As population density increases in communities, multi-unit housing is becoming normal for many low- and moderate-income families. These housing types, however, often offer lower levels of connection between neighbours and a reduced feeling of community. This has a significant effect on the health and well-being of residents, and on community resilience as a whole.
The Hey Neighbour Collective project intends to demonstrate and implement a range of practices to deepen social sustainability. In particular, it will highlight the role that landlords, property managers and policy-makers can play in that process. This will be done through four demonstrations that showcase innovative practices to foster social connectedness, social inclusion and resilient communities.
Key Findings / Key Goals
Innovative practices for deepening social sustainability and fostering connected, resilient communities in multi-unit housing contexts.
Stakeholder engagement to shift regulatory, cultural and financial systems to more easily build sociable, affordable and resilient multi-unit housing.
Diverse and innovative approaches for managing and creating socially sustainable and resilient housing.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Strong social connections benefit everyone
Declines in social and community connections have been a cause for concern around the world. Research shows that loneliness and social isolation pose risks to physical and mental health. Low-income households and people living in multi-unit housing are disproportionately affected by this. Factors such as living alone, being a newcomer, or living with mobility or mental health challenges also increase risk. However, research also shows that strong social connections benefit both individuals and communities. They improve physical and mental health outcomes, and they make people and communities more resilient to shocks and stressors. Policy-makers are recognizing this, and all levels of government are moving to address loneliness and social resilience.
Happier tenants and more stable rentals
Addressing loneliness and social isolation in multi-unit housing requires social connections to be promoted among residents. These connections can have significant and lasting effects over time, particularly for vulnerable tenants. For instance, people are more likely to offer or request support when they know their neighbours by name.
Landlords and property managers also have important roles to play in this process. Tenants and landlords have traditionally been viewed as two groups in opposition. Tenants often organize and come together socially to demand changes from their landlords. However, landlords and property managers are uniquely positioned to connect tenants to resources that can help them. This can result in happier tenants and more stable rentals, with less disruption or turnover.
Four partners, four different demonstrations
The Hey Neighbour Collective is part of CMHC’s Demonstration Initiative. It will work with four partners on four different demonstrations that showcase approaches for deepening social connections. These partners work with a variety of vulnerable groups in different multi-unit settings to encourage connected, resilient communities. Each partner is responsible for the approach of their respective demonstration.
- Brightside Community Homes Foundation is a charitable non-profit organization that owns and manages 26 buildings in Vancouver. They are supporting a number of community development initiatives to build resilience and community among low-income residents, mostly seniors.
- Catalyst Community Developments Society is a non-profit developer, owner and operator of non-market rental housing. They are carrying out their Community Connections program, which includes landlord-led or landlord-supported social events, workshops and town hall meetings. The program also promotes resident-led community-building initiatives to support community interaction.
- Building Resilient Neighbourhoods is a non-profit society that focuses on creating more resilient communities and neighbourhoods. Their Connect & Prepare program builds emergency preparedness and community resilience by strengthening social connections between immediate neighbours. Workshops enable neighbours to get to know each other, identify priorities and implement shared preparedness projects in their building.
- West End Seniors’ Network is the second-largest independent seniors’ centre in Vancouver. Its Close to Home initiative builds connections and addresses isolation and loneliness in buildings with higher proportions of older adults. Resident volunteers organize activities to encourage neighbours to gather. Older adults with transportation or mobility challenges are more likely to participate because they don’t need to leave their building.
Together, these projects showcase a wide range of innovations that can be adopted to multi-unit housing across the country. They are also suitable to be used by public, non-profit and affordable housing residents and operators.
A community of practice
Each demonstration will evaluate the impact that their activities and approaches have on their organizations’ well-being and business goals. They will also develop best practices and guides for enhancing social sustainability in multi-unit housing contexts.
The four partners are part of a community of practice that lets them share ideas and feedback with their peers. This allows them to learn from each other and refine and improve their approaches. The Collective will support the four demonstration projects by providing assistance with evaluation tools and connecting them with researchers. This helps with tasks like data analysis and builds the evidence base for future work.
Project Team: Hey Neighbour Collective
Location: Vancouver, Victoria and Penticton (B.C.)
Project Collaborators / Partners:
- Brightside Community Homes Foundation
- Catalyst Community Developments Society
- Building Resilient Neighbourhoods
- West End Seniors Network
- Simon Fraser University
- Happy City
- Concert Properties
- BC Non-Profit Housing Association
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