Why Should Winnipeggers Care About The Draft Infill Guidelines?

All about the draft infill guidelines that plays an important role in shaping Winnipeg’s future 

Did you know that Winnipeg expects to grow by 160,000 people in the next 20 years? And that our current housing units are not enough to accommodate our increase to over one million?

We need about 82,000 new housing units to support this population growth.

As one of the leading infill developers in the city, Paragon Design Build is proud to help provide housing options for these new Winnipeggers by building sustainable, multi-family infill housing in mature neighbourhoods.

The city needs infill in addition to greenfield developments (building in undeveloped parts of the city) to accommodate future growth while reducing carbon emissions.

Last April 19, 2021, the City of Winnipeg’s Property, Planning and Development (PP&D) committee held a meeting to discuss the infill guidelines. These guidelines are key to our city’s infill housing strategy, and detail where, when and how to build infill developments. It will affect those living in Winnipeg for generations to come.

The draft infill guideline’s front page. Source: City of Winnipeg

Last-Minute Changes Without Community Consultation

A week before the PP&D meeting, the document changed under the wire without community consultation.

The draft infill guidelines have been over four years in the making. Thousands of people have been consulted. The guidelines have gone through many revisions, community consultations and committee meetings to accommodate compromises between stakeholders, including Winnipeg residents, developers, city planners and city council members.

The most alarming last-minute changes include:

Only two developments will be allowed per block per year. This is an arbitrary restriction that will greatly reduce infill developments in mature neighbourhoods.

  • Not surprisingly, organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, have voiced concerns about this as well because it would greatly reduce the number of new homes they could build.
  • A moratorium on building any infill on streets serviced by gravel or mud back lanes. Presumably, this will require the developer of a single duplex to pay for the paving of the entire back lane, which is a city responsibility. This change will bring a complete halt to all new developments in these areas.
  • A restriction that surface parking covers no more than 25 per cent of the lot. While this won’t impact small developments, it will drastically drive up the cost of constructing small apartment buildings, making them uneconomical for developers to pursue.

These last-minute updates to the guidelines will hurt and potentially kill the infill industry in Winnipeg. If infill developments cease in mature neighbourhoods, new housing developments will move to greenfield areas and promote urban sprawl. Without infill, it’s impossible to meet Winnipeg’s Climate Action Plan that calls for 50 per cent of all new residential construction to come from infill, because new suburbs fuel new car traffic while infill tends to encourage transit, walking and cycling.

During the committee meeting, stakeholders voiced their concerns and opposition to these new changes.

Paragon has publicly expressed their opposition as well - CBC Manitoba and the Winnipeg Free Press reported on the committee meeting, the last-minute revisions and Paragon’s participation.

The PP&D committee paused the decision-making process for two months until the next meeting.

What We’re Hoping To Achieve

The next committee meeting is scheduled for June 8, 2021. The guidelines will be reviewed again during the meeting.

We call for the PP&D committee to consider these recommendations:

  • We ask that the committee adopts the guidelines as by-laws. By-laws will give developers a more certain and clear set of rules to follow, while leaving the new rules as guidelines can result in many subjective applications.
  • A need for an infrastructure plan. Developers depend on city plans to build on properties across Winnipeg. The lack of an infrastructure strategy leaves developers guessing what the servicing capacities are for the area they are building in, making investment and development decisions difficult. Having an infrastructure plan included in the guidelines will provide developers with the city’s supply of serviced and serviceable land.
  • We recommend increasing the maximum height limit to 30’ instead of the proposed 28’. Doing so will allow more building options. The lower 28’ limit is arbitrary and overly restrictive. We feel it is also regressive as it leads to fewer secondary suite options that are in such high demand from low income earners, new Canadians, young professionals and others.
  • Allow a side yard of 3’ on either side of a home on a 25’ lot (or 4’ and 2’ side yard when two homes are being constructed on a minimum 50’ lot). The proposed minimums of 3’ and 4’ side yards on 25’ lots are also arbitrary and regressive. Allowing 1’ more width allows more building options and permits slightly larger secondary suites. We feel the recommended 3’ + 4’ side yard proposal is intended to minimize densification of established areas. It unfairly restricts the development of reasonably sized rental units.
  • Remove the restriction on building only two developments in a block per year. This measure is also regressive and will disproportionately impact affordable housing developments such as those built by Habitat for Humanity.
  • Remove the provision asking developers to pave entire back lanes. This measure is unnecessary, as there’s no evidence that infill has had serious detrimental effects on gravel lanes. It is also punitive to developers and homeowners wishing to redevelop properties.

Remove the parking restriction as it will affect medium and larger scale infill developments. Another regressive policy suggestion, the parking restrictions will make it very difficult to build any medium or large scale multi-family building.

How YOU Can Help

So, how can you help shape Winnipeg’s future?

  • Education is a crucial first step to change. Learn about the benefits of infill and the dangers of ignoring it.
  • Find out more about the infill guidelines and the OurWinnipeg and Complete Communities strategies
  • Educate people in your community about the benefits of infill

Talk to your city councillor and express your support for infill developments in your neighbourhood

There is no voice too small. We encourage you to be a part of the conversation on infill and help bring positive change to the community.

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