Assessment of Affordable Housing Options using Collaborative Geospatial Software
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The scale of the affordable housing problem in Canada is enormous and the situation is worsening due to a number of recent social trends. Continued wealth inequality, an aging population, increased immigration, changing marriage and independence trends, and increased part-time employment, have all contributed to a growing affordable housing problem in Canada. Certain groups such as single parents, recent immigrants, seniors living alone and tourism/seasonal workers are particularly vulnerable. In Canada, cities and tourism-based communities have the most pronounced affordable housing shortages, and this is expected to continue in the future. New and innovative methods of public participation are needed in dealing with the challenges of affordable housing development. Spatial information technology such as Internet-based collaborative geospatial software aims to improve the public participation process. This technology is able to use the Internet, spatial data and carefully designed interfaces in order to engage citizens and increase community participation for difficult planning problems such as affordable housing development. This thesis focuses on three objectives. The first objective is to define a collaborative, spatially-aware approach to create and assess affordable housing options in Collingwood, Ontario. This approach will use existing spatial data, participants with a vested interest in affordable housing, and an open source geospatial software tool called MapChat. The second objective is to implement the defined approach in a real-world setting in order to generate participatory input. The third and final thesis objective is to examine the spatial patterns of existing affordable housing and the locations generated in the study to determine sites that are most suitable for future affordable housing development in Collingwood. The results of the thesis show that the approach used provides a proof of concept in the use of Internet-based collaborative geospatial software that can be applied to any town in Canada. Although the approach involved a modest study design, it was able to offer a number of potential advances in planning the locations of future affordable housing. The approach was successful in creating a set of potential affordable housing options, was effective in assessing those scenarios and was feasible to implement in a real-world setting. In addition, the approach had high potential in the generation and management of information and in supporting community participation and empowerment.