Safe, affordable, sustainable

September 17, 2020
Andrea Boyes

A Royal Roads sustainability researcher is part of a team that has been awarded a $1.37-million grant to address the issue of increased need for community housing in Canada.

Assist. Prof. Runa Das of the College of Interdisciplinary Studies is part of a research team led by the University of Alberta’s Dr. Damian Collins, focused on making Canada’s community housing options sustainable and resilient.

The new research partnership, called Community Housing Canada: Partners in Resilience, will examine Canada’s system of community housing, which includes non-market housing that is operated by non-profit organizations, co-operatives and all levels of government.

Das is responsible for studying the environmental sustainability component of housing. Das says she seeks to understand how people can have their well-being supported through proper shelter, and at the same time move towards a sustainable world.

“I want to start by talking to people living in community housing, to involve them and find out what well-being means to them. That’s important to better understand the types of housing that can best support them,” Das says. “Next, I want to have conversations with community housing providers to see what they envision in terms of sustainable housing and see if it fits with concepts held by those living in community housing.

“Essentially it will be very important to involve many actors and stakeholders, including the team of researchers comprised of building scientists, engineers, and social scientists, to hopefully arrive at an overlapping definition of sustainability that can achieve people’s well-being.”

“Safe, affordable housing is a foundation for life and should be accessible to everyone, regardless of income,” says Collins, the project director and professor of human geography at the University of Alberta. “Canada’s current housing system, with its widespread challenges, does not allow many households in low-to-moderate incomes to realize their right to housing.”

The research is funded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The research team will work alongside 7 university partners and 12 community housing organizations across the country, from Vancouver Island to New Brunswick.

Das says sustainable housing must be affordable – for those who live there and for the organizations that manage and operate these types of homes.

“That is housing that people can call home, “she says. “A home that provides people with comfort, safety and happiness with minimal to no negative environmental impact.”

- With files from Katie Willis, Communications and Engagement, University of Alberta Faculty of Science