StudentDwell+: Reimagining student housing
StudentDwellTO is a multi-university, multidisciplinary initiative funded by the Presidents of the four Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Universities (OCAD University, Ryerson University, University of Toronto and York University) to examine access to affordable housing for postsecondary students, a challenge that has by all accounts reached a crisis point in the Greater Toronto Area. The study aims to provide a deeper understanding of student needs and choices about housing, while suggesting possible policy and development directions.
Led by FES professor Luisa Sotomayor, York’s project team includes both undergraduate and graduate students who are currently involved in the research: Allison Evans (BES Honours Thesis student), Jamilla Mohamud (MES Planning), Reva White (MES Planning), and Aida Mas Baghaie (MES Planning). Alumnus Nicholas Brownlee (MES Planning) contributed to previous research phases. In 2018, York’s StudentDwellTO team coordinated over 25 focus groups with post-secondary students and housing experts, curated the exhibition “The Question of Home” (with Geography PhD student Chan Arun-Piña), and organized a series of academic and community events on the subject of student housing.
This fall, prof. Sotomayor also integrated the goals of StudentDwellTO into curriculum. Students in her graduate course ENVS 6331 Planning in Toronto Workshop, worked with external partners at the City of Toronto and at The National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE) to evaluate the results and opportunities of The City of Toronto’s HomeShare Pilot Project. This housing pilot matches older adults who have a spare room in their home with post-secondary students who are looking for affordable housing. In exchange for reduced rent, the students agree to provide a few hours per week contributing to the household.
The StudentDwellTO team is currently preparing to release their findings with the support of a SSHRC Connection grant recently awarded to professor Sotomayor. “StudentDwell+: Reimagining Student Housing” is a three-day event that will take place from May 1-3, 2019 at York University. The goal of StudentDwell+ is to bring together an interdisciplinary group of experts on student housing (including academics, students and practitioners) to: (1) advance and disseminate knowledge on student housing; (2) create new research collaborations across disciplines, sectors, and geographies; and (3) activate a research partnership into action. StudentDwell+ will complement and strengthen StudentDwellTO’s activities by advancing and mobilizing knowledge on student housing, creating new cross-sectoral connections, and enhancing student training. While the geographic focus of StudentDwellTO is on the GTA, StudentDwell+ will facilitate inter-city comparison by presenting and contrasting cases from Canada, the UK, the United States, Denmark and India.