It can be difficult for a city to appropriately assess the best spot to build social housing. Three University of New Brunswick students have developed a new way for a municipality to determine where to place low-income houses to help people thrive.

Geodesy and geomatics engineering students Andrew Al-Assadi, Mobene Tahershamsi and Stefan Bazar designed a web-based geographic information system, or GIS, to allow for public participation in locating potential low-income housing sites, with Vancouver as their test city.

The group has found a way to give the public a say in where to build social housing and allow people in need of affordable housing to find the right spot for them.

“Our project takes into account the different criteria of what makes social housing projects successful,” said Mr. Bazar. “We analyzes factors that can better suit people’s needs and set them up for success.”

Their project is among 300 that will be on display at UNB’s Third Annual Engineering Design Symposium, taking place at the Fredericton Convention Centre this Thursday, March 30, from 8:20 a.m. to 5 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The GIS is an interactive map that allows people to weight their needs. For example, it would be more important for a single-parent family to live near a school or grocery store than an entertainment district or bar, while a senior citizen or person with disabilities might prefer to live elsewhere based on their needs.

“It’s important to have the appropriate services nearby. Where you live is where you spend your time,” said Mr. Tahershamsi.

The group conducted research into Vancouver’s public consultation processes and how the city chooses where to build social housing by watching city council meetings. They reviewed American studies into what makes social housing projects successful and collaborated Vancouver’s Carnegie Community Centre, which provides outreach programs and safe spaces for the homeless.

“There’s a misconception about the kind of people who actually use social housing,” said Mr. Al-Assadi. “People don’t want it in their backyard. But at the same time, the federal government conducted a public consultation and the number-one concern was making affordable housing available to people who need it in Canada’s major cities. This is an educational tool that can help both of those elements.”

Once completed, the group will share the resource with the Carnegie Community Centre.

“They’re very enthusiastic about this project. It really could make a difference in Vancouver and beyond,” said Mr. Al-Assadi.

Media contact: Natasha Ashfield

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