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Intensifying an Existing Property

August 08, 2022

Intensification is defined as the development of a property, site or area at a density higher than what currently exists. It’s an important planning goal in many municipalities as it offers a range of social, environmental and economic benefits. And, in cities where the shortage of housing options is acute, it’s become a necessity.

Residential intensification comes in a variety of forms. Opportunities for intensification may include rededicating undeveloped land to new construction (also known as infill development), converting previous commercial or industrial spaces, reusing institutional or public buildings, redeveloping underused properties, adding new residential units to existing buildings and more.

The benefits of intensification

Residents, businesses, property owners and municipalities themselves can all benefit from increasing the density within an existing community.

social-benefits Social Benefits

Intensifying an existing community has shown to protect stable residential neighbourhoods while providing a broader choice of housing. This mix of property types leads to diversity of residential character, greater social equality and healthy and complete communities. For instance, it can become easier for young families to afford starter homes, older adults to age in place within their communities, professionals to grow their equity and so on.

Compact cities also generate social conditions conducive to vibrant, lively and productive neighbourhoods that promote active lifestyles (residents tend to walk and cycle more), shorter commutes to work and enhanced services and resources.

economic-benefits Economic Benefits

When population growth can be accommodated within an existing urban area, its land and infrastructure can be used more efficiently – such as roads, schools, water pipes, municipal services and more. In other words, development in already urbanized areas makes use of the existing strengths and resources of a city, instead of spreading them across a widening geographical space.

Plus, increased activity within an existing community brings added support to local businesses, activates new commercial growth and creates more jobs.

environmental-benefits Environmental Benefits

When existing urban land can be reused and intensified, surrounding rural land is protected from urban sprawl, thereby preserving green space, parkland and agricultural areas. Intensification also promotes energy efficient buildings and improved public transit that further reduces the need for car traffic.

How to plan for intensification of an existing property


If you’re exploring an opportunity to intensify an existing property, there are a number of steps you can take for a smooth project.

To start, it’s a good idea to look at city infrastructure plans and assess how your property can leverage these plans. Then, seek higher density zoning for an existing property. Keep in mind, this step will require early engagement and potentially numerous consultations with the existing neighbourhood to get buy-in. There may be some back and forth involved as you and the community agree to the specifics of your plan.

When you’re ready to develop your property, take visual cues from the architectural style of surrounding buildings in the neighbourhood and consider such elements as roof lines, window placement, materials and wall treatments. You will want your property to enhance the area without being incongruous with character and atmosphere of the community.

Finally, it’s worth getting creative. Consider designing taller buildings with definable ground floor, middle and top portions to reduce the perceived building height.

How MCAP can help

With the capacity to fund all build forms – from low-rise to high-rise – and the ability to fund predevelopment loans while up-zoning is in progress, MCAP’s Development Finance Group can help with your next intensification project. What’s more, we understand the zoning processes in all the markets in which we operate and can offer financial support throughout your project.

With deep market expertise and exposure, we understand where infrastructure dollars are being spent and how masterplans work, which allows for increased funding availability. We are expertly positioned to be an invaluable partner as you plan to intensify an existing property.

Contact our team to learn more today.

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