Area IV: Understanding and Evaluating Models of Community Housing

What approaches to the organization and delivery of community housing have been developed, and how do they achieve operational efficiencies and meet diverse needs? 

The National Housing Strategy signals an intention to invest in, and collaborate with, diverse providers and models to foster a sustainable community housing system.

Housing programs should:

  • Align with other public investments in communities (public transport, education, healthcare), implement local solutions to housing challenges, and support Canada’s climate change and accessibility commitments.
  • Centre on partnerships between various levels of government, social and private housing sectors, and people with lived experience.
  • Partnerships with Indigenous housing providers must be co-developed and founded on the values of self-determination, reconciliation, respect and cooperation.

Cooperative and co-housing models are currently under-utilized in Canada, but have the potential to improve affordability and empower residents through participatory decision-making, and may have particular value for Indigenous communities. Multi-sector partnerships between housing providers, social services, governments and financial institutions can address funding challenges, sector fragmentation, and organizational inefficiencies. Potential benefits include greater inclusion of vulnerable groups and improved financial viability for more diverse housing options and improved financial viability for providers.


  1. To document organizational models used in community housing across Canada
  2. To evaluate those models against NHS priorities for communities and partnerships
  3. To assess models’ ability to meet the needs of residents, including vulnerable populations
  4. To analyze if and how models contribute to sustainability (in terms of structures that support operational efficiency) and resilience (in terms of being creative, flexible and connected).

Area Leads

Rebecca Schiff | University of Northern British Columbia

Dr Schiff’s research investigates marginalised communities’ health and social issues across diverse urban, rural, and remote geographies. This includes a focus on determinants of community wellbeing, social service systems, and social aspects of sustainability, with an emphasis on community-engaged methodologies, community co-generation of knowledge, and integrated knowledge translation


Tom Baker | University of Auckland

Dr Baker’s research focuses on how public policies are made and implemented. Specifically, his research focuses on policies and practices related to homelessness, housing, social security, and drug treatment.

Jim Dunn | McMaster University

Dr Dunn is an expert in the relationship between neighbourhoods, housing and health. His work investigates the impact of housing and neighbourhood interventions on healthy child development.

Russell Richman | Ryerson University

Dr Richman is a civil engineer and building scientist with a private consulting practice. His building science research focuses on improving energy efficiency.

Larry Murphy | University of Auckland

Dr Murphy has published widely on property topics including; homeownership, social rental housing, mortgage securitisation, office development, the institutional evolution of listed property trusts, finance capital and entrepreneurial urban governance.


Mandeep Sidhu, MA | Lakehead University
Graduated August 2022

Mandeep is researching housing cooperative residents’ perceptions of how living in their cooperative affects their health and well-being. The research frames housing cooperatives within the social economy – and seeks to support previous research to uncover if social economy organisations can act as public health interventions to reduce health inequalities. 

“My primary interests are in health inequalities and marginalized populations. I am interested in solutions to health inequalities that are decentralized and participatory in nature. Concerning housing cooperatives specifically, I believe there is enormous potential for housing cooperatives to act as interventions on numerous issues facing Canada, including, but not limited to: housing affordability; increasing civic engagement; reducing health inequalities for marginalized populations and a potential tool for socialization and integration for marginalized individuals. I am excited to continue learning about housing cooperatives and to be hearing from housing cooperatives members about their experiences.”

Ashley Wilkinson | University of Northern British Columbia

Under the supervision of Dr Schiff, Ashley supports the research activities of Area 4. Dr Schiff’s research investigates community health and social issues for marginalized communities across diverse urban, rural, and remote geographies. This includes a focus on determinants of community wellbeing, social service systems, and social aspects of sustainability, with an emphasis on community-engaged methodologies, community co-generation of knowledge, and integrated knowledge translation.

Ashley completed her BSc (Honours) in Medical Sciences at Brock University in 2019 and is a recent graduate of the Health Sciences at Lakehead University, with a MHSc specializing in Indigenous & Northern Health. Her research interests centre on health equity and the health of Indigenous communities, particularly experiences within the healthcare system and health service pathways. Her thesis research examined barriers to culturally safe care for Indigenous Peoples in Canada and Māori of Aotearoa/New Zealand through key informant interviews.

Khater Muhajir | Lakehead University

Areas of research interest: Health equity, refugee health and housing, population health, Indigenous and Northern Health.

Khater Muhajir is currently working as a research assistant with the department of health science at Lakehead university under the supervision of Dr. Schiff. He graduated with a BASc in Public Health from Wilfred Laurier in 2020 and is in his first year of the Master of Health Sciences Program at Lakehead.

John Kojo Menlah | Lakehead University

John is interested in topics related to housing, social determinants of health and health systems.

John is an MHSc. student and a research assistant at Lakehead University specializing in the Social-ecological systems, Sustainability, and Health stream under the supervision of Professor Rebecca Schiff and Professor Anna Kone Pefoyo. He graduated with a BSc (Hons) degree in Development Planning at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology where he worked on numerous public health projects at the School of Public Health such as the Typhoid Vaccine Trial and Reducing Child Mortality in Ghana as an Assistant Project Manager before pursuing his graduate study.

Jack Barrett | University of Auckland

“I’m born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa (Auckland, New Zealand), and currently a PhD (Human Geography) student at the University of Auckland, having completed my undergraduate and Master’s study here too. My Master’s research explored community-led forms of development, documenting how a group of community enterprises reconfigured ‘development’ to meet indigenous preferences for sustainability and place-specific aspirations. I’ve also worked on a diverse range of projects including research with indigenous-led river restoration groups, and an exploration of gentrifying urban spaces in inner-city Auckland. Unifying these different research areas is an interest in social justice, equity, and alternative ways of doing things that may challenge the status quo to materialise these aspirations. Not surprisingly then, I’m really excited to be involved with Community Housing Canada and look forward to the future opportunities to cross-learn, collaborate and contribute to research that will positively impact how housing is conceptualised and practised.”

In Partnership With



Community Housing Canada (CHC) is a joint CMHC – SSHRC funded partnership project with the aim of addressing complex questions that need answers to ensure that the renewal and expansion of community housing in Canada is sustainable and resilient. CHC includes several Areas of Inquiry (AoI) which lead various dimensions of community housing research for the CHC Partnership. AoI IV – led by Dr. Rebecca Schiff – conducts focused research on models of community housing. As part of this work – AoI IV is launching a report on models of community housing in the Canadian context.

Based on data from over a series of interviews with community housing providers across the country, the team developed a booklet to demonstrate the varied models and roles of community (social/affordable) housing providers across the country. In conjunction with this report, AoI IV also aimed to establish an approach for understanding the various dimensions which define the diverse models across the Canadian community housing sector. This initial model – typology – for defining dimensions of community housing are also presented in this report.

A partir des données issues d’une série d’entretiens avec des fournisseurs de logements communautaires au Canada, l’équipe a élaboré un livret pour présenter les divers modèles et rôles des fournisseurs de logements communautaires (sociaux/abordables) à travers le pays. Parallèlement à ce rapport, AoI IV visait également à établir une approche pour comprendre les différentes dimensions à l’origine de ces modèles variés dans le secteur canadien du logement communautaire. Ce modèle initial – la typologie – pour définir les dimensions du logement communautaire est également présenté dans ce rapport.

Perceptions of Health and Wellbeing Benefits from Living in Housing Cooperatives in Canada

This study explores how housing cooperatives can promote health and well-being. Cross-sectional data were collected using semi-structured interviews with representatives and members of fourteen housing cooperatives across Canada. Data analysis was guided by two frameworks proposing how social enterprise and housing promote health and well-being. Overall, research demonstrates that housing cooperatives may improve members’ health and wellbeing via the mechanisms for how social enterprise and housing and health frameworks. The results represent a starting point for housing cooperatives and researchers seeking to demonstrate the benefits to the health and well-being of this tenure type. Also, results suggest potential differences in health and wellbeing arising from community size, location, housing density and target population. The study is among the first in Canada to attempt to provide an overview of potential mechanisms for health and wellbeing arising from housing cooperative tenure.

More than a Roof – Finding Home Post-Pandemic Through Community Housing.

January 26th, 2021 – Rebecca Schiff. Panel: Housing Post Pandemic. Simon Fraser University – Pandemonium series. January 26 2021

Schiff R. 2021. Following Up: Putting rural homelessness on the radar. Interview with Ian Kaufman.

Rebecca Schiff

Schiff, R. 2022. Focus on post-pandemic research. ResearchInfoSource. Debbie Lawes.