York, U of T, OCAD U, Ryerson students and faculty take on affordable housing in massive joint research project

The presidents of Toronto’s four universities – York University, the University of Toronto, OCAD University and Ryerson University – have teamed up for a new initiative called StudentDwellTO to tackle one of the biggest issues facing postsecondary students in the Greater Toronto Area: affordable housing.

The initiative brings together nearly 100 faculty and students from the four universities to take an in-depth look at student housing in the GTA.

This follows a previous collaboration between the four universities: a massive survey of student travel behaviour, called StudentMoveTO, which revealed that long daily commutes for students – many of whom live far away where housing is more affordable – were leading to lower campus engagement and in some cases limiting students’ class choices.

StudentMoveTO and StudentDwellTO are parts of an initiative by the presidents of the four universities aimed at improving the state of the city-region – and, in turn, the experiences for university students in the GTA.

“The GTA’s housing affordability crisis has attracted a lot of attention, but we know very little about how postsecondary students are coping in the current housing climate,” says York faculty member Luisa Sotomayor, co-principal Investigator of the StudentDwellTO project. “More than 180,000 students attend the four universities in Toronto, but the distinct barriers they face get diluted in the larger affordability picture.”

The intention of the StudentDwellTO project is to identify creative initiatives and potential partnerships to keep housing adequate and accessible for Toronto’s increasingly diverse postsecondary student population, she said.

StudentDwellTO will look at housing affordability from a range of perspectives, bringing together disciplines, including architecture, art, education, engineering, environmental studies and design, geography, psychology, real estate management, and urban development and planning.

The two-year initiative will have heavy research and advocacy components, and the researchers will collect data using a variety of research methods that include:

  • wide-scale focus groups and accompanying surveys to draw out narratives surrounding students’ lived experiences;
  • interactive website and community arts programming and communication tools; and
  • interactive maps to develop affordable housing strategies.

The subject matter will also be incorporated into experiential learning courses, across all four universities and various disciplines, to propose and test solutions to the student housing experience and crisis.