Urban Infill: Making City Living Attainable for All

Resident influx across the country has demonstrated the true necessity to proactively adapt housing product offerings to accommodate the evolving market
By Vic Remmers

San Francisco. Seattle. Los Angeles. Denver. Portland. New residents are flocking to metropolitan areas like these, and who can blame them? These cities, and many others throughout the nation, provide brand new experiences, one-of-a-kind cultures and diverse job opportunities. But what happens when urban cities struggle to keep up with increasing populations?

Exponential Urban Growth
Growth has the potential to lead to a wide variety of housing and affordability- related issues. Take our company’s hometown of Portland, Ore. for example. In the past, cities like Portland lured people of all different ages, backgrounds and financial circumstances with the promise of low cost living. Over time, Portland has consistently expanded in population and size, welcoming more than 100,000 new residents over the past 10 years. And there’s no sign of stopping anytime soon, with an estimated 260,000 residents projected over the next two decades.

Portland is not alone in its expanding population. Resident influx across the country has demonstrated the true necessity to proactively adapt housing product offerings to accommodate the evolving market. Infill homebuilders can cohesively work in partnership with growing cities to meet heightened demand, alleviate housing shortages and combat soaring prices.

What are the Challenges?
Urban growth boundaries in cities like Portland are implemented to serve as building perimeters and limit urban sprawl. Infill builders are only permitted to develop within the city’s existing infrastructure, at times leading to a land shortage. As Portland and urban populations continue to swell, it is a simple lesson of supply and demand: less available land means less homebuilding opportunity, inevitably causing urban prices to skyrocket.

Once infill homebuilders identify a piece of land within the urban core, lot zoning also poses potential challenges. Let’s say a piece of land is spacious enough to house four new homes. If this lot is zoned for single dwelling, the existing structure must be replaced with yet another single-family home. As various cities face significant housing shortages, zoning restrictions like these make it difficult to provide the homes urban areas desperately need.

Working Together to Evolve Zoning Codes
In order to overcome challenges like these, homebuilders are able to work hand-in-hand with their cities to support the affordable housing needs of urban influx.
Across the nation, it is essential that urban zoning codes move forward in succession with the changing housing market. In cities such as Portland, current zoning codes are outdated and do not fulfill the diverse housing needs of today and the future.

How can infill homebuilders help? A great option is to get involved with applicable city-level committees. In Portland, the Residential Infill Stakeholder Advisory Committee welcomes developers, architects, nonprofit leaders and neighborhood members to assist the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in evaluating everything from the city’s housing needs and scale of houses to narrow lot development and alternative building options.

Creating Cost Effective Urban Housing Solutions
For infill developers interested in building freestanding homes within a city’s core, narrow or “skinny” designs are an excellent choice. Because of their slim structure, low construction cost and high buyer desirability, infill homebuilders are able to construct multiple skinny homes on a single lot. This makes efficient use of valuable urban land and provides housing at a much more economical price point.

Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs, are another fully self-contained option for city dwellers, given an infill property is zoned appropriately. Small in size, low in cost and built along side another structure, these two homes have separate owners and financing. With the goal of providing affordable density, projects like these permit infill homebuilders to create double the housing on urban properties.

Want to grow up, rather than out? Mixed-use apartments are the perfect vertical solution. Featuring commercial on the lower level and residential dwelling above, they utilize land efficiently, provide multiple urban housing options, and promote convenient, connected city living. Townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and so forth are similarly beneficial with their shared walls and multiple-unit structures.

Through expanding infill offerings and services, as well as collaborating within urban communities to amend outdated legislation, urban infill homebuilders have ample opportunity to help support the needs of population influx. Together, they can create increased housing across the nation and make city living attainable for all.

Vic Remmers, President and owner of Everett Custom Homes, is a local resource for all things urban homebuilding. For more information visit

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