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Exploring the Benefits of Urban Infill

“Urban infill is defined as new development that is sited on vacant or undeveloped land within an existing community, and that is enclosed by other types of development. The term “urban infill” itself implies that existing land is mostly built-out and what is being built is in effect “filling in” the gaps. The term most commonly refers to building single-family homes in existing neighbourhoods …”
–– National League of Cities Sustainable Cities Institute

Maybe you’ve always loved the look and feel of a neighbourhood in the core of the city and there is real appeal to being within walking distance of downtown activities, shops and events. However, you’ve never seriously considered the possibility of living in a downtown community. Before you build a custom home on the outskirts of Ottawa, where land is plentiful but amenities may not yet exist and the houses are often lined up in open fields, take a closer look at an option steadily growing in popularity—urban infill.

Urban infills reduce the environmental footprint of major cities. Urban planners are promoting this type of development to help refresh our urban core. Yes, some infill homes look sleek & modern but you can choose a more traditional look if you prefer to blend in to the surrounding neighbourhood and still have all of the modern features and energy-efficiency of today’s new homes. Consider an alternative to urban sprawl and design a new custom-designed infill home in the heart of Ottawa.

1. Optimal Land Use and Revitalization

Greenfield development is common in rapidly-growing cities like Ottawa but it often comes with controversy between those who reap the economic benefits and those who would like to preserve the land for agriculture or other uses. Overall land use should be carefully planned and managed to strengthen all of the communities within an urban area. The core communities sometimes go through a period of neglect while our new suburban neighbourhoods see accelerated growth. However, there are a great selection of older Ottawa neighbourhoods––complete with heritage buildings and landmarks––that are seeing revitalization. Let’s preserve Ottawa’s city neighbourhoods by keeping them economically strong. If we put as much effort into the revitalization of our core communities as we do our suburban communities, our cities would be healthier places to live for everyone.

Infill development has significant social benefits and promotes revitalization and renewal. Those who spark the infill trend can reap significant financial benefits as the community becomes more and more desirable and “trendy”, increasing property values. Of course, there is no way to guarantee property value increases, and they may take a number of years to materialize; so it critical that you choose your infill location carefully, choosing a desirable place to live for you and your family.

2. Mature Tree Canopy

Older Ottawa neighbourhoods have mature trees with some of the streets are lined with 100+ year old trees. It is one of the major differences between established neighbourhoods and brand new communities. It takes decades to achieve a mature canopy. It’s wonderful to see the rebirth of a full-grown oak tree in the spring or the brilliant colours of autumn on a grand scale. Snow doesn’t sit well on young saplings, but it puts on quite a show as it sparkles on towering evergreens. When you consider the significant cost of landscaping a newly-developed custom home, you can see how much further those dollars could go if you spend the same amount to beautify an infill lot with existing mature trees.

3. Schools

In many core neighbourhoods, instead of travelling by bus to a school that is several neighbourhoods away, or even in another community completely, your children can walk to school and easily be involved in sports or other extracurricular activities that occur outside of regular school hours. The schools in mature established Ottawa neighbourhoods have strong ties to the community and they contribute to a sense of belonging for students and their families. A significant shift to infill custom home development away from suburban development will revitalize core schools and reduce the significant cost of building brand new schools in new neighbourhoods.

4. Local Retail

Instead of shopping at large big box stores where you rarely see the same clerk twice and never have the opportunity to develop a relationship, the owners of smaller businesses in established neighbourhoods have a vested interest in getting to know you and serving your needs well. These communities are generally very walkable and you’ll enjoy buying local at family-owned restaurants, shops and markets steps from your front door. A significant increase in the number of infill custom homes in core Ottawa neighbourhoods will revitalize the business community and preserve the livelihoods of small business owners and their families.

5. Public Transit

The public transit system for an established Ottawa neighbourhood will provide frequent service and closer connections to major hubs where buses are available to take you to other areas of the city. Although two cars per family is common in the outskirts, many households can easily eliminate one or both vehicles if they are living closer to the core. And with the new light-rail transit coming soon, you will be able to take full advantage if your new custom infill home is steps from a station or a quick bus ride away. With heightened awareness of carbon emissions and environmental protection, it is once again the trend to take public transportation. Often, you can get where you are going much faster by public transit than by driving. You reap the fuel and parking savings and feel good about doing your part to protect the environment.

6. Utilities

All of the hydro, water and sewer services will already be in place if you are building a new custom infill home in a mature Ottawa neighbourhood. Also, in many downtown Ottawa neighbourhoods the utility infrastructure has already been upgraded in recent years. Compared to the cost of septic and wells on an estate lot on the fringe of the city, hooking up your new custom home to existing utilities in the core may save you money.

However, the true benefits lie in the overall tax savings for society. Providing utilities in higher-density core communities is less costly than in low-density, suburban neighbourhoods because one stretch of utility pipe is used by 2-3 times the number of households. A few additional infill custom homes in an established neighbourhood are not going to require additional infrastructure but the development of new neighbourhoods requires significant investment in the construction of upgraded and brand new infrastructure.

7. Commuting

Which would you prefer? Driving 30 km each way to work or travelling only a few km, maybe even by bike or on foot? If you would like to do your part to reduce carbon emissions, shortening your commute will make a difference. Sitting in traffic is no fun. Plus you’ll have more time to spend with your family, walk your dog or just to enjoy your beautiful new custom home. Gaining an hour or two a day reduces stress and contributes to your health and happiness. Living in an infill custom home may give you the option of selling your car and using a car-sharing service for the few times you need a car each month.

There are a myriad of benefits to choosing infill for your new Ottawa custom home. If you are considering a new custom home in Ottawa, take a serious look at the option of an infill project.