Edmonton Neighbourhoods in Revolt Over Residential Lot-Splitting

It’s not just lawn signs now. Legal measures to prevent any increased density are starting to take hold in half a dozen mature neighbourhoods. Most residents of Westbrook have already signed a restrictive covenant to prevent lot-splitting or duplexes in perpetuity and several other neighbourhoods are organizing. “There’s a tremendous number of people upset with this,” said Victoria Archer, a lawyer and resident of Capilano, which scheduled a set of community meetings on restrictive covenants starting next week. “People here are furious with city council, absolutely furious.”

In April 2015, council amended the zoning bylaw to allow anyone to subdivide a residential property at least 50 feet (15.24 metres) wide. They saw it as a fair way to permit a gradual increase in density across the city. But although the deliberations were covered in the media and council held a public hearing, many people didn’t find out until a subdivision happened in their neighbourhood.

Westbrook was the first to rally after a $950,000, 96-foot (29.2 metre) property on Fairway Drive was subdivided. But protests signs are now spreading. Lansdowne, Aspen Gardens, Rio Terrace, Capilano – all have vocal residents realizing the only way to prevent neighbours from splitting their lot and building two homes in place of one is by signing a legally-binding agreement among neighbours. They expect to have 80 per cent of Westbrook homeowners signed on by June. Once that’s done, no one who buys one of those properties can ever subdivide it or build a duplex again. If they try, other signatories can take them to court. The only way to take the caveat off again is by getting every single signatory to agree.

Westbrook resident Darren Jacknisky said the issue is preserving the look and feel of the neighbourhood he bought into. “When you buy into a certain area, you anticipate that area being a certain way. Everyone has their ideal,” Jacknisky said. “I bought here because I wanted to have a good backyard and large side setbacks, so I can have privacy.”

Subdivision isn’t creating more affordable housing, added Archer. What Capilano and its sister neighbourhoods of Greater Hardisty need is more seniors housing, which would free up their former homes for new families, she said.A renovated home is much more affordable than a new home, even if it’s built on half a lot, she said, pointing to new skinny homes going for $500,000 and up.

Councillor Michael Oshry said he sympathizes with residents who say lot-splitting will change the character of a neighbourhood but said they need to recognize this is a gradual process. One or two subdivisions are expected each year in neighbourhoods of 500 to 1,000 houses. “It’s going to be a very, very slow process,” he said. As for residents warning this issue will blow up come next election, Oshry didn’t seem worried. “It’s some people in some neighbourhoods. It will be an issue but is will be one of many issues.”

Neighbourhoods upset over lot splitting:

Westbrook – Organizers in Westbrook expect to have 80 per cent of the homes legally committed to never subdivide or build more than a single-family home on their lot by June, said Darren Jacknisky.
Aspen Gardens – Volunteers are going door-to-door to get commitments of interest from the 510 single-family homes. Organizer Al McCully said they’ve reached a third of the doors so far and are finding strong support.
Lansdowne  One subdivision in the Lansdowne neighbourhood prompted a flurry of protest signs but most residents are still undecided about a restrictive covenant, said organizer Jason Chin.
Greater Hardisty – The neighbourhoods of Capilano, Fulton Place and Gold Bar are tackling this together with meetings scheduled for May 31 and June 6. Some pockets already have overwhelming support for a restrictive covenant, said organizer Victoria Archer. It’s likely blocks of houses will sign on rather than entire neighbourhoods.
Rio Terrace – Several residents organized an information meeting on restrictive covenants last weekend with a lawyer Chris Bowie and several dozen homeowners signed up. Now the community is organizing street captains to go door to door to built support in the rest of the neighbourhood.
Valleyview – Organizers in this subsection of Parkview focused their efforts on the few blocks around the first lot splitting to hit their neighbourhood. “People really don’t get it until it’s across the street from you,” said organizer Lisa Miller. They’ve got many protest signs but are still trying to judge if there will be enough support for a restrictive covenant.
As reported by ELISE STOLTE (Edmonton Journal)
Resale Housing Inventory Up 18%, But Prices Remain Strong

Despite an 18% increase in inventory for the Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), residential prices remained stable at $377,283 for April 2016. That is down less than 1% from the previous month and up less than 1% from last year.

The average single family home in the Edmonton CMA sold for $439,982 in April 2016, up marginally over March’s average price of $439,815 and April 2015’s average price of $438,641. Listings and sales unit volumes were down for single family detached homes year-over-year, but up over the previous month.

Prices in the Edmonton and Area market remain stable. This is good news for sellers who have been concerned about selling in a ‘buyer’s market’,” REALTORS® Association of Edmonton Chair Steve Sedgwick said. “Buyers continue to have a great selection of properties to choose from and sellers need to be competitive with their listings. Continued lack of significant movement in the average house price is a good signal that Edmonton’s economy is strong.”

Single family homes had a 51% sales-to-listing ratio for April 2016, up 2% from March and down 3% year-over-year. Duplex/row houses sat at 51% as well, down 14% from 2015 but up 2% from the previous month. With a 38% sales-to-listing ratio (up 2% from last month, down 6% from last year) condos continue to be the most challenging type of property to sell.

1,498 residential properties were sold in the Edmonton CMA in April, up nearly 10% from the previous month, but down 6% from sales reported in April 2015. There were 938 single family detached homes reported sold in the Edmonton CMA, a 9% percent increase month-over-month, and down 6% from the same time last year. 396 condos sold in April, up 18% over March and down 8% over April 2015. 148 duplex/row houses sold in April, up 3% from March and up 7% from April 2015.

“New listings were slightly down in April, but inventory remains high.” Sedgwick continues, “We expect to see sales continue to rise through the early summer months. It will be interesting to see whether there are many new listings adding to the existing inventory in upcoming months.”  

April’s all residential average days-on-market sat at 40 Days. (7 days shorter than the previous year and 13 days shorter than March 2016).  On average in April, single family homes sold in 35 days, condominiums sold in 46 days, and duplex/ row houses sold in an average of 49 days.

Statistics provided by Ray Meredith (CIBC Mortgage Advisor)