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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Walk and thrive? : the importance of low-income household access to mixed-use neighborhoods in the Metro Vancouver region Shulman, Lili


The principal goal of this dissertation is to study whether mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented environments are universally accessible. Compact neighborhoods are viewed positively because they improve health and sustainable development, but access is limited to financially qualified populations (Riggs, 2016). Housing (un)affordability becomes a problem when land prices and home values rise as demand for inner-city neighborhoods, often characterized by mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented design (MUPOD), increases (Leinberger & Alfonzo, 2012). This dissertation explores the spatial distribution of MUPOD in the Metro Vancouver region (BC) and the health, housing, and demographic makeup of neighborhoods using a series of multiple linear regression models (2014/2015). This dissertation bridges planning research gaps on the impact of MUPOD on displacement, and the interactions between built form, health outcomes and housing prices. It is hypothesized that MUPOD is associated with gentrification and displacement. I find a negative relationship between MUPOD and health and social well-being (p>0.05) which contradicts the understanding that residents of compact environments benefit from improved health. Different built environments contribute to uneven health outcomes for communities of different socioeconomic status. Consequently, negative health impacts associated with increased demand for inner-city neighborhoods need to be acknowledged. The results exemplify gentrification processes in high MUPOD environments. A positive MUPOD/house value association is documented in Vancouver urban core whereas higher MUPOD scores predict reductions in house values in the Metro’s suburban periphery. Moreover, iv there is no statistically significant evidence to suggest household relocation from high MUPOD environments for affordability reasons. Unlike the study’s expectations, increased MUPOD levels are shown to predict higher percentages of low-income households earning under $40k. Perhaps, it is not low-income households who are displaced? Maybe they cannot even afford to move? While these results cannot be used to explain causation, they encourage discussion about relevant correlational associations, namely accessibility, health, housing, social inequality, and displacement. Future studies need to ask - what are the costs of staying? Policies need to be designed using social and health equity lenses to benefit all. Ultimately, a qualitative approach to explore these research questions is necessary to improve understanding of displacement processes.

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