Audrey Guay

Committed to engagement in affordable housing

Audrey Guay joined SFU’s Urban Studies Program after years of working with community building organizations in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. “This left me with lots of questions about why the city wasn’t working for my neighbours,” Guay says. “The Urban Studies Program has allowed me to take a step back and develop a big-picture perspective of the city.” Since beginning the program, Guay has broadened the scope of her community organizing work, most recently by planning public education and engagement events that explore civil society-led affordable housing solutions, including community land trusts and housing redevelopment projects led by churches. Audrey’s work in this vein, as well her outstanding research skills, have earned her the 2019 SFU Urban Studies Alumni Award for Community Engagement.

Urban Studies professor Karen Ferguson nominated Audrey for the award. She describes Audrey as a “determined, diligent and self-directed student.” She attributes these qualities to Audrey’s “raison d’etre, which is to pursue urban justice.”

Some of Audrey’s housing work has been at the Metro Vancouver Alliance (MVA) – a relatively new broad-based organization in Vancouver where community groups, labour unions, faith and educational institutions all work together towards shared goals. During her time at the MVA, Guay successfully obtained funding through a MITACS Accelerate grant in partnership with the Real Estate Foundation and was the recipient the 2019 Social Sciences and Humanities Research CouncilCanada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s Program. Using this funding, Audrey engaged a team of MVA leaders in research with their membership on housing. “I learned that the community wants much more than affordable units to live in,” she says. “They want to be involved in changing the way housing works in the city.” Building on this experience, Audrey has chosen to focus her M.Urb thesis project on exploring the overlap of democratic claims and claims for housing affordability. 

For Audrey, community engagement means trusting that the most successful plans involve the people whowill be impacted by them. “I think, often, engagement work gets skipped over because it’s seen as slow, inefficient, or superfluous to expertise,” she says. “It’s been a challenging but rewarding discipline for me to slow down, involve others, share power, and listen well. The Alumni Award for Community Engagement encourages me to keep going on this path, keep learning to grow as a leader who involves people. I’m really grateful for that encouragement.” 

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