Social wellbeing in modular housing

Co-creating design guidelines to nurture health and social support for vulnerable people.

Image credit: City of Vancouver

Temporary modular housing (TMH) is a proven and cost-effective rapid housing solution for people experiencing homelessness. Since 2017, over 2,000 housing units have been built through TMH in British Columbia. But in order to provide truly safe and supportive homes for residents (participants), TMH must prioritize wellbeing.

Why approach TMH from a wellbeing lens?

Designing TMH for wellbeing is essential to improving participant recovery, creating better health outcomes, and reducing the likelihood of people re-experiencing homelessness. In collaboration with Reos Partners, Happy City spent two years researching the current state of TMH in British Columbia. We engaged stakeholders from across the TMH ecosystem in Vancouver — including builders and architects, policymakers and planners, developers and municipalities, and participants and operators — to understand participants’ wellbeing needs, and identify the existing barriers to fostering wellbeing in TMH.

During this extensive research project, we identified high-level policy shifts and strategies, as well as implementable design and programming actions, that will help ensure TMH is built to support participant wellbeing. Crucially, we found that there are many smaller-scale programming actions that TMH operators can take immediately to boost participant wellbeing. As part of this project, we worked with Lu’ma Native Housing Society to test and implement six programming actions in their New Beginnings building in Vancouver. The activities supported wellbeing by helping participants build relationships with one another, exercise their creative brains, and connect with their cultures. The final report offers a starting point for municipalities, decision-makers, and design teams across the country to centre wellbeing in all types of supportive housing projects.

A new wellbeing framework for people transitioning out of homelessness

In this project, we worked with stakeholders to co-create the first ever wellbeing framework for people transitioning out of homelessness. As TMH expands across Canada, it is essential that builders, operators, and policymakers understand what successful TMH looks like, and what the specific wellbeing needs of people transitioning out of homelessness are. For more information about the wellbeing framework, please refer to Section 4 of the final report.

View the final Recommendations and Roadmap report by sections:

Download the full report:

This project was funded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) under the National Housing Strategy (NHS) Solutions Lab initiative.

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