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Hard Shells - Soft Services: Mobilizing Knowledge for Housing and Social Health

Researchers: Prof. Ute Lehrer & Thorben Wieditz

Hard Shells - Soft Services: Mobilizing Knowledge for Affordable Housing and Social Health is a collaborative project between Ute Lehrer of the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, the Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre (PARC) and a recently formed community-based group called Abandonment Issues (AI). The overall goal is to translate the findings and insights of this pilot study into a broader, regional perspective (York Region) and to inform policies in regards to affordable housing and social health infrastructure.

The research goals are (1) to investigate the relationship between disinvestment (abandonment), reinvestment (the condo-boom) and the role of social health institutions in a specific neighborhood (Parkdale), (2) to discuss the findings of this case study in a broader regional context of York Region and to build partnerships with organizations in the non-governmental and governmental sector, and (3) to influence decision making in regards to housing policies and social programming design on a municipal and provincial level.


The relationship between the city and its outlying region has been studied over several decades now, and has brought problems to the foreground that exist in both places but experienced in different ways, for example social isolation and, as a consequence, mental health. More recently, studies have tried to determine a relationship between the increase of obesity and urban form, but so far are inconclusive. What we will study is the relationship between affordable housing and health, and in particular the relationship between dis- and re-investment into the built environment and social health provision.

Over the past decades, the Parkdale community has acquired a rich understanding of the relationship between disinvestment and reinvestment into the housing stock and its impact on affordable housing and social health services. Sharing these lessons with the wider community would be of great benefit as it not only enriches the discussion about solutions to the lack of affordable housing and social health infrastructure but also provides community-based knowledge for the development of policy documents in regards to housing and health. This knowledge mobilization process will be facilitated by a Community Forum with a wide variety of community-based organizations as well as governmental representatives of York Region on the topic of the needs for affordable housing and social health services.

This project has been made possible through a financial contribution from the Knowledge Mobilization Unit, York University.