Area V: Imagining Community Housing Futures

What housing imaginaries shape our understanding of community housing and what are their implications for investment in the sector?

The NHS commits to investing in the sustainability of communities and the resilience of community housing. 

Investment is directed towards specific priorities, including testing housing innovations that support the sector’s efforts to become more capable, viable and empowered, and developing and implementing local solutions to housing challenges. This priority to invest in innovations is related to the conjoined principles that housing programs be aligned with “public investments in job creation, skills training, transit, early learning, healthcare, and cultural and recreational infrastructure” and that the community housing sector be “prioritized, protected and grown.”

In Canada, community housing has been formed at specific junctures of welfare state transformation and through on-going processes of policy borrowing and learning. A ‘hybrid’ sector has coalesced over time, but has come under increased pressure as operating agreements expire, buildings age and demand increases. It remains subsidy dependent and fragmented; however, renewed engagement by federal and provincial governments has opened space for potential regeneration. 

Change is contingent on how the sector is understood, both in terms of its current state and its functions. These ‘housing imaginaries’ are multiple, cross-cutting and sometimes competing. One imaginary positions the sector precariously yet sees hope in an entrepreneurial orientation supported by a range of new business practices. Another positions the sector as a social good, contributing collective benefits and addressing market failures in ways that justify public investments. These and other imaginaries configure the sector’s funding and regulatory system and thus establish the parameters of what is possible. Combining historical and contemporary data sources, including case studies of partner organizations, with conceptual models of housing and the state, this Inquiry will provide direction for investment in and regulation of community housing.


  1. To describe and compare the imaginaries that have structured the community housing sector at particular conjunctures, including those that inform the NHS
  2. To identify ‘subaltern’ imaginaries, such as Indigenous notions of housing,86, 91 that are eclipsed by dominant ways of understanding community housing yet offer alternative ways of foreseeing its transformed purpose and function

Area Lead

Joshua Evans | University of Alberta

Dr. Evans brings expertise in social marginalization and spaces of policy development and implementation. His work has examined (a) spaces of care, home, and work and their role in shaping the lived experiences of socially marginalized and vulnerable individuals, and (b) spaces of policy development and implementation and their role in the creation of healthy, enabling and equitable urban environments.


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.

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.

André-Anne Parent | Université de Montréal

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

Rob Shields | University of Alberta

Dr. Shields holds a Henry Marshall Tory Chair and is a leading theorist of the materialities and cultures of urban space. 

In Partnership With

Community Housing Futures Website