No – that’s not a typo in Lee’s job title. This is Lee’s big dream – that we drop the ‘affordable’ term and value all types of housing as important elements of healthy and inclusive communities.
He wants housing developments to focus on cutting edge design, creative use of materials, and to find ways to become assets in the communities within which they are built. He loves the mixed-income model that mirrors the makeup of our cities, and wants to find tenant opportunities as part of the development and operations of these homes. This is how we change the view of ‘low-income housing’ to, simply, ‘nice housing’. It’s not about the income of the residents, but rather the health and diversity of a community.
Lee comes to his dream of complete housing development with experience working across the spectrum of housing types. As he says: “I started my career as a labourer on a Calgary job site. Went on to study design and work in development. I had always had an interest in creative design with a focus on sustainability. After a while, I realised that the elements that contribute to a successful sustainable project – energy efficiency, building durability, creative re-use of materials, healthy indoor environments – can play the same role in successful affordable housing developments.”
Couple those sustainable elements with a private-sector approach that values partnerships between sectors, creative financing approaches and strong relationships, and it’s easy to see a path to cost-effective, longer-lasting, better-designed housing solutions. Most of these approaches were put to the test at the City of Calgary, where Lee led the development of new affordable housing units, and co-led the creation of a New Affordable Housing Strategy. After five years there he went on to a broader planning capacity at the Town of Canmore, taking along the same approaches that focused on place-making, community engagement, built-form and creative architecture.
Why he joined Urban Matters
When we asked Lee: “What most excites you about Urban Matters?” he said the first thing that is clear is the passion that every member of the team has for the work they do and the communities they work in. The second this how tangible the Urban Matters work becomes. I have not run in to anything that is theoretical. It is focused on outcomes that impact people’s lives.” He went on to get very specific in saying: “Urban Matters sees beyond the simple solutions, to the comprehensive impact that tying a diverse set of ideas together can have. In the affordable housing space, that means going beyond simple delivery of new units, to ensuring the units are part of a vibrant community. Introducing mixed-use, mixed tenure buildings, incorporating community amenities and commercial/retail helps new developments become assets to their communities. And then the next step. How to enable tenants to be active in the community, to generate additional income/support/programming through the development.”
Vibrant Communities Speaker Series
To hear more of Lee’s innovative ideas on affordable housing, check out the video below where Lee sat on an expert panel at the Vibrant Communities Speaker Series hosted by Urban Systems and Urban Matters in Edmonton earlier this summer.
When not tackling housing affordability Lee can be found focused around his two children and tolerant wife at home in Calgary, or in the outdoor playground of the nearby Rocky Mountains provide.