Our well loved neighbourhoods, greener, healthier and with homes for all
Which aspects of our neighbourhoods are valuable and what are the things that need to change?
We treasure our neighbourhoods, but they can lead to unhealthy lifestyles, harm to the environment and are not meeting housing need. Let's keep the good, and radically change the rest.
We value our older, low-rise neighbourhoods for their look and feel. They are part of our urban identity in Canadian cities - older homes, lawns, gardens, trees, families, friends, and memories. But sometimes our sentimental feelings obscure important facts.
Many of our older neighbourhoods have dropped in population density as average households have fallen in size. The average Canadian household size in 1950 was 8 people. Today it's only 2.4 people per household (2.3 in Ottawa).
Car ownership has increased significantly, meaning that many neighbourhoods now contain fewer people and a lot more private vehicles. As a result, it is no surprise that average emissions per person have also increased. Areas that were first developed to house the middle class now host bidding wars between only the wealthy. Planning for neighbourhood evolution means planning to keep the good, and to fix what is broken.
Understand how and whylow-rise
Read more about diversity and other criteria for healthy neighbourhood change here!
What are the underlying forces that drive Infill Housing?
Infill Development Patterns can be anticipated and understood using Agent Based Predictive Analysis. Understanding must precede planning.
Neighbourhoods change in many ways. Population demographics change. Levels of car ownership and transit use change. City infrastructure and services age and are renewed. Trees are planted, age, die and are replaced. Homes are renovated. But the single most significant factor of change is Infill Housing, especially when it is built on multiple properties and has a cumulative impact.
Infill Housing patterns can be anticipated using Agent Based Predictive Analysis. Often our clients are surprised to hear that this analysis and simulation is possible. What is actually surprising, is that many municipalities plan investments and infrastructure upgrades without this vital information.
Other forms of Urban Growth Projection are based on mathematical data analytics, and are not useful in predicting patterns of infill or change resulting from proposed new regulations. Agent Based Predictive Analyses can be used to simulate new trajectories for our neighbourhoods, like greater diversity of housing options or significant density increases.
Simulate, map and compare Infill Housing options
Read more about how changing regulations can effect development patterns here!
How can Geospatial Data Manipulation help us plan Infill Housing?
GIS can be equipped to manage complex data sets, to simulate and map Infill Housing, and to plan complimentary upgrades.
Agent Based Predictive Analysis must be informed by relevant data, necessary to predict the rate of redevelopment and the physical form that infill will take. This data is geographically specific and best managed within a robust GIS environment.
Once the analysis is complete, GIS can be used to map the simulated results; rates of redevelopment, density increases, diversity of housing, tree canopy, and household emissions based on modes of transport and/or shared walls and floors.
Municipal upgrades and investments to support Infill Housing can be planned based on simulated scenarios. And scenarios can be refined to take servicing availability into account.
Balance the ecosystem of the walkable neighbourhood
Read more about walkable neighbourhoods here!
What is the link between Walkability, Mixed Uses and Transit Supportive Density?
A walkable neighbourhood must be complete with small shops, local services and public transit. But these elements require density and foot traffic in order to be economically viable.
The interdependence of transit, infill housing, new walkable shopping destinations and small scale office spaces, all function like an ecosystem. In any urban place there is a balance between the number of shoppers and the number of shops.
By increasing the residential density (shoppers) through neighbourhood infill we can anticipate an increase in shops. Most neighbourhoods today have few walkable shopping destinations, so let's be sure that all these new shops are just that: small shops that are great destinations, or are located along busy walking routes on the way to transit.
Additionally, small shops thrive when they are coupled with small offices and service providers (often above the ground floor shops). These generate foot traffic and clientele throughout the workday and especially at lunch time.
Most municipalities that plan for significant amounts of neighbourhood infill are not planning on significant increases to traffic, but rather a transition to a culture of walking, cycling and transit use. That transition cannot succeed without the careful balancing of the neighbourhood ecosystem.
Reverse engineer zoning for success
Read more about the vision for growth here!
How can Form Based Zoning produce the Infill Housing we want?
Zoning can and must trigger infill development that meets municipal targets for housing, tree canopy, emissions, and diversity, as well as development that supports the neighbourhood ecosystem.
Most zoning that governs existing neighbourhoods generates a limited variety of infill housing types that are low-density, oversized, and marketed to wealthy, car-dependent households. This limited demographic distorts community dynamics and prices people out.
It is generally assumed that our neighbourhoods simply cannot evolve to meet our targets for housing, emissions and so much more, unless they are considerably changed in look and feel. By using Form Based Zoning and an Inside-The-Box approach, all this can change.
Form Based Zoning can be used to regulate the height, size and spacing of infill housing, and to preserve space for new trees. It can also require façade articulation to ensure new buildings are lovely contributions to the street, while freeing developers to fill the zoning envelope with the sizes and types of dwellings that are in demand.
Cumulative impacts of proposed zoning must be simulated, mapped, and scored against housing and environmental targets, then fine-tuned to achieve balanced outcomes.