Be carefull what you wish for, this is the key statement, “So you could put it next to a 1950s bungalow and it won’t really feel out of place.”
Step aside, humble duplex: the next wave of infill housing is side-by-side-by-side units.
In a bid to bring more density to established neighbourhoods without triggering massive resident backlash, Calgary council has approved new zoning rules that would allow row houses, as well as secondary suites in duplexes and row homes.
Councillors would have to authorize rezoning bids to allow these units in older neighbourhoods, so they won’t sweep across Calgary anytime soon. But there is demand there for them, said one architect who works on small inner-city redevelopment projects.
“It’s got the front yard. It’s got the house. It’s got the backyard. It’s got the garage,” said Stephen Barnecut. “So you could put it next to a 1950s bungalow and it won’t really feel out of place.”
There’s a gap in the step-up of zoning in most neighbourhoods: R1 or RC1 only permit one house per lot; R2 or RC2 allow two dwelling units; and then there’s the next district known as M-CG, which lets developers build as high as four-storey apartments.
The R-CG zone, approved in council last week, offers a midpoint density — up to about three units on a typical 50-foot-wide property, and up to three storeys high.
Developers could make more money, and infill housing in older neighbourhoods could be slightly more affordable as well, Barnecut said.
“People seem to be willing to buy a $700,000 house attached to another,” said Barnecut, who has designed row houses in Altadore.
“I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to think they’d be willing to have attached on both sides, if they can get it for $600,000.”
In many established areas, duplexes have become the dominant form of infill, especially after council eased development rules a few years ago. Only a few zones already earmarked for growth in older communities allow condominiums or multi-unit projects.
Council must vet each rezoning to this new format, and has faced some pushback. The Renfrew Community Association’s development committee wrote to council that spot approval for row houses “would negatively isolate and impact the privacy and natural sunlight of adjacent neighbours” with lower houses.
But farther west along 16th Avenue N., a couple communities appear more ready to embrace row housing. Capitol Hill and Banff Trail are currently going through reviews of their redevelopment plan, and may earmark blocks and streets where they think row houses should be zoned at the city’s initiative, rather than making developers take the risk.
Row houses would “stem the tide of peripheral growth for inner-city growth,” Erin Shilliday, a Capitol Hill community director, told council last week.
This type of infill housing is ideal for corridors like 20th Avenue N.W., Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.
“A lot of people will they say want to do more than duplex. We really didn’t have an easy way for people to do Boston-style row houses,” he said in an interview.