Housing affordability and social isolation are 2 of the most pressing issues faced by growing Canadian cities. People are struggling to find affordable housing and communities that enable them to lead balanced thriving lives. They want neighbourhoods where they feel included and can age in place.
The Happy Homes project has created strategies to promote affordability and social wellbeing. These strategies are based on multidisciplinary evidence on wellbeing and multi-unit housing design. This demonstration will showcase those strategies at 2 sites. This will allow it to demonstrate and share the power of thoughtful design and social programming to create affordable and inclusive multi-unit housing.
3 Key Innovations
A resident-driven initiative to co-create community activities that helps neighbours connect and build meaningful relationships.
Design strategies that maximize opportunities in a multi-unit building to provide shared spaces for people to socialize.
A wellbeing evaluation system that uses data and resident’s accounts to document the positive effects of social programming and space design.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Changing demographics and housing arrangements
A 2012 survey found that Metro Vancouver residents identified loneliness and isolation as a primary concern, even above housing affordability. A follow-up survey 5 years later found that residents still felt lonely. Half of respondents found it difficult to make friends and approximately 25% spent more time alone than they liked.
Changing demographics and housing arrangements are partially responsible for disappearing social ties. The number of Canadians living alone doubled between 1981 and 2016. In particular, people who live in condos were twice as likely to live alone as people in other housing arrangements.
Social ties are an important contributor to wellbeing and resilience. Research shows that people with strong social ties live longer and sleep better. They are also more likely to participate in the community and report feeling happier. Overall, Canadians who live alone are significantly more likely to report lower levels of physical and mental health. They also experience lower levels of life satisfaction.
Taking the next step
What began as an attempt to find the intersection between housing design and wellness has grown. It has now produced a toolkit showcasing 47 actions to design inclusive multi-unit housing. It has also brought together a range of housing stakeholders to find practical solutions and policy changes to the challenge.
The next step involves 2 of the project’s Sociability Champions. These organizations, Concert Properties and Tomo Spaces, have been part of the project from the beginning. For this demonstration, they will implement design and programming actions in 2 of their housing projects. This will allow them to test the ideas and identify programming and high-impact actions that other affordable housing providers can follow.
Implementing strategies from the Happy Homes toolkit
The project will occur at 2 separate sites, both of which will be using strategies from the Happy Homes toolkit:
- First Site: The Collingwood Village will focus on social programming actions. The Community Connectors program is a resident-driven engagement initiative that seeks to co-create community activities. These are intended to help neighbours connect and build meaningful relationships. In light of COVID-19, the volunteer residents have been coming up with digital and passive ways to do things together. They have also been organizing outdoor gathering opportunities that allow people to spend time together.
- Second Site: The Tomo Village will focus on the impact of design strategies, building on co-housing learnings. This multi-unit building, home to 12 families, will have many shared spaces where people can socialize. This includes the common house, courtyard, terraces by elevator landings, and wider exterior hallways. Each of these locations provides opportunities for residents to bump into each other, do things together and support each other.
The project follows these demonstrations and evaluates resident wellbeing as they move into their new home and participate in social activities. This will help increase understanding of how social programming and space design have a positive impact on resident wellbeing.
Showcasing design and programming strategies
The demonstration will showcase design and programming strategies for producing socially and economically inclusive communities. These are intended to be replicable by affordable housing, market-rate and below-market providers in the private and public sector. They also can be used across different tenure models for seniors, young people, families, newcomers and people living with disabilities.
In addition to showcasing strategies, the demonstration wants to share the personal experiences and perceptions of residents involved in the demonstration. This combination of wellbeing evidence, data and testimonies will show the effect of thoughtful design and programming actions in multi-unit housing. It will also highlight the positive aspects of the demonstrated approaches, while indicating what some of the challenges might be.
Finally, the demonstration intends to the use the data it generates to prove the benefits of its design and programming strategies. This will enable partners and housing providers who adopt this approach to adjust strategies to increase their effect on resident wellbeing. It will also help analyse current housing policy and drive housing policy that ensures long-term affordability and social wellbeing.
Project Team: Happy City Lab Inc.
Location: Vancouver, B.C.
Project Collaborators / Partners:
- Tomo Spaces
- Concert Properties
Get More Information
Email Innovation-Research@cmhc.ca or visit our website to learn more about the initiatives under the National Housing Strategy.