Mainstreaming ‘sociable design’ for multi-unit housing: mapping the path forward

Hey Neighbour and Happy Cities release a brief summarizing their recent cross-sectoral workshop.

In September 2021, Hey Neighbour collaborated with Happy Cities on an online workshop entitled Mainstreaming Socially Connected, Affordable Housing across British Columbia, which explored cultural, financial, and policy-level challenges to building socially connected, affordable multi-unit housing communities. We were joined by architects, community organizers, developers, funders, housing industry advocates, housing providers, planners, policymakers, property managers, public health experts, and researchers.

On June 8, 2022, we continued the conversation with a similar cross-section of engaged professionals in a half-day in-person workshop as part of the two-day symposium entitled Living Together: Connecting Housing, Social Wellbeing, and Resilience.

In the workshop, we guided participants through a process to envision what design guidelines for social connectedness in multi-unit housing might look like, and what accompanying policies might be needed to implement and incentivize them.

The workshop opened with a presentation by Michael Epp (PDF), Director of Planning from the City of North Vancouver, on their Active Design Guidelines. Michael Epp shared how the municipality built, implemented and incentivized the guidelines. 

Using the Active Design Guidelines and other examples as inspiration, we worked from there in multidisciplinary breakout groups.

In the first breakout activity, we looked at successful examples of multi-unit housing that enables social connectedness and identified important spatial criteria. Using different lenses including building codes, existing policy and guidelines, affordability, equity and sustainability, we identified important elements for social connectedness. We finished by co-creating “roadmaps” for moving towards a greater mainstreaming of guidelines and incentives for ‘sociable’ design. 

Hey Neighbour Collective and Happy Cities hope to continue these cross-sectoral policy design dialogues with municipalities across B.C. over time. 

The workshop brief summarizes participants’ input and is organized into six sections: Introduction and context

  • Elements for socially connected housing
  • Spaces for socially connected housing
  • Design guidelines for socially connected housing
  • Challenges
  • Roadmap towards socially connected housing

A Roadmap for social connectedness in multi-unit housing

Stops and signposts on this roadmap:

  1. Mobilize social connectedness champions
  2. Collect evidence about the importance of social connectedness
  3. Increase awareness of the importance of social connectedness
  4. Create performance-based metrics to measure social connectedness
  5. Pilot social connectedness housing projects and measure their impact
  6. Incentivize programming, design, and policy for social connectedness
A roadmap for social connectedness in multi-unit housing, including mobilizing social connectedness champions, and piloting social connectedness.