January 10, 2014 6:24 pm
Updated: January 10, 2014 9:25 pm

Edmonton welcomes a new form of infill housing: ‘skinny homes’

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EDMONTON – Dubbed ‘skinny houses’, new single-family houses built on 25-foot lots are Edmonton’s most recent approach to innovative infill housing.

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“Instead of putting a duplex on it – which is what we traditionally find in inner city or mature neighbourhoods – what we’ve decided to do is take a page from Calgary and introduce a 17-foot wide product so Edmontonians can enjoy single family living and not have a wall separating themselves and their neighbour,” said Matt Kaprowy, a general manager of Kirkland Homes.

The building of the homes comes after City Council decided last year to allow certain 50-foot lots in mature neighbourhoods to be subdivided.  Now, the bylaw permits two single family homes to be constructed on a lot that previously only allowed for one home, or for duplexes and semi-detached homes.

READ MORE: Edmonton moves forward on controversial mature neighbourhoods bylaw 

“We have to see more density in older neighbourhoods,” said Mayor Don Iveson.  “And this is an important form of housing that can help bring families in.”

READ MORE: Multi-family housing starts at 35-year high in Edmonton 

“We believe that this form of housing will add to the choices new home buyers now have in Edmonton and will be in accordance with Council’s desire to see a greater percentage of new housing in mature areas, close to existing schools, and other conveniences,” said developer Doug Kelly.  “Other Cities in Canada have allowed the subdivision of 50-foot lots to accommodate single-family homes for some time, in this respect Edmonton is just catching up.”

Kaprowy admits there are challenges with building in an already established area.

“The challenge is to incorporate yourself into the community, but also try to improve the aesthetics of the neighbourhood and try to fit in while increasing other people’s property value as well.”

But adds the benefits of offering homes in these neighbourhoods are great.

“The amenities are phenomenal. You’re able to park your car for the weekend and enjoy all the restaurants, the shopping, the nightlife, and just the action that’s involved in the inner city.”

Iveson agrees.

“I think there are going to be families in Edmonton who see this as very desirable.  This is a great neighbourhood, people want to be close to downtown, close to the action, but many people want a new home.”

Edmonton’s new ‘skinny homes’ are located at 8318-79 Avenue, in the King Edward Park area, one of the city’s mature neighbourhoods. More are already being planned.

The buildings are two-storey homes that offer at least 1,750-square feet plus finished basements, a double detached garage, a front veranda, rear deck, and front landscaping.

“These skinny single-family homes, although only 17-feet wide, are designed in such a fashion that they do not seem narrow,” says Kelly.

He actually lived in a ‘skinny home’ in Calgary in 1994.

“I often wondered why aren’t we doing it in Edmonton, and the simple reason was the bylaw didn’t permit it until just 2012 when Council changed it.”

He anticipates the concept will be well-received in the Capital City as well.

“We’re very optimistic that they will. It’s popular in other major cities, why shouldn’t it be in Edmonton?”

READ MORE: Annual report forecasts Edmonton housing growth 

The homes will be priced at under $600,000, but cost will depend on location and finishing selections.

“It’s location, location, location,” says Kaprowy. “The square footage is there… the materials are in the home, which do increase the cost, down to the fit and finish.”

And, despite their conservative width, Kelly says these ‘skinny homes’ have a lot to offer residents.

“They say ‘boy that’s narrow.’ But until they go inside, they don’t appreciate that you can design a 17-foot wide house quite attractively so it doesn’t really look that narrow, and we think we’ve done that here.”

“The term ‘skinny’ really does describe that these houses make really, really efficient use of a small piece of land,” added Iveson.  “The fact that it’s a smaller piece of land is what helps keep them from being vastly more expensive than a house on a larger lot would be.”

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