For an affordable and sustainable Winnipeg that grows up, not out
PRESS RELEASE: City needs BETTER guidelines for infill
June 7, 2021
The draft Infill Guidelines for small scale and low-rise homes leave much to be desired. Many of the last minute changes to the guidelines made on the week of April 12th were huge leaps backwards for infill, in a document already set up to be very restrictive for new builds. To meet our City’s climate responsibilities, ensure housing affordability, and get our City finances and services on a solid footing, we need BETTERguidelines for infill. YIMBY Winnipeg is calling on the Property & Development Committee and Winnipeg City Council to vote for better Infill Guidelines.
There are four areas of the Infill Guidelines that we would like to see changed right now.
Local Block Quotas: As the guidelines are currently drafted, infill builds would be limited to two builds per local street block. This would be catastrophic in scenarios where there are multiple aging, deteriorating houses which need to be replaced on a single block. As well, affordable builders that specialize in doing multiple single family homes on a block would be negatively affected. This proposal should be scrapped.
Parking: For many types of infill builds, the draft guidelines propose capping surface parking at 25 per cent of the lot. This may work for some structure types, but it runs into issues with small-scale apartments because the guidelines do not drastically reduce existing costly parking mandates. To meet parking mandates and conform to the 25 per cent of the lot requirement, builders may need to implement more expensive options like underground garages, which will result in higher rents for new units. Additionally, previously considered projects may just not get built as a result. Therefore, we propose that the Infill Guidelines ELIMINATE costly parking mandates or DECREASE them to 0.5 stalls per unit for small apartments.
Gravel back lanes: The Infill Guidelines discourage subdivisions on streets with gravel back lanes. THis could seriously hinder new infill builds in parts of north and east Winnipeg, as well as for affordable builders who specialize in constructing multiple single family homes on a given street. This proposal should be scrapped.
Side Yard Setbacks: Setbacks for side yards include 3 feet on one side and 4 feet on the other are included in these guidelines. This is very restrictive and minimizes available space for the home too much. This should be changed and simplified to setbacks of 3 feet on each side.
Other cities have taken a more progressive approach to land-use and zoning. Edmonton has moved past single-family-only, exclusionary zoning city-wide and has eliminated costly parking mandates. The Minneapolis 2040 Plan vows to end single-family-only zoning city-wide, accompanied with requirements for a certain proportion of below market units. Winnipeg’s Infill Guidelines, by contrast, go in the wrong direction in many areas. The Technical Advisory Group, consisting of subject matter experts tasked by the City with reviewing the guidelines, were completely blindsided by the regressive last minute changes and made their displeasure known in a letter to the Mayor and Council.
Small-scale infill and middle density housing, which is what the guidelines mostly cover, are a crucial part of our housing stock. Duplexes, single family homes with granny suites, townhouses and small apartments can provide middle income affordability due to lower construction costs. Extended families with older relatives living in granny suites, people who want to live in an otherwise too expensive neighbourhood, and newcomers to Winnipeg are some of the people that can all benefit from more small scale, middle density infill homes. Infill homes near transit and the downtown also make lower emissions, less vehicle intensive lifestyles possible and therefore help with our climate goals. More tax generating properties around existing infrastructure sustains our City finances and public services.
It is for all these reasons that we need BETTER guidelines that ENCOURAGE rather than OBSTRUCT new infill builds and homes.