High-density spot zoning can create homeowner hardship

Managing Partner and Senior Sales Associate , ICR Commercial Real Estate
  • Mar. 21, 2019

I purchased my second single-family home in 1979. It was located at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in a good neighbourhood.

The downside was it backed onto a retail strip mall. That wasn’t a concern for me, however, because all the properties along that retail corridor were one storey.

Within a year of owning the home, it was announced that a five-storey office building would be constructed overlooking my rear yard. I immediately sold the property.

Even though the project was public knowledge, I believed it would be easier to sell before it could be seen that the windows in that towering structure would have a full view of my yard.

Thanks to that early, first-hand experience I can relate to homeowners who are suddenly faced with a project that significantly impacts the value of their home.

Is increased density beneficial?

In an earlier post I weighed the pros and cons of urban densification.

I stated, “. . . I get it; I wouldn’t like the idea of a multi-storey apartment block towering over my rear yard. Many of these same homeowners will be the first to criticize city hall for increasing property taxes.”

Despite this, for many of the reasons cited in that post we do need to increase density in our core areas.

The problem is the impact on the property owners in the immediate surrounding single-family homes adjacent to new high-rise development. Where there is loss of privacy, the loss of property value can be significant.

If, however, zoning for high-density development is in place and an adjacent property is purchased without the buyer completing their due diligence, I do not sympathize with that buyer.

I’ve heard the argument that a residential area will experience a significant increase in traffic volume with the construction of a high-rise multi-family development. I don’t buy it.

Sit outside any multi-family building. I defy you to find a time of day during which vehicles stream in high volumes in or out of the parking area.

What can be done differently?

But, there is a better way to handle these situations. Rather than reviewing ad-hoc spot zoning applications as they come in, the City of Saskatoon (and other cities) need to go back to the planning stage and identify the sites where they will permit higher-density development.

That would provide existing owners the opportunity to sell prior to commencement of the development. It would also give new buyers the opportunity to make an informed decision based on actual zoning prior to investing.

I want to be clear that I’m in favour of high-density, in-fill development.

We just need to get better at identifying sites which are appropriate for additional development.

Born in small town Saskatchewan, I began my real estate career in Saskatoon at a really early age in 1978. Although I can’t claim to be No 1 in North…

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Born in small town Saskatchewan, I began my real estate career in Saskatoon at a really early age in 1978. Although I can’t claim to be No 1 in North…

Read more

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