Infill and Intensification
One of the reasons I love living in Old South is the eclectic character of our neighbourhood. I find it fascinating to look at the transition in the style of houses as you move from the river towards Commissioners Road. With the century homes closer to the core, war-time housing as you pass Emery and mid-century houses as you get closer to Baseline and beyond, Old South is certainly a study of the past 150 years of our city.
As with any neighbourhood, there will be turnover and renewal. Families move in, children grow, and empty nesters may downsize. Sometimes, the smaller houses of the past may not be large enough for today’s families but many still see our community as an ideal place in which to raise their kids. To take advantage of the charm of an established neighbourhood, old houses may be renovated or new houses may be built where old ones once stood. This is all a normal part of how a neighbourhood matures. In most cases, it is done quite well, but in some…well, not so much.
Late last year, I asked city planning staff to investigate the trend of rebuild housing in Old South to see if there might be a way to better manage how it integrated with the existing homes along the street. This was not to say that new houses needed to be an exact match to their neighbours but rather to help provide a framework so that infill housing could be complementary to the houses that surround it.
When you look down most streets, there’s a certain rhythm created by a mostly consistent spacing between houses and setbacks from the street. There may also be general sense of size, height or width. These principles are embedded in our Official Plan to help guide infill and intensification, however they don’t currently apply to a situation where one house is removed and replaced with a new one, which was occurring frequently in Old South.
The new Official Plan (aka The London Plan) encourages growing inward and upward as a city. I fully support this objective but it will create pressures on existing neighbourhoods to support new development. I will continue to push to make sure we get these policies right because I believe many of the good examples of infill in Old South can be a model for the rest of London.