Although Airdrie City Council heard an update about Zero-lot line housing (ZLL) in the city, it may still be too early to tell if this construction model has any negative impacts. 

According to a definition of ZLL in city documents, it is a form of housing that maintains a minimum of 1.5 meters (five feet) of space between homes but allows one house to be built on the property line.

"A joint-access agreement is registered on both titles to inform buyers of the situation. The easements permit roof soffit(s) to project beyond the property line and joint access for maintenance and repairs by each neighbour."

The update to council on Tuesday, came after council had asked city administration to provide an update in the second quarter of 2024 with regard to any potential, 'negative impacts from a market interest in ZLL single-detached homes in new neighbourhoods.'

Council had asked administration to look at several key indicators of how ZLLs were impacting the city, including impacts on on-street parking and the effects on the boulevard and front yard trees. Neighbourhood aesthetic, as well as the diversity of low-density housing options, and whether there were bylaw complaint inquiries, as well as waste and recycling inquiries, were to be monitored. 

Jordan Furness Team Leader of Policy Planning for The City told councillors that three ZLL districts are in the city, but only two are currently in active use. City documents show that 144 lots across five of the city’s many developing neighbourhoods have been subdivided to accommodate zero-lot line homes.

"This accounts for 0.7 per cent of Airdrie’s 20,138 subdivided lots that allow single-detached housing.  Among Airdrie’s eight low-density land use districts, one stock district permits zero-lot-line housing. The district does not permit zero-lot line homes to have front driveways."

z1Although Airdrie City Council heard an update about Zero-lot line housing (ZLL) in the city, it may still be too early to tell if this construction model has any negative impacts.  (Graphic Credit to The City of Airdrie)

In November 2022, a Direct Control District (DC-50) was established to test the concept of front-drive lots utilizing zero-lot-line rules in Sawgrass, which is in the initial development stages.  

"Of the 144 recently subdivided lots, 92 Building Permits have been issued, and 20 homes have been completed," Furness added. 

adaAlthough Airdrie City Council heard an update about Zero-lot line housing (ZLL) in the city, it may still be too early to tell if this construction model has any negative impacts.  (Graphic Credit to The City of Airdrie)

Furness added that administration does not have any new neighborhood structure plans and submissions that are proposing zero lot line approvals.

"What we were looking at, is the impact to on-street parking in particular with the DC-50 district in Sawgrass which does allow front drive and zero lot line homes; but we don't have any completed yet in Sawgrass, although subdivision has happened on a few lots," he added.

As far as the impacts on the boulevard and front yard trees, he noted that there would be no impact. No complaints were send to bylaw nor were there any inquiries regarding wastewater and recycling.

Regarding neighbourhood aesthetics, the agenda report to council noted that, 'the selective use of zero-lot-line designs is not anticipated to significantly impact neighbourhood aesthetics.'

"While homes on a zero-lot line block are one metre (three feet) closer to each other than homes with typical setbacks, from a distance, the homes may, at first glance, more closely resemble blocks with semi-detached or rowhouse-type housing, which is not detrimental to overall neighbourhood aesthetics."

Furness said that it does not appear that other municipalities have stricter or more varied regulations on ZLL than Airdrie. He said that Calgary has allowed ZLL since 2012, in new neighbourhoods.

"There's a slight benefit from some lower costs, perhaps of the home; but then you're also committed to working with your neighbour when it comes to using that shared space; ensuring there's adequate room for snow clearing on the side of the driveways and that type of thing," He explained. "We also wanted to reconfirm that all of these buildings can be and are building with fire code compliance."

Councillors received the presentation for information, agreeing that it may be too early to see any impacts. Councillor Candice Kolson noted that impacts may be seen in several years. 

"I have had complaints and some of them were from people who work at these sites, saying that parking is going to be awful, that the flow of traffic is going to be really bad," Councillor Kolson said. "That's more the width of the road than it is the lot lines themselves; but, I'm really curious as to what a lot of these neighbourhoods will look like a full build-out and how the flow of traffic will go through them."

ZLL are not an entirely new concept to Airdrie, nor are they unique to newer developments. Several years ago, city council reintroduced ZLL into new communities, which was meant to be an additional option for single-detached homes.

"... Some of Airdrie’s existing inner neighbourhoods have similar zero-lot-line developments, but the practice disappeared for several decades in Airdrie until June 2021. Since then, Council has approved zero-lot line land use districting in some new neighbourhoods."

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