Happy neighbours: Design and programming for social connection in multi-unit buildings

Implementing and testing design and social programming actions to boost affordability and wellbeing in multi-unit housing.

As cities densify, residents are living closer and closer together. While dense urban communities have the potential to support cohesive social networks, residents report key challenges. People living in multi-unit housing, like apartment buildings, feel both overcrowded and lonely. They also struggle to keep up with their city’s cost of living. Fortunately, good design and social programming can help address these problems.    

Vancouver-based developers Tomo and Concert Properties have implemented built form and social programming actions to promote social connectedness in dense residential spaces. Happy Cities is helping to evaluate those actions to understand their impacts on building sociability, sense of belonging, social trust, perceived health and level of engagement. Happy Neighbours will shine light on the actions required to build strong social connections through the design and programming of multi-unit housing.

Project goals

  • Share evidence, best practices and innovative ideas that promote social wellbeing in multi-unit housing with industry partners.
  • Share each partner’s process and findings with the wider community.
  • Create a guide with key programming and design actions that boost social wellbeing in multi-housing.

Who is this for? 

  • Designers and developers
  • Property managers and operators
  • Housing planners
  • Policy makers

Contributors and funders

We would like to acknowledge Tomo Spaces and Concert Properties’ consistent commitment to this project and to implementing design and programming actions that promote social wellbeing. Special thanks to residents of Tomo House and Collingwood Village. Without their participation this study would not be possible. And a final thank you to the Hey Neighbour Collective, for its support of the Together Apart toolkit, and for sharing learnings about social connectedness.

This website, as part of the larger project: ‘Happy Neighbours: Promoting affordability and social wellbeing through multi-unit housing design and programming actions’ received funding from the National Housing Strategy under the NHS Demonstrations Initiative, however, the views expressed are the personal views of the author and CMHC accept no responsibility for them.

Check out the project website for more information, ongoing updates and useful tools. 

Ready to start a conversation?

Let's build happier cities together.

Sign up for our newsletter

Receive the latest research, tools and stories from Happy Cities in your inbox.

© Happy Cities 2023

Certified B Corp

312 Main Street

Second Floor

Vancouver, BC

V6A 2T2, Canada

Follow us:
Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.