Teaching resource

Affordable by Design

Why does it cost so much to live downtown? And what can we do about it?

These instructions are intended for teachers, students or other interested parties looking to offer a workshop on affordable housing. If you would like to facilitate this workshop, please read this guide in its entirety, and watch the supporting video first. Contact us if you would like to organize a workshop for your organization or class facilitated by Professor Markus Moos.


  • Markus Moos (PhD)
  • Samantha Biglieri (MPLAN)
  • Alvin Fan
  • Katherine Laycock (MSc)
  • Matthew Quick (MA)
  • Nicholas Revington (MSc)

School of Planning, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo. This work was supported by an Early Researcher Award from the Province of Ontario.


Professor Markus Moos, Associate Professor

You are free to use and share this resource. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

What is this workshop about?

This workshop deals with the increasing cost of housing in downtown and other central locations. It explores the reasons as to why a growing number of young people are wanting to live in large cities near shopping and restaurants that are accessible by transit or on foot while at the same time finding it increasingly difficult to pay their rent or mortgage.

Audience, workshop size and length

The workshop is intended for advanced grade 11 or 12 secondary school students. It could also be suitable in first-year post-secondary courses by increasing the complexity of the scenarios introduced in each of the exercises. The workshop is intended to be run for classes up to 30 students, split into groups of three-five. Ideally, each group should include a facilitator or teaching assistant (or one facilitator could circulate among groups). At minimum, two hours are required to run this workshop.


We hear about skyrocketing downtown housing prices from the media on an almost daily basis. Even the United Nations has recently expressed concern over the extent of Canada’s housing affordability problems. In addition to acute housing issues such as homelessness, an increasing number people cannot live near transit or near their work even if they wanted to. Houses or apartments are simply becoming too expensive in these desirable locations. But what can we do about it? In this workshop, we will explore design solutions in the areas of urban design and city planning and housing finance and development processes that can help reduce the cost of housing.

What will students learn?

This is a 'hands-on' workshop where students will not only learn about design solutions to housing affordability issues, but also engage in exercises that encourage them to consider innovative solutions of their own. At the end, students will have increased awareness of housing affordability issues, urban planning, and examples of design solutions aimed to help reduce the cost of housing in growing cities. The workshop will be of great interest to students wanting to learn more about issues related to housing affordability, urban design and planning.

Workshop details