Join the next ‘Housing That Connects Us’ webinar: The Affordability Puzzle

Increasing housing supply is essential, but how can we ensure that the next generation of homes fosters community, supports aging well in the right place AND is affordable across the widening spectrum of incomes in our cities?

Join us on Thursday, May 2nd at 9:30 AM PST for an engaging conversation with Madeleine Hebert (Happy Cities) and housing expert Robert Brown (Chesterman Properties) on how to build more inclusive, age-friendly, sociable multi-unit housing that is affordable across a wide spectrum of income levels.

As Canadian cities densify, multi-unit housing is becoming a dominant form for many – if not most – households. These housing types, however, need a different approach in order to foster increased connection between neighbours and a greater feeling of community. This is not a minor issue: our connections with neighbours – and with our immediate neighbourhood – impact our health in significant and measurable ways

Multi-unit housing is NOT inherently isolating: thoughtful design and programming can help to build community, neighbourly connections and resilience. Great examples of inclusive, ‘sociable’ multi-unit housing exist but they are too often the exception, not the rule. 

In a time of polycrisis (affordability, housing, climate change, growing inequity, aging populations, loneliness etc.) we need to pull together across sectors to mainstream socially connected, resilient, inclusive, age-friendly multi-unit housing. 

After all, housing is so much more than walls, floors and a roof. It is essential infrastructure, a human right and a key social determinant of health.

Increasing housing supply is essential, but how can we ensure that the next generation of homes fosters community, supports aging well in the right place AND is affordable across the widening spectrum of incomes in our cities? 

  • Join Michelle Hoar (Hey Neighbour Collective) and Madeleine Hebert (Happy Cities) as they share key learnings from work with six Metro Vancouver jurisdictions to co-create inclusive, sociable design policy for new multi-unit housing.
  • Learn from housing expert Robert Brown (Chesterman Properties) about how local governments (and others) can help to mainstream great housing design while also supporting – and dare to dream – deepening affordability.

Thursday, May 2nd, 9:30 AM Pacific (click for Zoom Room information)

Thursday, May 2nd from 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM PST


Michelle Hoar, Project Director, Hey Neighbour Collective

Michelle Hoar has a laugh against a brick wall.

Michelle is the Project Director for Hey Neighbour Collective, a collective impact initiative housed at the SFU Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue, where she is also a Fellow.

Launched in 2019, Hey Neighbour brings together housing providers, non-profits, researchers, local and regional governments, housing associations and health authorities to experiment with and learn about ways of building community, social connectedness and resilience in BC’s fast-growing multi-unit housing communities.


Madeleine Hebert, Senior Housing Specialist, Happy Cities

Madeleine Hebert, Senior Housing Specialist with Happy Cities, smiles wearing large glasses and a pink striped shirt as she stands against a concrete wall.

Madeleine is a senior housing specialist with Happy Cities, a key partner in the Hey Neighbour Collective. She leads housing projects at Happy Cities, working with professionals and communities to boost social connectedness, resilience, and wellbeing through intentional design and policies.

Her work promotes collaborative approaches and ensures that spaces provide equitable opportunities for everyone. Madeleine has experience designing educational facilities and housing projects across the province of BC. Her educational background includes a multidisciplinary Environmental Design degree from the University of British Columbia and a Master of Architecture from Carleton University.

Robert Brown, President, Chesterman Properties

Robert is a deeply respected and innovative real estate professional with 45-years experience in market and non-market housing development. As Founder and past-President of non-profit developer Catalyst Community Developments Society, Robert worked with numerous municipalities, non-profits, and faith-based organizations to develop mixed-use below-market rental housing communities. He continues to be involved in development through his Chesterman Properties and his involvement with Sacha Investments – an impact investment vehicle actively investing in affordable housing in BC and Alberta. He is also a recent appointee to the BC Housing board of directors.

Robert is a firm believer that we can develop housing solutions that serve people’s needs, minimize our ecological footprint, and remain financially feasible; constructing homes that are not only comfortable, beautiful, and secure but also affordable, healthy and economically sustainable. He is passionate about creating homes that foster a sense of community and contribute significantly to people’s happiness.

A participant in a recent presentation by Robert referred to him as the ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ of housing finance. Robert swears he has not watched Star Wars, but those who know him will find the reference apt. Come ready to take copious notes and ask LOTS of questions!


Researchers have been learning about the health and wellbeing impacts of loneliness, social isolation and declining feelings of community belonging for many years now. The evidence is conclusive: social connectedness and a sense of community belonging are integral elements of personal and collective physical and mental health across all demographics. People with weak social connections have a 50% greater risk of death than those with stronger connections; an effect on mortality as strong as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Locally, Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health have collaborated on My Health My Community surveys of tens of thousands of British Columbians. Learn more about their findings and recommendations for how positive changes in our built environment can contribute towards mitigating worrisome trends.

Hey Neighbour Collective (HNC) formed in 2019 in response to the type of research mentioned above, with a focus on ways of building social connectedness between neighbours within multi-unit housing.

In late 2020 HNC submitted a discussion paper to the Metro 2050 Regional Growth Strategy consultations: “Developing Truly Complete Communities: Social equity, social connectedness, and multi-unit housing in an age of public health and climate crises.

One of the recommendations within the report that had strong interest from those consulted was that Metro Vancouver member municipalities should develop design guidelines and incentives for multi-unit housing that fosters neighbourly social connections. In collaboration with long-time partner Happy Cities, HNC hosted cross-sectoral workshops in September 2021 and June 2022 to further this idea.

“The desire for socially connected, cohesive communities is included in all the broad community plans. But that vision gets filtered out as you build something because it’s not mandated in actual development processes.”

— A September 2021 workshop participant (architect)

These efforts yielded fruit. Metro 2050 was approved in February 2023 with a specific requirement for its 21 member jurisdictions to show how their “local actions and policies” will contribute to “increased social connectedness in multi-unit housing.”  

There are many ways to support social connectedness in multi-unit housing. But one of the most powerful is to design housing from the outset to intentionally foster connection. A strong physical foundation supports both organic and programmatic forms of neighbourly interactions, connections and systems of mutual support.

Hey Neighbour Collective, Happy Cities and SFU Gerontology are collaborating on a project entitled Building Social Connections: Housing design policies to support wellbeing for all, which is supporting six Metro Vancouver jurisdictions to co-create new guidelines and incentives informed by research and best practices from near and far.

Our sponsors

This project received funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the views expressed are those of the author and CMHC accepts no responsibility for them.

About Hey Neighbour Collective

Hey Neighbour Collective (HNC) brings together landlords and housing operators, non-profits, researchers, local and regional governments, housing associations and health authorities. Together with residents of multi-unit housing, these HNC partners take action to alleviate loneliness and social isolation through building social connectedness, resilience, and capacity for neighbourly support and mutual aid.  

HNC is housed at the SFU Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue. Key academic research partners include SFU Urban Studies, Gerontology and Health Sciences. Happy Cities is also a key research and engagement partner and Vancouver Coastal Health is one of a number of ‘learning network’ partners.