Edmonton considering allowing three-storey apartments in all single-family neighbourhoods

Nov 30 2022, 11:09 pm

Single-family dwelling zoning in Edmonton could be a thing of the past, as the municipal government is currently in the process of allowing gentle densification — housing typologies reaching up to three-storey small apartment buildings.

Such building forms up to 34 ft (10.5 metres) in height would be allowed on any single-family lot. New single-detached houses and other existing infill typologies would still be allowed, but traditional low-density, single-family neighbourhoods would be intermixed with higher-density forms.

This is all part of the City of Edmonton’s years-long process of completely overhauling its complex system of zoning bylaws — and it could provide other Canadian cities, like the municipal governments of Vancouver and Toronto, with a potential model to follow for reforming their own archaic, layered zoning bylaws, and to help boost housing supply to address growing affordability issues.

Edmonton’s Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative would reduce the number of standard zones by 50% from the existing 46 zones to 23. This is accomplished by creating new standardized zones by grouping together existing zones.

For the proposed changes to residential zoning, the number of residential zones would fall to just six — down from the existing 16.

The consolidated residential-only zones entail RS (Small Scale Residential Zone), RSF (Small Scale Flex Residential Zone), RSM (Small-Medium Scale Transition Residential Zone), RM (Medium Scale Residential Zone), RL (Large Scale Residential Zone), and RR (Rural Residential Zone).

In addition to the residential-only zones, there would be another zoning that offers the option to include residential uses, such as MU (Mixed Use) and MUN (Neighbourhood Mixed Use).

Edmonton’s zoning overhaul also consolidates the various commercial, industrial, and public space zones.

Compare this to Vancouver’s existing zoning system, which has about two dozen different zones just for residential uses — plus sub-variants for certain zones — grouped under one-family district, two-family dwelling district, multiple dwelling district, and limited agriculture district.

According to the City of Edmonton, this is the municipal government’s first comprehensive zoning overhaul in over 60 years. It is just one component of simplifying and streamlining the City’s regulations so that they can be more easily understood, and catalyze more livable and compact neighbourhoods, improved livability and affordability, and economic growth.

Edmonton’s municipal government is currently in the midst of public consultation for potential refinements to the zoning reforms. Planning for such reforms first began in 2018.

Between May and October 2023, the final bylaw policies will be finalized for Edmonton City Council’s review and decision. If approved, the bylaws will go into effect by January 2024.

In 2020, Edmonton City Council also made the major move of abolishing minimum vehicle parking requirements in new buildings, which serves to reduce construction costs and reduce emissions from both the reduced need for construction and steering building users towards alternative forms of transportation.

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