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Housing Solutions Lab — Project Details

Housing Solutions Lab advances affordability, climate and seniors’ care

SFU’s Renewable Cities and Hollyburn Community Services Society launched Housing Solutions Lab: North Shore Homeowners Options in February 2023. It explores housing opportunities for older adults (55+) living in primarily single-detached homes on Vancouver’s North Shore who are interested in secondary suites and home-sharing.

Canada’s housing stock frequently falls short of older citizens’ needs and has grown out of step with changing demographics. Most homes are single-detached and under-occupied by just one or two older adults. Although many of these homeowners seek better solutions to support their needs, such as secondary suites and home-sharing, uptake remains low for diverse reasons.

This new lab will provide simple, scalable routes forward with housing, healthcare, and environmental advantages. Solutions will be designed and piloted, implementation pathways unlocked, and replication across B.C. and beyond encouraged.

The Housing Solutions Lab will run until 2024 and consists of multiple workshops, each identifying barriers, solutions and implementation pathways in greater detail. Program outputs include a pilot study and a scalable roadmap for uptake across Canada.

Why is this important?

Our goal is to co-create a roadmap for solutions that build social connection, address housing affordability, offer options for aging in place and positively benefit the climate. This matters because:

  • Housing affordability and security is a growing issue on the North Shore, and across Canada
  • More than half of single detached homes in Canada are occupied by only one or two people, and older adults represent a large portion of this. If a small percentage of those who were interested created additional housing units, it could positively impact the number of units available
  • Options such as secondary suites, coach houses and homesharing can offer social and economic benefits, reducing social isolation and providing additional income
  • Densifying housing units reduces the per capita green house gas emissions associated with building

Ways to get involved

If you are an older adult (55+) who owns a home on the North Shore, here are ways to contribute to this project:

See us in the media

Housing Solutions Lab: North Shore Homeowner Options was featured by Global News and North Shore News.


Project goal: Bridge the chasm between climate action and affordability with solutions that cost-effectively take advantage of immense under-utilized assets across our communities. 


Renewable Cities and Hollyburn Community Services Society are working with older adult homeowners living in single detached homes to identify and address barriers that prevent them from considering options such as home sharing, secondary suites and accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Housing solutions for older adults support aging in place, foster social cohesion, advance climate action and support broader public health goals, such as increasing active transportation and preventing loneliness and isolation.



Housing risk is growing for many populations, notably older adults, due to an aging population, inadequate affordable housing supply and rising living costs. Limited public resources and high land values challenge affordable non-market and market rental solutions.

Older adult homelessness in B.C. has quadrupled in the past decade, and thousands of seniors living on the North Shore are at risk of homelessness. B.C.’s seniors’ population is growing. There is an urgent need to explore new, integrated approaches to affordable housing for seniors.


More than half of single detached homes across Canada are occupied by one and two-person households. Older adults occupy a disproportionately large share of these single detached homes due to housing and demographic conditions such as: kids leaving home or a partner dying or moving to care home.

Older adult homeowners create secondary suites or accessory dwelling units (ADUs) at much lower rates than younger Canadians due to a range of barriers such as socio-cultural norms around living in a single detached home capacity to be a landlord at age 70+, real and perceived legal risks and relationship management with potential tenants.


This project’s primary goal is generating housing for those in greatest need by unlocking options for new housing units in single detached homes owned by low-income older adults. This project aims to better characterize barriers and develop a roadmap that contributes to integrated, systemic solutions. We will learn from collective knowledge on home sharing, secondary suites and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in older adults’ single detached homes.

This project supports the following National Housing Strategy priority areas:

  • Supporting sustainable housing and communities
  • Supporting a balanced supply of housing: More than half of all dwellings in Canada are single detached homes. Household occupancy is falling across all housing types, particularly in single detached homes. Gentle intensification of single-family neighbourhoods can increase the share of rental and home sharing units for smaller households. These solutions have applications in metropolitan centres, suburbs, small towns and rural areas.



This project will foster relationships among older adults to reduce social isolation and support economic inclusion and wellbeing. In the short term, the project will empower older adults to maintain independence while developing new relationships that benefit well-being and mental health. For example, homesharing facilitates shared expenses, affordable housing, companionship, safety and security, self-determination and independence for older adults. Service delivery will be incorporated into the program structure. In addition, homesharing solutions will help address social isolation and loneliness for solo older adults, which is particularly important given the disproportionate health impact the 2021 B.C. heat dome had on isolated people.


Our sustainability goals are:


Single detached homes are the most greenhouse gas intensive dwelling type; doubling occupancy of a one-person household would result in the reduction of building greenhouse gases per capita by almost half. Using underutilized existing homes eases demand for new home construction and reduces urban sprawl – two major sources of GHG emissions.


Adding secondary suites or accessory dwelling units in mature single-family neighbourhoods has potential to cut transportation costs and carbon emissions, increasing walkability through proximity to key destinations and infrastructure.   Many of these neighbourhoods face reducing population as residents age and move to other areas.


Thirty-nine percent of senior homeowners with mortgages are in core housing need in B.C. Twenty percent of B.C. seniors spend 30% of income or more on housing.

The 2011 North Shore Seniors at Risk of Homelessness Assessment found that “fixed income seniors who have been long-time residents of the North Shore are increasingly at risk of losing their housing as they face rising real estate costs, increases in rent, property taxes and changes to the Residential Tenancy Act. The number of seniors experiencing core housing needs has been steadily increasing.”

This project is exploring solutions such as how local non-profits that could manage and support secondary suites or home sharing arrangements for older adults while also generating revenue for homeowners.

This project can immediately generate new affordable housing alternatives for older adults. In the medium term, there is high potential for creating affordable housing units in Canada through good policy and program design. More than half of B.C.’s 830,000 single detached homes—and 7.5 million across Canada—have only one or two occupants, many of those older adults and empty nesters. Adding a secondary suite or a home share to just 10 percent of homes could create 85,000 new housing units in B.C. and 750,000 in Canada, increasing housing stock and revenue streams for homeowners.


Older adult homelessness is rising due to lack of available and affordable housing. Innovative solutions to increasing inventory of affordable housing can reduce homelessness. For example, innovative new units on single detached land parcels, wrap around services , and mitigating home sharing issues.


Affordable housing supply is a major constraint on regional prosperity, with provincial and national implications. This project would contribute to regional housing supply, increasing discretionary income and supporting economic growth. Two older adults in a home sharing environment will reduce day to day living expenses, providing more money to spend in the community.


This project aims to build, strengthen and mobilize rich partnerships across the North Shore, Metro Vancouver and B.C. Scaling is a priority: the housing and demographic conditions that create this immense, untapped opportunity exist in many communities across B.C. and Canada, in cities, towns and rural areas.  


This social innovation project will help advance a creative and emergent process, bringing together diverse institutional players and meaningfully engage with end users.

Social innovation labs are an innovative approach to tackling complex societal challenges that require systems change. They provide a safe space for diverse perspectives to come together, for assumptions to be questioned and to experiment with housing solutions. – CMHC 

The lab will focus its efforts on the following:

  • Emphasize work across diverse institutional and public policy spaces to align policies and programs and scale successful strategies for older adults
  • Provide space for undertaking a complex and persistent housing challenge for older adults living in single-family dwellings through an innovative and emergent process that looks at the challenges from a systems level to address interrelated elements of social isolation, risks of homelessness, vulnerability, affordability, greenhouse gas emissions per capita

The result will be a better understanding of barriers as well as best practices to inform successful policy and programs for replication across B.C. and Canada.

Project Phases

Phase One
(Fall 2022)

Phase Two
(Winter 2022-23)

Phase Three
(Spring 2023)

Phase Four
(Fall 2023)

Phase Five
(Winter 2023-24)

Journey Ground Truthing
Scoping and framing the issues, and developing the project charter.

Discovering Home
Conducting exploratory research and journey mapping to understand stakeholder perspectives.

Exploring our Future
Collaborating with stakeholders to co-develop potential solutions.

Fording Pathways
Adding granularity to solutions, putting together a cost-benefit analysis to assess feasibility of interventions.

Road Mapping
Key stakeholder engagement to share findings and accelerate diffusion.

Key aspects of our methodology include:

  • Strategic mapping of end users, partners and stakeholders to help understand, develop and implement solutions
  • Meaningful, emergent engagement processes – systemic change needs the support of a diversity of institutions and stakeholders
  • Collaborative critical analysis and iterative solution development
  • Integrated design thinking that transitions from inspiration, ideation and implementation, to iteratively improving solutions with strong multidisciplinary insight and end user participation
  • Multi-facetted communication such as written and visual storytelling


Ashley Grewal, Vancity Credit Union | Manager, Community Investment Operations
Ashley Grewal, Vancity Credit Union | Manager, Community Investment Operations
Margaret Coates, Lionsview Seniors’ Planning Society | Coordinator/Executive Director
Margaret Coates, Lionsview Seniors’ Planning Society | Coordinator/Executive Director
Barry Goodwin, Lionsview Seniors’ Planning Society Board, Metro Vancouver Alliance Strategy Team
Barry Goodwin, Lionsview Seniors’ Planning Society Board, Metro Vancouver Alliance Strategy Team
Cindy Moran, BC Housing | Senior Researcher, Technical Research and Education
Cindy Moran, BC Housing | Senior Researcher, Technical Research and Education
Kendra Taylor, City of North Vancouver | Planner, MCIP, RPP
Kendra Taylor, City of North Vancouver | Planner, MCIP, RPP
Alison Silgardo, Seniors Services Society of BC | Chief Executive Officer
Alison Silgardo, Seniors Services Society of BC | Chief Executive Officer


Leanne Sawatzky headshot wearing a black blazer, brown hair, and blue patterned shirt
Leanne Sawatzky, Renewable Cities | Executive Director (Interim)
Leya Eguchi – Director of Family Programs, Regenerative Finance, Hollyburn Community Services Society | Project Manager
Rebekah Parker —Renewable Cities | Program and Engagement Coordinator
Rebekah Parker —Renewable Cities | Program and Engagement Coordinator

Stay updated with us!

Sign up for project updates, invitations to workshops, and more ways to participate. 

For more information, please contact Rebekah Parker ( at Renewable Cities.