Penny Gurstein

Wall Associate


Professor and Director Emeritus


School of Community and Regional Planning and the Centre for Human Settlements


Applied Science



Geographic Location

Penny Gurstein

Dr. Penny Gurstein is Professor and Director Emeritus of the School of Community and Regional Planning and the Centre for Human Settlements at UBC. She specializes in the socio-cultural aspects of community planning with particular emphasis on those who are the most marginalized in planning processes. Her research focuses on developing strategies and interventions that encourage diversity, equity and urban sustainability in the planning and design of communities. Her current research is investigating strategies for affordable housing both in Canada and internationally.

She is founding Director of the Housing Research Collaborative a community of housing researchers, providers and policy makers focused on understanding systemic impediments in the housing system and the development of models to address housing unaffordability.  She is the Principal Investigator of the Balanced Supply of Housing Node of the SSHRC-CMHC Collaborative Housing Research Network….

Previously, she was the Principal Investigator of the Future of Public Housing Project focusing on publically-assisted housing, and co-Principal Investigator of Housing Justice , a Peter Wall Solutions Initiative project, focusing on housing access and affordability.  Recent books include: Planning on the Edge: Vancouver and the Challenges of Reconciliation, Social Justice, and Sustainable Development Learning (co-edited with T. Hutton, 2019, UBC Press); Civil Societies: Shifting Contexts for Democratic Planning and Governance (co-edited with L. Angeles, 2007, U. of Toronto Press); and Wired to the World, Chained to the Home: Telework in Daily Life (2001, UBC Press). She has also worked on capacity building projects in developing countries focusing on gender and youth development issues most notably in Brazil and has considerable experience working with community groups in the greater Vancouver region.

Primary Recipient Awards

Penny Gurstein – Catalyst Emeriti – 2022

The Wall Catalyst Emeriti cohort meets monthly to share research experience and engage with guest lecturers on the topic of the Climate and Nature Emergency. They will generate op-ed pieces and/or manifestos in the public media and, where possible, reinforce local initiatives relevant to ameliorating environmental change impacts.

The cohort also engages with the general membership of the UBC Emeritus College by contributing to the College’s general programming which is also open to the general public.

Penny Gurstein – International Research Roundtables – 2021

In early May 2020, UBC’s Collaborative Housing Research Centre organized a National Call to Action on Post-Covid Housing Futures. 40 researchers, housing providers and advocates collectively developed Canadian policy recommendations, which have attracted the endorsement of almost 300 individuals and organizations (UBC, 2020) and received positive national media coverage (Taylor, 2020). This cross-Canada roundtable will discuss how policy shifts can best be galvanized, and gather emergent municipal, provincial/ territorial and national best practices.  The roundtable will be supplemented by a global scan of housing policy best practice in the wake of COVID-19, and focus on developing a publicly available online database that encompasses

(1) current opportunities and threats in relation to affordable and social housing policy (e.g. eviction moratoria);

(2) emerging emergency responses that can be extended or expanded (e.g. emergency housing for homeless people in hotels);

(3) research initiatives and ideas to measure policy shifts post-COVID.

Penny Gurstein – Wall Solutions – 2011

Housing Justice: Public Education, Policy Development and Legal Rights
Principal Investigators: Penny Gurstein, School of Community and Regional Planning; Margot Young, Faculty of Law, UBC
Partner Organizations: Rental Housing Supply Coalition, Pivot Legal Society
Access to affordable, safe, and adequate housing is a hallmark of a just society. This project approaches the issues surrounding housing justice particularly in Vancouver from three distinct but synergistic perspectives: civil society engagement and education; policy development; and social change litigation. The problem we seek to address is how to overcome the barriers to providing affordable rental housing for those of very low income, and for working people of modest incomes. In the public engagement and policy development strands, we are working with community partners to foster heightened civil society engagement with, and advocacy of, housing rights and to leverage policy change at municipal, provincial, and federal levels. Significantly, a variety of communication methods are being used, including public meetings, social media, and expert engagement. The final strand of the project involves building support and providing academic expertise for a legal challenge to move Canadian law in the direction of recognition of a right to adequate housing in keeping with Canada’s international human rights obligations.