Dalhousie’s School of Planning launches new course in housing policy amid skyrocketing prices

- August 27, 2021

A file photo of Victorian wood-built houses in Halifax (image by Alkan de Beaumont Chaglar, used under Creative Commons license)
A file photo of Victorian wood-built houses in Halifax (image by Alkan de Beaumont Chaglar, used under Creative Commons license)

With a low vacancy rate and skyrocketing prices, more Nova Scotians are struggling to find a place to live and pay their rent. Some civic leaders believe tactics such as stronger rent control are the solution. Others advocate for building more housing stock.

Students will have the opportunity to study the intricacies behind these issues and learn ways to inform the future in a new course on housing policy launching this fall in Dalhousie’s School of Planning.  

Ren Thomas (shown left), a researcher, writer, and instructor in the School, created the course to introduce students to housing policy issues in Canada through a comparative approach covering the relationship between housing policy and strategic planning.

Dr. Thomas is a passionate advocate for affordable housing and has worked on a number of nationally funded research projects. She co-chaired the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission along with the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Housing (Catherine Berliner, then Eiryn Devereaux). She has done several interviews on the Commission's report and affordable housing issues as they relate to the recent election.

“I am excited to teach this new course to students in Planning and across Dalhousie,” says Dr. Thomas, who is also a founding fellow of the MacEachen Institute of Public Policy and Governance at Dalhousie University. “Housing is critical to all Canadians, and I am confident that this course could generate new ideas and opportunities for our students.”

Dr. Thomas will address the tools used in planning for a variety of housing types and tenures, and theoretical models that influence the development of housing plans. Students will study the role of housing in the development and growth of households, housing as a system contributing to the spatial, social, and resilient networks of cities/region, and the contribution of housing to the economy.

The Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission, formed last November to study the province's affordable housing situation, released recommendations on May 31. On July 6, the provincial government announced it is committed to all 17 of the commission's recommendations, including spending $25 million on affordable housing programs. This will include the construction of 600 to 900 affordable units within the next 18 months.

“There is a need for courses such as this and it is wonderful to see our researchers responding to this need” says Graham Gagnon, dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Planning. “Affordable housing is a clear and immediate planning issue that our graduates will be ready to address”. 


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