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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Living space : determining the factors that affect health at the building level in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Shepherd, Alina


Background: Despite the importance of housing to health, there continues to be a dearth of research on housing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). The two types of housing available to low-income people in this area are social housing and single room occupancy (SRO) housing. This thesis sought to evaluate low-income housing in the DTES by: reviewing the literature on housing and health; and evaluating the impact of the housing environment on stable and unstable tenants’ change in health compared to 1 year before the survey was taken. Method: This is a secondary analysis of data collected in 2007 as part of the Downtown Eastside Demographic Study of SRO and Social Housing Tenants. Tenants were aggregated to the building level based on their length of tenancy. Stable tenants were classified as living at their address for more than 1 year, while unstable tenants had lived at their address for less than 1 year. Multiple-regression analysis was used to determine which factors of the housing-environment contributed to better health-outcomes at the building level. Results: The literature review found that no studies have taken a building level approach to exploring the health outcomes of tenants, despite numerous qualitative accounts of the importance of the building-environment. Multiple-regression analyses demonstrated that social housing significantly contributed to health for both stable and unstable tenants. Building level health was also significantly higher if stable tenants were satisfied with building management. Unstable tenants were adversely affected if there were reports of problems-with-safety in the building, especially if they also lived in SRO housing. Furthermore, problems-with-safety was linked to problems-with-drugs. Conclusion: Social housing in all analyses contributed to significantly better health compared to 1 year ago. Consistent with qualitative findings problems-with-safety are especially detrimental to health for tenants of SRO buildings. Interventions to reduce instability within low-income housing include the facilitation of a safe environment, which is likely related to the quality of building management. Evaluative measures, to ensure quality building management, are essential to promoting stability and health within both SRO and social housing buildings.

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