A community-based research project in search of a proactive coordinated approach to rooming house preservation, renewal and/or development


PNLT, Working For Change and private partner JVND are undertaking a study in search of a coordinated neighborhood-based strategy for the preservation, renewal and/or development of existing and proposed new affordable rooming houses in Parkdale. It is grounded on the principle of “zero displacement.” In particular, we hope to:

  • Prepare a Baseline Environmental Scan of Rooming Houses / Bachelorettes in Parkdale including the identification of total buildings and units and primary typologies – highlighting their principal characteristics, challenges, and achievements, as they currently exist;
  • Map or otherwise describe and illustrate, the risk factors that currently contribute to the susceptibility to loss of Rooming Houses in Parkdale;
  • Identify optional strategies or policies that would frame a more proactive, coordinated approach to rooming house preservation in Parkdale.
  • Identify sites and opportunities for new affordable housing provision.

The research will be undertaken in part by Working For Change, a local community organization with significant experience undertaking participatory research with rooming house tenants. The project will be overseen by a steering committee including John Van Nostrand (JVND), Chris Persaud (Habitat Services), Victor Willis (PARC), Kuni Kamizaki (PARC), Omid Zareian (PARC), Joyce Brown (Working for Change) and more.

John van Nostrand Development Inc. (JVND) is new B Corporation to develop affordable housing projects. JVND is exploring new approaches to affordable housing design, development and financing.

Why are we researching Rooming Houses? 

There is an escalating need for a coordinated approach to both retain and increase the stock of affordable housing in Parkdale, to prevent displacement and the risk of homelessness for low-income and vulnerable tenants. Historically Parkdale had received a high density of rooming houses, boarding homes and bachelorettes, a legacy rooted in the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients into community-based care in the 1970s and 1980s. However, in recent years this stock has shown troubling signs of decline, particularly in regards to privately owned properties.

The primary driving force of conversion and loss of rooming house stock appears to be the increasing housing market pressure associated with urban gentrification. Other contributing factors including: business model constraints (rising operating costs vs. stagnated housing allowance subsidies), licensing issues, inadequate rental protection policy and a generational transition of private operators. For tenants displaced from converted properties, there is little equivalent replacement housing available. In the past 15 years almost no affordable rental projects have been developed in Parkdale. Tenants are thus increasingly forced into homelessness or to relocate to high-rise rental housing and unlicensed rooming houses in the inner suburbs. As local planner Kuni Kamizaki has pointed out “Gentrification in Parkdale should be considered in relation to the suburbanization of poverty.”

It is clear that Parkdale and other downtown neighbourhoods will continue to experience increased real-estate development pressure, driven by population growth, market interest, and a planning framework favourable to intensification. New approaches are thus needed to assure that these changes benefit, and do not hurt, middle and low-income people. A proactive, coordinated approach is needed to prevent displacement and the risk of homelessness for vulnerable tenants. As identified in the Parkdale Plan, a public policy response in coordination with community and private partners is imperative (K. Kamizaki, Parkdale Plan, 2016.). In particular, PNLT proposes developing a coordinated neighborhood-based strategy for rooming house retention and replacement in Parkdale that is grounded in the ethics of zero displacement and equitable development.

Status of the study:

The Study began in late September 2016. We are currently working hard on the finishing touches of the final report which will be released in late April 2017.  If you have any questions about this study please contact