Designing density: multi-family design guidelines for social health

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The Township of Esquimalt and Island Health are partnering on a project looking at the effect of housing design on the social well-being of residents. 

Social well-being is an important component of overall health and well-being and the homes we live in can either enhance or impede social connectedness, inclusion, and trust between neighbours.   

For example, design features such as shared gardens, common areas (i.e. recreation rooms, rooftop decks, communal kitchen spaces), and on-site local shops and services can enhance social connectedness and social well-being.  

During the review of the Township’s new Official Community Plan, Island Health staff brought to our attention the need to design higher density housing with social health in mind. The project will focus on the social health of residents, aged 8-80, who live in multi-family residential dwellings in the "missing middle" of the housing spectrum. This kind of housing is multi-unit housing more compatible in scale with single-family homes then high rise buildings, and can include duplexes, townhouses and small apartment or condo buildings. 

Through this project, the Township will be developing policies and guidelines for developers to encourage and promote the inclusion of spaces designed to foster social interaction in multi-family housing.  The Township will work with a consultant, a Healthy Built Environment Specialist from Island Health, and staff from BC Healthy Communities to conduct a community engagement process. 

The Township has been fortunate to receive a 2018 Community Wellness Strategy grant from PlanH to fund this work. PlanH supports the provincial government’s health promotion strategy and is implemented by BC Healthy Communities Society.

For more information on social well-being and how it is connected to housing design: