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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Building communities : the importance of participatory management in non-profit housing Geary, Vanessa


Social housing in Canada is at a crossroads. Continual government cutbacks have put the very quality of life in social housing communities at risk. The management of social housing, from the development of policy down to the control residents have over their housing, is a crucial component of the quality of life in these housing communities. However, all too often residents do not have the opportunity to participate in the management of their housing. This thesis explores the role, significance and consequences of participatory management styles in non-profit housing through a literature review and case studies of two Vancouver Non-Profit Housing Societies: Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society (ENF) and Red Door Housing Society (Red Door). Participatory management stresses the importance of good human relations and resident participation in management decision making. For this study, management was conceived of in broad terms, representing issues around property, as well as the health of the community. The key element in any model of resident participation is power--who has it, who makes the decisions, and whose lives are affected. The primary assumption behind this research is the belief that resident participation in non-profit housing management leads to increased control for residents over their living environment and results in benefits for all of the stakeholders involved in non-profit housing. The case studies were developed on the basis of 37 open-ended interviews with residents living in four of ENF and Red Door’s communities, ENF and Red Door staff and board, and people working within the non-profit housing sector, related advocacy areas, market rental housing, and the British Columbia Housing Management Commission. In addition, a focus group discussion was held with staff and board members of ENF and Red Door. The study discovered that non-profit housing has unique goals and aims which make it inappropriate to rely solely on private market rental management techniques. The existence of organizational and civic cultures which emphasize inclusion and empowerment are crucial factors of participatory management. However, this philosophy must coincide with the reality of each housing community. The first step in any participatory management scheme is to ask residents if they want to be involved, and in what issues and how. Resident participation will mean different things to different people, so it is necessary to create a variety of ways residents can be involved. It is also important to recognize issues of accessibility and voluntary participation, while balancing diverse needs and realities. Participatory processes take time and energy. Therefore, education and training, community development and identifiable results for all those involved are fundamental to creating effective participatory management schemes. Participatory management recognizes that the most valuable assets of non-profit housing are the residents. It replaces the top down, hierarchical model of conventional management schemes with one based on partnership and shared decision making. Finally, this research highlights the need for women to be part of all aspects of housing from the creation of policy and programs, to development and management.

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