Area III: Fostering Social Inclusion Through Community Housing

How can inclusion be conceptualized, measured and achieved in the community housing sector?

The NHS emphasizes social inclusion at the neighbourhood level as a priority for community housing. 

Inclusion is defined as “reduc[ing] barriers that restrict the resources and opportunities of disadvantaged groups.” By definition, adequate housing includes access to “employment opportunities, health- care services, … transit, schools, childcare centres and other social facilities.” The goal is to ensure future residents live in communities that are diverse, sustainable and supported “to build secure, productive and meaningful lives … [and] participate fully in society and the economy.” This “place-based” approach is intended to prevent segregation of community housing residents, and to integrate new buildings into communities.

Locating community housing in “sustainable neighbourhoods” with “social and economic diversity, public transit, and pedestrian orientation” has been a difficult goal to realize. Instead, it tends to be located in lower-value, lower-amenity areas, as well-situated land is often prohibitively expensive to purchase and develop. Neighbourhood inclusion indicators such as accessibility, walkability, and proximity to services can be difficult to reconcile with affordability.This can be addressed by mandating affordable housing in diverse neighbourhoods – e.g. through inclusionary zoning. Such actions may encounter local resistance and prejudice towards tenants as ‘anti- community.’ Access to neighbourhood amenities is particularly important for lower-income residents, who may rely heavily on local services and resources. In turn, neighbourhood integration and accessibility have implications for wellbeing, safety, social connectedness and quality of life.


  1. To investigate barriers to and opportunities for social inclusion within neighbourhoods and buildings
  2. To develop a broader set of measures for neighbourhood-level inclusion, drawing on alternative framings of accessibility;81
  3. To document community housing residents’ experiences of inclusion and integration
  4. To examine how inclusion contributes to community housing sustainability (in terms of being people-oriented) and resilience (in terms of meeting tenant needs).

Area Lead

Julia Woodhall Melnik | University of New Brunswick

Dr. Woodhall-Melnik’s research experience centres on exploring employment and housing as social determinants of physical and mental health, addiction and concurrent disorders. Her work investigates the effectiveness of publicly funded rehousing and housing loss prevention interventions on health and housing outcomes, employment and income.


Ed Hall | University of Dundee

Dr Hall specializes in disability, learning disability, social inclusion/exclusion, and belonging.

Katie MacDonald | Athabasca University

Dr MacDonald’s focus is interdisciplinary community-engaged research focused on learning in encounters with difference. In particular, she is interested in understandings of relational poverty and has looked at sites on the global and local scales

André-Anne Parent | Université de Montréal

Dr. Parent is an expert in social inequalities and public policy analysis. 

Rob Wilton | McMaster University

Dr. Wilton’s research is broadly concerned with the social geographies of exclusion. Much of his research has focused specifically on the experiences of people with disabilities.

Sabine O’Donnell | McMaster University

Sabine’s anticipated research area will focus on fostering inclusion in social housing, as part of Area of Inquiry III in the Community Housing Canada Project. Specifically, she is hoping to research how people with disabilities navigate social housing and the challenges they face in doing so. The hope of this research is to identify ways in which social housing can be made more accessible to those with disabilities.

“My undergraduate degree in Geography from McMaster University focused heavily on geographies of exclusion in cities, particularly with regards to gentrification of urban spaces and the inaccessibility of cities for people with disabilities. I am hoping that the work I do on this project will help to reduce those barriers to access that people with disabilities face within cities, and particularly within housing. I feel privileged to be able to work with this team, and hope that the work that comes out of this project will be able to create a more equitable housing experience in Canada.”

Yushu Zhu | Simon Fraser University

Dr. Zhu’s research focuses on housing and community issues against the backdrop of urbanization and globalization. She pays special attention to communities of immigrants, low-income populations, and ethnic minorities.

Chloé Reiser | University of New Brunswick

Cait Grogan | University of New Brunswick

Caitlin’s research area focuses on fostering social inclusion through housing for individuals with disabilities, as part of Area of Inquiry III in the Community Housing Canada project. Caitlin is focusing on creative supported living arrangements that aim to enhance social inclusion. Caitlin completed her undergraduate honours at UNB, completing her thesis on the mental health impacts of housing displacement. She now works for the Laboratory for Housing and Mental Health at UNB where she is completing her graduate studies. Caitlin looks forward to bringing her knowledge on social inclusion, and learning from other experts in Area of Inquiry III.

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