Infill Is About People, Climate And Winnipeg’s Future

Demand for housing and need for sustainability are major drivers.

In all the rancorous debates about infill development, Winnipeggers have not heard much about two of the main drivers behind infill. There’s huge and rising demand from people who need housing and want to live in mature neighbourhoods. And if the city wants to meet its carbon reduction targets, it needs at least half of its future development to come from infill.

“We hear a lot of complaints about infill, but we need to hear more about the actual people who want to make a home in Winnipeg and want to live in older neighbourhoods close to downtown,” said Nigel Furgus, President of Paragon Design Build, one of the city’s largest infill development companies.

“We rent or sell to single moms, recent immigrants and young families,” said Furgus. “These are people who want to live in mature areas that are close to work and school for their kids. The demand is growing and it will continue to grow. If we want our city to grow and thrive, we need rules that allow responsible infill to continue. Our city’s future will be pretty bleak and polluted if we don’t encourage infill development.”

New Guidelines Are A Good Compromise

Furgus has been joined by Kurtis Sawatzky of Veritas Development Group in endorsing the new guidelines and congratulating city councillors and staff for their foresight and diligence to come up with a difficult, but effective compromise. They agree that the guidelines are needed to rein in some rogue developers who treated their neighbours with disdain.

“Our companies have worked hard to talk with our neighbours and proceed carefully with honest discussion, thoughtful design and clean worksites,” said Sawatzky. “Unfortunately, some developers have given the infill industry a bad name in some parts of the city. But we can’t forget the bigger picture.”

The single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Winnipeg is residential vehicles at 32 per cent of annual emissions, according to the City of Winnipeg. Commercial vehicles make up another 18 per cent. The best way to reduce those emissions is to promote denser neighbourhoods where people can either walk, bike or take a bus to work or school.

50% Of New Housing Must Come From Infill

The city’s climate action plan calls for 50 per cent of all new residential construction to come from infill by 2031. This is vital if the city is to meet its goal of reducing GHG emissions by 11 per cent by that time.

Winnipeg has one of the oldest housing stocks of any major city in Canada, so it’s not a surprise that infill has become an important debate. Infill residential development usually replaces derelict or rundown properties. Frequently, the old buildings are replaced with new ones that bring a bit more density with multi-family homes (ie. duplexes or small apartment buildings).

Furgus and Sawatzky are calling on council to pass the guidelines this spring to give everyone a reprieve from a process that created anger and mistrust.

“The guidelines aren’t perfect, but it’s a sign of a good compromise when neither side is completely happy. The guidelines will certainly restrict developers from building certain kinds of popular homes, but they’ll also give us certainty on what is permitted,” said Sawatzky. “The most important thing is that everyone will know where they stand.”

To learn more about residential infill in Winnipeg, click here.

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