How density can boost wellbeing

Don’t fear density; B.C.’s housing targets can be a wellbeing win.

People who oppose rezoning single-family neighbourhoods often claim that density is bad for our health and wellbeing. But what does the data really say? With the B.C. government’s recent announcement of new housing targets for B.C. municipalities, Happy Cities dug into the evidence on density and wellbeing. 

In short, research tells us that density alone won’t kill our wellbeing. In fact, density is a necessary ingredient to enable healthy, socially connected, inclusive communities. But how we grow matters.

We have a wealth of evidence to guide new growth in a healthy, sustainable way. If we design it right, density can enable the places and streets we love most: By building more homes in existing neighbourhoods, we allow more people to live in walkable, vibrant, social places with easy access to cafés, parks, transit, community festivals, and more. In short, density is an opportunity to create more choices for people about where and how they want to live—not fewer. And if we design new housing to foster social connection, we ensure that everyone—whether they live in a ground-level townhouse or on the 25th floor—has opportunities to get to know neighbours and build connections with their community.

More specifically, municipalities can consider policy, design, and programming solutions to help unlock the social potential of diverse multi-unit housing forms. In this realm, the City of North Vancouver has been a leader through its Active Design Guidelines, encouraging social corridors, outdoor play spaces, and other social design features. To build on this momentum, Hey Neighbour Collective and Happy Cities are working together with municipalities across Metro Vancouver to create social wellbeing design guidelines for new multi-unit developments.

Read the full article to uncover three key learnings on how density can boost wellbeing.