Penny Gurstein

School of Community and Regional Planning

Dr. Penny Gurstein is Professor and Director 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 homeownership and rental housing both internationally and in Canada. She is currently 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: Learning Civil Societies: Shifting Contexts for Democratic Planning and Governance (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.
Past research projects focused on youth engagement and "the hard to house." Other projects include two major studies funded by SSHRC. One, funded by SSHRC INE (Initiative on the New Economy) investigated the impact of e-work on companies and communities, in Canada and internationally ( The other, funded by SSHRC MCRI (Major Collaborative Research Initiative) looked at the impact of government reduction of social services on single parent families on income assistance  She is Co-Chair of the Pacific Housing Research Network and a registered member of the Canadian Institute of Planners.  She is the 2016 recipient of the YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Education, Training and Development.

Primary Recipient Awards

Wall Solutions, Penny Gurstein, 2013

Penny Gurstein
Margot Young
Wall Solutions

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.