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CanU 2020 - Step up conversation
Access to Housing

  Wednesday, October 14th 2020

Designing Outside the Box - How urban planners, architects, and designers can make a difference to the lives of many through the thoughtful pursuit of answers to messy questions.


Mark Guslits

Architect, Urban Designer, Community Development Advisor, Professor U of T Daniels Faculty of Architecture


Serena Purdy

Co-chair of Friends of Kensington Market, a not-for-profit, donation driven, volunteer organization.


Ken Greenberg

Urban Designer,
City Building Advocate
and Author

Patrick Condon
Notable Canadian Urban Designer, Planner, Professor, and the Author
of Several Planning Books 

Elina Eskelä
PhD : Suunnittelija | Planner Helsinki City Executive Office planning
and coordinating housing policy



Meet the panel

Access to Housing Recording
Lire la vidéo

What we’ve heard

Canada is a wealthy country, yet hundreds of thousands of Canadians are homeless or living in inadequate, unhealthy conditions. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the growth of tent cities during the Covid-19 pandemic. Clearly, the private market failed to provide housing for everyone and a vigorous, sustained governmental intervention is required. New housing models are also needed, which balance and leverage private and public investments to create a greater diversity of prices and tenure types.

“ Housing has to come first. People have to have
a safe and secure and dignified place to call home
before they can have economic success or start a family. ”


- Andy Filmore                          



(See the Access to Daily Needs conversation panel at 44'32)


  • Promote housing as a human right, not a commodity.

  • No citizen left behind: keep socio-economic inclusion and equality front and center. Build strong, diverse communities that support all their members, and this throughout the various stages of their lives.


  • Stop the sale of public land. Support community land trusts and other not-for-profit ownership forms to promote long term affordability. 

  • Advocate for governments to increase their control over land value and the housing market by securing land and buildings for future housing needs. The Federal Government, notably, needs a systemic, comprehensive reinvestment into public sector housing.


“ There is no way we can use the market to solve
the problem. We have to intervene and stop
the financialization of land. ”


- Patrick Condon, Professor, University of British Columbia                    

(See conversation panel at 13'12)

  • Maintain housing affordability through different tenures and price regulations.

  • Develop policies requiring new real-estate developments to create a significant percentage of non-market, permanently affordable housing.

  • Tie the right to build at higher density to affordability (i.e., where 100% of added units are permanently affordable and pegged to median incomes).

  • Encourage partnerships between private developers and municipalities or public agencies: “hybris models” are needed now.

See Vancouver’s community land trust and Sen̓áḵw lands project

  • Reinvest in housing coops and land trusts to facilitate the redevelopment of excess lands. These can also intervene in projects where only a portion of housing units can be market-oriented and a large proportion maintained as “non-market” such as co-ops, non- profits, or social and assisted living. Build federal programs to provide repayable loans to incentivize this.

See the Forward 9 Co- operative in Toronto’s East End

  • Protect rent controls and limit sales of condos and apartments so they go to people who will live in the units rather than to investment buyers.


“Gentle density”, walkability, lower dependency on cars, inclusivity, and diversity will lead to housing affordability and equity.

- Ken Greenberg.                                        

(See Ken Greenberg’s presentation at 38'00 of the conversation)

Design differently

  • Adopt city-wide affordable housing overlays on top of existing land use zoning.  

  • Provide a variety of low and mid-rise housing options across existing and new neighbourhoods.

  • Design housing for all ages and income levels and include a variety of options for specific groups such as students, people with disabilities, and low-income families. Integrate this diversity in the same neighbourhood, urban block, or development project.

  • Create new partnerships to redevelop public land and ensure delivery of housing as part of larger community hubs (such as schools, public libraries, etc.).

  • Design for aging in place.

  • Address the “Missing Middle” – mid density, compact built form -- bridging the gap between low density/low rise and high density/hi-rise.

  • Unlock the “Yellow Belt”, the zones within inner cities largely comprised of detached single-family homes.

  • Make infill “as of right”: laneway suites, courtyard housing, secondary suites, and other such creative ways to increase density gently while increasing housing choices for families, seniors, singles, and youth.

  • Make vertical living work for families and kids. 



See Toronto’s “Growing Up” urban design guidelines

Case in point : The Helsinki Mix

  • Helsinki owns much of the land allocated to housing, which allows for control of housing affordability (64% of land)

  • 10 000 dwellings under construction (2021)

  • Mixed housing types in the same new neighborhood (socially subsidized, owner-occupied, rental) or even within the same urban block or buildings.

  • Ownership is kept affordable by controlling the selling prices of these dwellings, which are regulated for at leat 30 years.

Source : Elina Eskelä, Helsinki City Executive Office

(See conversation panel at 18'00 to 29'00)

From the Drawing Board


What are the three words you would use to describe the biggest challenge to housing in your city ?


Click on picture to view details


Click on pictures to view details

Anchor 1

The panel

serena Purdy.jpg

Mark Guslits

Principal, Mark Guslits & Associates Inc. – Toronto, ON, Canada     


After practicing as an architect and affordable housing consultant in Canada and the UK, Mark now works primarily as an urban revitalization/mixed income/mixed tenure residential developer and  development consultant and educator - teaching urban design/global development at the Institute Without Boundaries at George Brown College in Toronto and at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the U of T. Recently Mark has joined the Faculty within the Daniels Architecture School at U of T to teach a course in Affordable Housing. 

Serena Purdy

Serena Purdy is co-chair of Friends of Kensington Market, a not-for-profit, donation driven, volunteer organization. Through FoKM she is notable for her work to regulate short-term rentals (with the aim of curbing the displacement of long-term renters), the initiation of the first Emancipation Day “Black Women Paint” mural on Baldwin st. (a mega-mural by black women artists celebrating a vision of the future without oppression), and the my Friend’s Tab program (a pay-it-forward program aimed at helping neighbours maintain the dignity of shopping as they normally would through financial difficulty).


She is also a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto's Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation. Her research focus is in health policy, specifically comparative health systems analysis. Her published work to date focuses on conflicts of interest in biomedicine, as well as the ethical regulation of biosimilar pharmaceuticals.

Serena is deeply committed to community service and evidence informed policy.



Ken Greenberg 

Is an urban designer, teacher, writer, former Director of Urban Design and Architecture for the City of Toronto and Principal of Greenberg Consultants.

For over four decades he has played a pivotal role on public and private assignments in urban settings throughout North America and Europe, focusing on the rejuvenation of downtowns, waterfronts, neighborhoods and on campus master planning, regional growth management, and new community planning. His work sits at the intersection of urban design, architecture, landscape, mobility, social and economic development. Cities as diverse as Toronto, Hartford, Amsterdam, New York, Boston, Montréal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, St. Louis, Washington DC, Paris, Detroit, Saint Paul and San Juan Puerto Rico have benefited from his advocacy and passion for restoring the vitality, relevance and sustainability of the public realm in urban life. In each city, with each project, his strategic, consensus-building approach has led to coordinated planning and a renewed focus on urban design. He is the recipient of the 2010 American Institute of Architects Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Design Excellence and the 2014 Sustainable Buildings Canada Lifetime Achievement Award. He was selected as a Member of the Order of Canada in 2020.



Patrick Condon  

Has over 25 years of experience in sustainable urban design: first as a professional city planner and then as a teacher and researcher. Patrick started his academic career in 1985 at the University of Minnesota before moving to the University of British Columbia in 1992. After acting as the director of the landscape architecture program, he became the James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Liveable Environments. In that capacity he has worked to advance sustainable urban design in scores of jurisdictions in the US, Canada, and Australia. Patrick has also led the Sustainability by Design project by the Design Centre for Sustainability. For over 20 years, the Design Centre and James Taylor Chair worked on a variety of projects and books to contribute to healthier and more sustainable urban landscapes.

Recognizing the need for collaboration as a fundamental part of designing sustainable communities, Patrick has pioneered public engagement methods. He has successfully focused attention on how to make systemic change in the way cities are built and operated, notably in his East Clayton project in Surrey, BC. More recently, he and his research partners collaborated with the City of North Vancouver to produce a 100-year plan to make the city carbon-neutral by 2107. Patrick and his partners received the Canadian Institute of Planners Award for Planning Excellence and the BC Union of Municipalities Award of Excellence for this work.

Elina Eskelä 

As a planner at the Helsinki City Executive Office, Elina coordinates and develops housing policy in Helsinki, Finland, ensuring mixed tenure development in the neighbourhoods. As Helsinki strives to hold its position as a textbook example in Europe of how to prevent segregation, Elina is also planning suburban renewal projects, enabling equality and wellbeing in all districts. She also works with projects aiming at innovative housing solutions and diversifying housing in apartment buildings.

Elina holds a PhD in Urban Geography from University of Helsinki. Her research has focused on housing preferences of skilled migrants and social aspects of housing. Elina was Chair of the Finnish Society of Urban Planning (2017-19).

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