BC Healthy Communities’ planning team, together with Urban Matters, recently netted a nomination for the Planning Institute of BC's New Directions Award for their work on the Strathcona Regional District Housing Needs Assessment. The project, which wrapped last year, was deemed as innovative for its approaches to gathering qualitative data. These included community engagement techniques designed to reach members of the community from across the housing spectrum, particularly from those regularly accessing housing services, those experiencing homelessness, and those with mental health challenges and diverse abilities. This allowed for a report that highlighted not only necessary information on housing stock and tenure, but also systemic issues impacting accessibility and affordability across the region, including systemic racism, lack of food access and challenging transportation scenarios.
The approach used in presenting the final data for this assessment also reflected BC Healthy Communities’ and Urban Matters’ commitment to equity. Through the creation of Community Housing Profiles that included interviewee quotes and infographics alongside traditional housing needs data, the reports were able to portray the housing need information for the region in a way that encouraged local governments and community organizations to take action.
“BC Healthy Communities and Urban Matters implicitly understood the potential reach and impact this assessment could have if the information and recommendations were delivered in an accessible way. They painted clear pictures of the housing situation and its impacts on some of our most marginalized community members, articulating the links between housing and general community health and well-being, and creating momentum for political action on this issue,” said Amber Zirnelt, Long Range Planning & Sustainability Manager with the City of Campbell River.
The report has already resulted in a fundamental shifts for the community. Following the recommendations of the needs assessment and the Coalition to pursue supportive housing, the City of Campbell River signed an MOU with BC Housing for a 40 unit supportive housing development for individuals that are homeless or at risk of homelessness.