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Same House—Better Homes

The cost of living is rising, and in most Canadian cities, that includes housing. In St. John's 28% of all renters were in Core Housing Need, and that number jumps to 38% when you consider one person households. [1] How do we increase affordable housing here, and what does that look like? I've laid out six design principles in the Affordable Housing Toolkit, and given a brief synopsis in this video. [2]

It became clear to me that we have a mismatch. More one-person households are looking for homes than are available, and those looking aren't interested in what once served as family homes. The three, four, five bedroom homes that are really starting to degrade. So, why not repurpose some of the aging family homes that aren't appealing on the private market? [3] It'll improve our neighbourhoods by fixing up homes that are showing their age and by increasing the number of people in a fairly low density city. Intensification (what we're proposing here) may help support new city infrastructure like parks/transit and the creation of local businesses like daycares and cafes. Win-win to me. Studio AC helped by showing us what this kind of idea could look like.


We crunched the numbers to explore the feasibility. Can we develop affordable housing in smaller centres in a way that feels right for our community? Yes! The good news is—great design in affordable housing on a small scale is feasible. If you'd like to read the full document, you can download it below. [4]

2021.11.22 - Affordable Housing Toolkit
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Download PDF • 41.69MB

What I'm working on now, and what's next

  1. Working with the City of St. John's to make changes to zoning regulations. To me, the greatest opportunity for this type of development exists within the 'near suburbs', that is, those neighbourhoods close enough to workplaces, grocery stores, transit etc. but that have a bit more space than the already dense and diverse downtown. Despite language in the Municipal Plan that supports the project in concept, it's not permitted in the R1 zone, where there's lots of potential.

  2. Meeting with non-profits to discuss partnership and get a prototype built. The model that makes the most sense to me right now, is that I do the leg work to get the project going, but someone with more expertise (like a non-profit who already has affordable housing) owns and operates the home.

  3. Raising funds through a capital campaign, an ongoing 3% of sales initiative (and a bigger portion over the next few weeks) and from various funding agencies. The ones on my list right now are Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), Community Housing Transformation Centre (CHTC) and the City of St. John's.


How you can help

  1. Donate - From November 22nd to December 5th I'll be setting aside 10% of all online sales for the downpayment of a home to renovate. You can also send me an email to donate directly. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for contact info)

  2. Tell your friends - If you know someone who would find this project interesting, let them know!

  3. Find a typo - It's just me, Emily, running this project. As one person, it's a lot. If you find a typo, a broken link, or something that's just not presented in the best way possible, let me know. I'm committed to improving the quality of work here.

  4. Volunteer - As time goes on, we'll be looking for volunteers. If you'd like to get involved, send me an email. (again, scroll down)

Thank you for reading to the bottom, I hope you're as excited about the future of affordable housing in St. John's as I am!

Notes: [1] 2016 data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) Housing Market Information Portal. The data shown includes only renters, not those who own their own home.

[2] This work was supported by the City of St. John's Housing Catalyst Fund, the Housing Professionals Mentorship Program by the CHRA and many many other people/organizations. The full list can be found on page 8 of this document.

[3] This notion was developed by reviewing data regularly put out by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation along with my experience as a property manager, one person household and conversations with affordable housing providers. But who am I, Emily the candle maker, to say all this? I have been researching affordable housing since 2008, first academically while completing a Bachelor of Environmental Design Studies then a Masters of Architecture. Then as an Intern Architect at Fougere Menchenton Architecture, and more recently with this initiative, the Affordable Housing Toolkit. The first phase of this specific research project can be found in an earlier blog post.

[5] I also worked with The Urban East to develop editable financial projection models, that you can download below.


Apartments - Project Forecast
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Apartments with Lofts - Project Forecast
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Communal Living - Project Forecast
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Tiny House - Project Forecast
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Download XLSX • 65KB