The Community Development Institute (CDI) at UNBC was established in 2004 with a broad mandate in the areas of community, regional, and economic development. Since its inception, the CDI has worked with communities across the northern and central regions of British Columbia to develop and implement strategies for economic diversification and community resilience.

Dedicated to understanding and realizing the potential of BC’s non-metropolitan communities in a changing global economy, the CDI works to prepare students and practitioners for leadership roles in community and economic development, and to create a body of knowledge, information, and research that will enhance our understanding and our ability to deal with the impacts of ongoing transformation. The Community Development Institute is committed to working with all communities – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – to help them further their aspirations in community and regional development.


New reports published in the Building Foundations for the Future Report Series

 In many areas of non-metropolitan British Columbia, the state of housing has become a key constraint on economic and community development. Our previous housing research has pointed to a number of long-standing as well as emerging issues and challenges related to housing in non-metropolitan BC, and the resulting implications. These reports highlight one of these issues: housing affordability.

Housing Affordability, Income, and Vulnerability in Non-Metropolitan BC

At the community level, attention to housing affordability ensures that the community can attract and retain the workforce and other residents it needs to support broad economic activity and general social well-being. Non-metropolitan communities and households are particularly at risk for issues around housing affordability because much of the housing stock in these communities is old, not energy efficient, and in need of major repair. In addition, there is a mismatch between household size and housing size, suggesting that many households may be living in, and paying for, homes that are larger than they want or need. 

These reports feature 40 Community Profiles, including our sample of non-metropolitan BC communities located in every region of the province and their average. Each of these profiles includes information on income distribution, household income in the context of shelter costs, and homeowner and renter housing cost vulnerability rates. Findings from the 2021 Census Data Edition include the following:

  • In over two-thirds of the sample, shelter cost increases for renters exceeded income increases. 
  • In one-third of the sample, shelter cost increases for homeowners exceeded income increases.
  • In one-third of the sample, shelter costs for renter households exceeded shelter costs for owners. 

The report structure allows each community to extract information that is relevant to them and their region and use it as a tool for analysis, strategic planning, and targeted action. The data is collected from the 2016 and 2021 Census Program.

Housing Affordability, Income, and Vulnerability_2021 Census Data Edition

Housing Affordability, Income, and Vulnerability_2016 Census Data Edition

Find these and our other research reports here Research Reports and here Housing Information Portal

Housing Information Portal

As a follow-up to Building Foundations for the Future: Housing, community development, and economic opportunity in non-metropolitan Canada, and the BC Addendum, the CDI has launched a Housing Information Portal

On this portal you will find a wealth of information about housing in non-metropolitan BC and Canada. As our research expands and new information comes to light, we will be updating the portal on an ongoing basis to share that information with you. 

The portal provides access to population and housing data, and now includes more than 60 non-metropolitan communities. The data can be used as a decision-making tool and will be of interest to local government, developers, planners, contractors, economic developers, the non-profit sector, and senior levels of government. It highlights the strong links between housing and economic development potential. 

At CDI, our goal is to equip communities and the provincial government with sound information and data so they can make informed decisions about their future. The data on non-metropolitan housing in BC points to the need and opportunity for local and provincial government and the housing sector to take a coordinated approach to addressing housing issues. This will be a critical step to ensuring that non-metropolitan BC can realize its economic potential. 

"Readiness in Transition" Webinar Series (March 2023)

The need for economic transition is not a new imperative for our smaller non-metropolitan communities across BC. Since the early 1980s, the post-war natural resource-based economies have been changing, often rapidly and dramatically. The recent set of closure and curtailment announcements in the forestry sector across a host of communities have highlighted that a new round of economic adjustment is unfolding. These announcements not only impact workers and their families, but communities and regional economies. The suddenness of such announcements generates concern and stress, and demands an immediate and carefully thought-out response.

Through five webinars, we share the hard-won experiences and lessons from those who were in various types of leadership roles when an economic crisis occurred in their small community. The speakers all share our commitment to help prepare other communities and leaders with information they will need should an economic crisis arise during their watch. The webinars were created and hosted by the Community Development Institute of the University of Northern British Columbia. 

"Readiness in Transition" Webinar Series

Seniors Profile: Mackenzie, BC - New Horizons for Seniors, Second Edition

Seniors Profile: Mackenzie, BC_2021 Census Update

This Seniors Profile is the second, updated, profile prepared as part of the New Horizons project undertaken by the Mackenzie Campus of the College of New Caledonia in collaboration with community partners. The purpose of this profile is to collate the most recent available information to create a snapshot of the senior population in the community, as well as some historical developments. This is a tool to help the community understand seniors' situations and make informed decisions. This profile includes mainly data from Statistics Canada's 2021 Census Program.

Seniors Profile: Mackenzie, BC_2021 Census Update

Public Sector Land Lease Renewals: Case studies from around the world


For decades, governments around the world have supported and encouraged development of derelict industrial areas through strategic land use planning. While development plans differ, the intent of these initiatives to improve quality of life in the community is generally consistent. This report provides a review of public land development with a focus on public ownership rationales, lease terms, and renewal approaches from around the world. Britsih Columbia has a particular interest in this topic as the public land lease in Vancouver's False Creek South neighbourhood approaches its lease term expiry. The report offers insight into the array of mechanisms that have been established in other jurisdictions, including public land lease for targeted mixed use development, public asset management, and the potential role for private investment in this context. 

Public Sector Land Lease Renewals

Mackenzie Seniors Surveys


The Community Development Institute at UNBC has been included in a partnership of stakeholders with the College of New Caledonia (CNC). The CDI is working to design and conduct a research and evaluation framework for the “New Horizons Program: Bridging the Gap”. The Mackenzie Seniors Surveys will assist in understanding the current social and economic environment for seniors in Mackenzie and help identify potential gaps and opportunities for programs and services that could enhance quality of life. To learn more and to see the first report from our first survey, click this link.

Tumbler Ridge Seniors' Housing Assessment


In alignment with the CDI’s ongoing mission to draw attention to housing concerns across non-metropolitan Canada, we were given the opportunity to work with the District of Tumbler Ridge to conduct a Seniors’ Housing Assessment Study. To support this initiative, the CDI worked with the District, local seniors, seniors’ organizations, and care service providers to complete an assessment of the housing stock in Tumbler Ridge and its suitability to support aging-in-place.

To read our findings in these reports, click on this link.

Professional Publications Articles

The CDI's research on non-metropolitan housing across the country has been featured in a few magazines drawing attention to the need for a more focused look at housing challenges and gaps in non-metropolitan Canada. 

In PLANNING WEST, published by the Planning Institute of British Columbia (PIBC), our article titled “Leaving the City Behind: Is Housing in Non-Metropolitan B.C. Ready?” discusses urban out-migration and the impact it has on non-metropolitan housing in BC.


In Municipal World’s Fall Newsletter, “Building Foundations for the Future in Non-Metropolitan Canada” provides a glimpse into the findings of our full length report and focuses on the housing challenges and gaps in non-metropolitan Canada that negatively impacting economic, community, and social development. 

In the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) Fall issue of their newsletter PLAN CANADA, our article "Not in Stock: The challenge of meeting housing market needs and expectations in non-metropolitan Canada" draws attention to the challenges of older housing stock, an aging population, and the discrepancy between housing demand and housing availability based on population trends. 

To learn more and read these articles, click here.


January 29, 2021 

Marleen Morris, CDI Co-Director , was pleased to participate in a roundtable with Maryam Monsef, MP for Peterborough-Kawartha. Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, and others to discuss economic development. Marleen emphasized the need to focus on housing across non-metropolitan Canada.

Building Foundations cover

October 2020

The CDI released a final report on housing; Building Foundations for the Future: Housing, community development, and economic opportunity in non-metropolitan Canada, by Marleen Morris, Julia Good, and Greg Halseth.

The research used Statistics Canada’s Census program data for non-metropolitan communities, defined as communities and regions with a population of under 100,000. The study found that there is a housing gap in non-metropolitan Canada; a housing gap that is holding back economic and community development opportunities. While demographic aging, the growth of one- and two-person households, and the trend to smaller family sizes point to the need for a diverse range of smaller homes, housing stock in non-metropolitan communities remains comprised predominantly of large single-detached homes that were constructed before 1980. These homes are not energy efficient, do not have the features people are looking for today, are not accessible, and are more likely to be in need of major repairs.

Building Foundations for the Future FINAL

Building Foundations for the Future Addendum

Greg Halseth

July 21, 2020

Dr. Greg Halseth, CDI Co-Director and Professor of Geography,  is embarking on the next phase of his research into rural and small-town Canada by focusing on the critical role of local government in responding to the forces re-shaping resource-dependent communities and economies.

For further details, visit Small towns, big futures.