How urban infill addresses the housing crisis


Finding solutions to the housing crisis, especially in high costs areas such as San Diego, is challenging and complex.

One trend that has emerged to address this crisis is urban infill housing. Infill is the planning term for rededicating land in an urban environment. Although sometimes this land is used for open space, the reuse of the land can be developed for new construction also.

As the demand for new housing in established neighborhoods increases, home builders are finding ways to create marketable projects on infill sites. For example, homes can be built on smaller lots or lots that are irregular in shape.

Traditionally, young professionals have moved to the suburbs as their families begin to grow – the bottom line is they needed more space for a reasonably affordable price.

But today’s young professionals are choosing a different path. This generation wants to live in an urban environment where there is plenty of shopping and dining and their commute time is shorter.

Infill development, particularly on smaller sites, is one way to expand urban housing options.

A report issued by Next 10, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group in California, states that infill development is a viable solution to housing needs in urban environments. Infill promotes sustainability, uses underused or vacant lots and revitalizes communities. When existing infrastructure is utilized by more people, maintenance and upgrading costs are reduced and fewer tax dollars are spent on developing new services.

Urban communities often promote walking in lieu of driving, because housing is within walking distance of restaurants, shops, professional offices and places of worship. This in turn helps to reduce greenhouse gases and petroleum use. State climate goals are met as a result of the shift.

According to this report, infill results in higher annual economic growth, more tax revenue and lower overall construction costs. Those who live in an infill household reportedly drive as much as 18 miles less a week than commuters who do not live in a home constructed on an infill lot.

Although infill properties might be smaller than what can be purchased in the suburbs, these projects are desirable to buyers. Homeowners seem to be interested in a detached home as long as it has a yard, even if that yard is small. And, they appear to be comfortable with a one-car garage if additional parking is available nearby.

Infill alone does not solve the housing problem. The movement does not fully address the problems of high rent and high home prices, both of which are driving housing affordability concerns. At times those who live in settled areas resist the movement, and this is especially true in areas where there already is multifamily housing.Some people are concerned that a massive amount of infill will change a neighborhood’s feel. However, as populations shift and the need for housing rises, communities likely will continue to have to think outside the box.

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