated, in part, due to concerns over existing infill developments. One complaint, which is reflected in the version of the Strategy submitted to the City’s Planning & Property committee in early January, is about “skinny, tall and long” houses that some residents view as out of place.
Informed by feedback from public engagement sessions in 2018, the Strategy proposes a number of measures that will make higher density development in mature communities harder. Particularly concerning are action items 1, 4 and 8 in the Strategy,
Action #1: Maximum Lot Coverage
The Infill Strategy looks to revise maximum lot coverage in single family neighbourhoods. What this means is being more strict about how much of the lot a house and garage can cover. This is being done, in part, because of complaints from some Winnipeg residents about infill developments that lack greenspace (have smaller yards). Crucially, for houses being built without a garage the city would set aside some space for a future garage in their calculations of lot coverage. This means home-buyers wouldn’t have the choice to buy a larger house in lieu of garage on the lot. Given the need to shift to climate-friendly modes of transportation, a City policy that presumes car ownership is the wrong way to go.
Action #4: Adopt infill design guidelines
The Infill Strategy looks to “ensure that new development (single-family, two-family and multi-family) in established neighbourhoods is compatible in form, scale and design”. For this action item, the devil will be in the details. The planning process for this item involves looking at what other cities have done for best practices. The Strategy outlines that they heard complaints about “skinny, tall and long houses” and buildings “maxing out” lots. So “compatible” infill guidelines could mean more restrictions on what types of houses can be built in mature neighbourhoods. This is problematic because different residents have different housing needs and enforcing uniformity in mature neighbourhoods means diverse housing needs won’t be met. Keeping infill “compatible” with a lower density neighbourhood may mean preventing higher density development. This is a problem. To sustain our services and reduce our carbon emissions we need higher-density infill.
Action #8: Update Zoning By-law
The Infill Strategy also suggests providing “clearer and more intuitive density categories and standards that improve infill compatibility”. This could be problematic for the same reasons as Action item 4. Additionally, the Strategy suggests reviewing height maximums for developments in single and two-family zones. This could involve making height restrictions lower. The Strategy makes it clear that feedback in engagement sessions touched on designs “out of scale with the existing neighbourhood” and “skinny, tall and long houses”. More stringent height restrictions would make building denser infill tricky.
CURRENT STATUS OF THE RESIDENTIAL INFILL STRATEGY
On the Jan 7, 2019 Planning & Property Committee meeting, the Committee directed the City’s civil service to come back in thirty days with an implementation plan.
On Feb. 4th the Committee reviewed the plan and received significant feedback from developers concerned about the limitations the Strategy could place on infill. After hearing these concerns and getting feedback from the civil service,the Committee recommended that the civil service conduct consultations in spring 2019 and report back to the Committee by the end of 2019. They further recommended a $650,000 budget for this process.
WHERE DOES YIMBY WINNIPEG GO FROM HERE?
What role YIMBY Winnipeg can play in speaking up about density and the benefits of infill was discussed at our meet and chat. There are vocal opponents of infill projects who are speaking up and having an impact on the City’s Residential Infill Strategy. Could we speak to them to better understand their concerns and see if there are ways to address them that allow for higher density infill? It was suggested that YIMBY Winnipeg engage with infill skeptics before the spring consultation process, as attitudes and positions may harden in public consultations.
MEET AND CHAT TIMES
YIMBY Winnipeg has had three meet and chat events, all in February 2019. The first two were on weekends and this one was on a weekday. Some participants in the meet and chat noted that weekdays work better for parents with young children. Others (including those polled online) find weekends work. Going forward, YIMBY Winnipeg will alternate between weekdays and weekends.