City council is wrestling with an emerging problem with infill housing. They’re seeing more and more where the hole is dug for a project, and part of the neighbors yard collapses. Yet so far, to the frustration of councillors, there’s been little more than mud slinging done about it.
Council’s urban planning committee heard both sides of the issue, on shoring up where digging would prepare the pouring of a foundation.
“Soil conditions in Edmonton are such that a vast number of builds, shoring is not necessary,” said Len Walters the construction manager for Coventry Homes. He said shoring would at $15,000 per side to the cost of an infill home.
“Most of the soil on a residential housing site is either fill, or has been disturbed, so it could not be classified as hard and compact,” countered Stephen Poole representing the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.
It left Coun. Ben Henderson to chastise members of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. “It may not be about your members. It may be about the substantial other amount of players in there that are not playing by the rules,” he said.
“This is about what we do to make sure that the fly-by-nighters, or the people that choose to cut corners, or all those things can be held to account. Because, I’ll tell you, if you’re a neighbor, and your fence caves in, and your patio goes in, and a year later maybe you get it replaced, you’ve lost the use of your yard for a full year, and I would ask you if that’s fair?”
Coun. Mike Nickel calls them “flippers,” speculators who buy properties, do minimal work to build a new home then sell it for a good “return on investment.”
“There’s some really bad players out there,” Nickel told reporters. “You heard from our legal department, the only recourse is, ‘it’s a private matter, you have to go to the courts’ and I think that’s grossly unfair if we’re the ones responsible for inspecting all the parts of the site, to make sure that it’s safe and it’s built correctly and the neighbor’s property rights are protected.”
Councillors have asked for a report on how to make the rules tougher, and to have more inspections done before problems grow.
“This is just boiling it down to we need a better process and our building inspectors need to be inspecting,” said Nickel.
A report will come back sometime next spring ahead of next year’s construction season.