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The Laneway Solution: Infill Properties

Thursday, March 18, 2021   /   by Earl Gaddi

The Laneway Solution: Infill Properties

Infill homes are what urban planners call them, but you can also call them laneway houses. We're talking about infills that have been added to residential properties, though the term can also be applied to commercial properties. Technically, any new or replacement building on an old lot is an infill, but in modern usage, it usually refers to a second house built on a single lot.
Canadians were asked to stay at home in 2020. As a result, people began to see their homes in new ways, and many were eager to explore ways to get more out of their primary residence. In expensive real estate markets, where the need for more space necessitates infills rather than additions, economics can play a role. Infill homes can also generate rental income.

A lifestyle choice
The concept of infill isn't for everyone. If you value your green space, you'll lose a lot of it when you make way for the foundation. In other places, city bylaws may play a role, limiting the size and style of new construction. If zoning prohibits multi-family developments, those seeking rental income may be stuck.
Preparing for infill construction is fraught with difficulties, ranging from zoning interpretations and restrictions to cost overruns and unexpected twists and turns. Don't start an infill project on the spur of the moment. You'll need to conduct research, review, revise, and rearrange your schedule. Several times.

Infill zones, on the other hand, are frequently the neighbourhoods that attract those interested in the concept. With the allure of eclectic and esoteric surroundings, artsy villages within urban centres, such as Cabbagetown in Toronto or Kensington, Calgary's "Left Bank," attract artists, students, alumni, and the stylishly affluent.

In defense of infills

The home office
Before the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the trend, the work-from-home paradigm shift was already underway. It doesn't take long in an improvised dining table office to miss the conveniences of a traditional office. Some people need a change of scenery to keep their minds in a productive space, which an infill home provides in a more dramatic way than a bedroom-to-office makeover.

A mix of style
Design purists are a rare breed. Your Victorian cottage may lend itself to shabby chic, but you may yearn for the calm zen of Japanese or minimalist designs. The boxy practicality of Bauhaus and similar modern styles maximises space and provides a clean design palette on small, inner-city lots. Because infills are frequently built at the back of lots that back up to lanes, the space between buildings serves as a transitional style buffer, though you may prefer complementary rather than contrasting design.

It's difficult to say whether striking modern designs predominate in residential infill homes or if the dramatic simply stands out more. When it comes to infill projects, however, there is no shortage of stunning examples, whether in Harbord Village in Toronto, Prince Arthur and Sherbrooke in Montreal, or South Fraser in Vancouver. Laneway infill is alive, well, and thriving in urban Canada.