Slim Homes

“Skinny homes” have been a popular trend in our city and are typically built on lots that are 25 to 33 feet wide. The great thing about a skinny home is that it can feel like a townhouse or duplex without having to share the walls with your neighbor.

In 2015, Edmonton City Council voted to allow subdivision of 50-ft lots in all neighbourhoods. “This should help make infill more affordable again”, said Mayor Don Iveson, speaking outside that public hearing. “By increasing the supply we’ll see more of them and we’ll see price discipline come back.”

Council is also trying to encourage infill and increased density to make the city more efficient, reducing the number of new neighbourhoods needing additional fire halls, libraries, roads and snow plows.

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Skinny homes are moving up in Edmonton.

The narrow houses, typically two storeys tall and 17 feet wide, are becoming commonplace in places like Glenora, Westmount and Inglewood, a few years after long-time residents decried them as ruining the feel of their mature, tree-lined neighbourhoods.

Sue McCoy, president of the Glenora community league, said most residents seem to accept skinny homes as part of the neighbourhood’s modern landscape. “The assumption is if a house is coming down, two skinnies are going up,” McCoy told CBC News. “That’s what we’re seeing.”

The change of perspective is fairly new. When the discussion on skinny homes started in 2013, the city heard loud and clear from residents of mature neighbourhoods. “There was certainly outrage,” McCoy said. “There was just definitely people very disappointed thinking that the whole character of Glenora was being destroyed by doing this and that we had a responsibility as citizens to make it known, so they tried and here we are.”

Skinny homes are usually built on 25-foot wide lots after a 50-foot lot has been split into two. Realtors say the older homes are being sold by people with investment properties that have been rented out for a long time and baby boomers looking to downsize or make money by splitting lots. “Once the two houses are built and landscaped and they become part of the community. It can actually work and blend.”

Approvals for lot splitting went up more than 50 per cent between 2015 and 2016 after the city started allowing owners to subdivide properties 50 feet wide or larger. Chris Proctor, a realtor with 10 years of experience selling homes in Edmonton’s older neighbourhoods, said skinnies are in high demand. He’s noticed the trend building since 2013, when the city first started allowing 50-foot lots to be split in certain residential areas.

The rules were further relaxed in 2015, allowing skinny homes in all mature neighbourhoods. “That’s really when the skinnies took off because it just opened the door to neighbourhoods like Glenora and Westmount,” Proctor said. “It has really drastically changed in the last couple of years and it’s continuing to change.”

He recently sold a skinny in Glenora for about $900,000. “Every time one of these tear down opportunities hits the market that’s 50 feet or wider, if it’s priced properly, it’s selling in less than a day and usually way over the asking price.”

McCoy said while she didn’t like the look of skinny homes at first, she’s come to appreciate the ones that are designed and constructed well. “Some of them are — like they’re really sleek looking, they’re really clean looking.”

McCoy notes younger families are moving into the skinnies, bringing revitalization to the community. “We need more people engaged and certainly more energy,” she said. “I think given all those factors, I’ve shifted my viewpoint.”