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Community Design - Housing

Housing is more than just the physical structure, it extends beyond the walls outside into the area around the home and into the surrounding neighbourhood. 1 2 It is also an important factor that can shape the physical, mental and social well-being of those residing in it and in the surrounding neighbourhood. 2 3 4 5 6


Mixed Housing

Including a mix of good quality diverse housing options that are safe, accessible and affordable, is important when designing healthy communities. A neighbourhood with a mix of housing types can be inclusive, providing quality housing for different kinds of people, income levels and life stages, 1 2 and it can support aging in place.3 8  Having access to a range of housing options can also have many positive effects such as: 2 3 4 5 6

  • protection from health hazards
  • increased social connectedness and sense of belonging
  • increased sense of safety
  • positive mental health
  • health equity

Examples of mixed housing:

  • single detached homes
  • semi-detached homes
  • multi-unit residential (apartments, townhomes, condominiums)

Housing Density

Communities that are compact and have different types of housing options located close to each other can better support nearby placement of:

  • shops
  • schools
  • banks
  • cafes
  • libraries
  • grocery stores
  • employment
  • public transit

Compact communities provide advantages over communities that are spread out because they encourage active transportation such as walking, cycling and public transit use which is good for overall health, safety and the environment.9

Date of creation: November 24, 2016
Last modified on: May 17, 2022


1Toronto Public Health. (2011). Healthy Toronto by Design. Retrieved from
2World Health Organization (WHO). (2018). WHO Housing and health guidelines. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018. Retrieved from
3BC Children’s Hospital. (2019). Mental Health and Wellbeing: considerations for the built environment. Vancouver, BC: Provincial Health Services Authority. Retrieved from
4BC Centre for Disease Control. (2018). Healthy Built Environment Linkages Toolkit: making the links between design, planning and health, Version 2.0. Vancouver, B.C.: Provincial Health Services Authority. Retrieved from
5Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (2018). Health Equity Guideline, 2018. Toronto, ON: Queens Printer of Ontario. Retrieved from
6Public Health Agency of Canada. (October 2017). The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada, 2017: Designing Healthy Living. Ottawa, ON: Public Healthy Agency of Canada. Retrieved from
7Canadian Institute of Planners. (2014). Healthy Communities Practice Guide. Retrieved from
8Ball, Scott. (n.d.). Aging in Place: A Toolkit for Local Governments. Altlanta, GA: Atlanta Regional Commission and Community Housing Resource Centre. Retrieved from
9Toronto Public Health, City of Toronto Planning, City of Toronto Transportation Services and Gladki Planning Associates. (May 2014). Active City: Designing for Health. Retrieved from