Pros and cons of infill development


Infill construction is one method of redeveloping obsolete or underutilized land that is helping to revitalize urban communities. Infill breathes new life into empty buildings, vacant parking lots and unused parcels.

Homes located in urban neighborhoods are in higher demand than larger homes in the suburbs. One reason for this trend is that today’s young professional want to live closer to work as well as the amenities that city living offers, such as a variety of shopping and dining within walking distance.

The renewed focus on work centers in central business districts has led not only to residential towers going up in downtown areas but also to infill development. Good city planning might even use zoning to require that multi-story apartment buildings and commercial areas be within a certain proximity of public transportation or main thoroughfares.

Just like many other communities throughout California, San Diego has seen numerous master-planned large-tract developments in outlying suburban areas. As homes have been built further and further away from the city, developers have turned to infill development as an option.

Why infill?

The reasons to support infill are varied. Let’s look closer at some of these pros.

  • Infill projects place residents closer to jobs and community services.
  • New construction revitalizes the area and boosts the neighborhood’s economy.
  • Infill often utilizes existing infrastructure and facilities.
  • In some cases, infill saves historic structures, including preserving them or bringing a new appreciation for them.
  • City centers typically offer more transportation options than the suburbs.
  • Businesses are closer to residents and existing facilities.
  • Landscaping is mature landscaping, which reduces cost and increases property values.
  • Infill invests back into the existing community.
  • Local or state agencies sometimes provide financial incentives.

Although there are many good reasons to support the idea of infill construction, there is a downside, too. Let’s consider some of those “cons”.

  • Infill development can affect established communities and the people who live there. Not only is construction messy, but traffic patterns often are altered and there is a dirt on the road, noise during construction and blocked lanes or driveways.
  • New construction in the city usually is more costly than suburban development. The cost of updating and/or upgrading infrastructure can be a challenging as well. Sometimes existing infrastructure has to be updated or relocated.
  • Zoning changes can create angst for neighborhood residents and businesses. The permitting processes usually requires multiple hearings, increased building/zoning requirements and parking requirements. Area residents who oppose projects typically are more vocal than those residents who support the idea.

Overall, most city officials and developers will agree that the concept of infill is a reasonable and sensible approach to increasing housing options. Not only does infill revitalize, it also takes advantage of infrastructure and services that exist. For developers, the value and return on investment of infill usually outweighs the inconveniences such as waiting for permit approvals.

Murfey Company specializes in residential and commercial construction services. For more information visit