Infill not enough

Infill isn't enough to solve the city's housing crisis, says Coun. Ranj Pillai. "We need to think bigger," he said.

Infill isn’t enough to solve the city’s housing crisis, says Coun. Ranj Pillai.

“We need to think bigger,” he said.

Recent plans to develop five new lots in Crestview and Porter Creek met with stringent opposition from many residents.

But at Monday’s council meeting, city planners recommended going ahead with the infill anyway.

Here, Pillai questioned the amount of time and energy that went in to the process.

“Think of all the work we’ve done for a few lots, at a time when we’re in the middle of the biggest housing crunch that the city has ever seen,” he said. “We have to look at bigger projects.”

Pillai floated the idea that the city should look into buying land.

“There is a huge housing shortage,” he said. “We need to diversify our pool of options for people besides Whistle Bend.”

The Whistle Bend subdivision – now two years behind schedule – is projected to provide housing for 8,000 people, but even that isn’t enough to keep up with population growth, said city planning manager Mike Gau.

In a presentation to council, Gau addressed some of the concerns expressed by those opposed to infill, but said that there is a desperate need for housing in the city.

“We need both Whistle Bend and infill to keep up with growth,” he said.

Gau stressed the positive benefits of denser neighbourhoods, which he said make better use of city resources, promote business, make transit more viable and lead to lower property taxes in the long run.

Some of those in opposition suggested that the infill plans are a stopgap measure to make up for the housing crunch caused by the booming economy.

But the plans for Crestview and Porter Creek have been in the works for since 2002, and are spelled out in the city’s Official Community Plan, said Gau.

“This is in no way a knee jerk reaction,” he said.

More than 50 people showed up last week to oppose development, but only a handful returned to see the outcome Monday.

“I’m happy to see that some people have come back to see the reply,” said Coun. Dave Stockdale.

There is a perception that council makes up its mind before hearing from the public, and in this case there was some truth to that, said Stockdale.

“You are right to a certain degree, because council has embraced this philosophy of infill,” he said. “We do listen, we just don’t agree with the opinions that were put forward.”

However, the planning department however did make an effort to appease those in opposition, altering several of the lots to allow for more greenspace.

“I think it was a really good proposal,” said Cam Koss, a Porter Creek resident who has been outspoken in his opposition to infill.

After Gau’s presentation, Koss thanked the planning department for addressing the neighbourhoods’ concern.

He also had a proposal of his own to spur development.

“Would the city consider a free dump day for someone that wants to demolish a property?” he asked.

City administration didn’t shoot down the suggestion.

Referring to an idea proposed by Coun. Doug Graham to hike taxes on underutilized properties, city manager Dennis Shewfelt said they are looking at using both “the carrot and the stick.”

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com