Housing Preference in the Peri-urban Zone: The Prospects for Urban Containment and Smart Growth in North Cowichan

Author/s: Eric Brown

Creation date: 2015-06-29

Contact info: ericgavinbrown@gmail.com

Senior supervisor: Meg Holden

Keywords: Smart growth, peri-urban, housing form, neighbourhood design, North Cowichan

Geographic focus: North Cowichan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Research question/s: What housing form and neighbourhood design characteristics appeal to residents of North Cowichan and to what extent are these preferences consistent with North Cowichan’s urban containment policy?


Both academics and urban practitioners need to better understand how smart growth principles can be adapted to suit the preferences of residents of the peri-urban zone, where urban and rural uses co-exist and sometimes conflict. While the literature on suburban environments reveals that these environments increasingly reflect the ideals of densification and mixed-use, significant structural and cultural forces remain opposed to smart growth priniciples. The literature does not assess housing and neighbourhood preferences in peri-urban environments and this research helps fill that gap. It may be of interest to urban planners, developers and policy-makers working in other small North American communities, and especially to those that want to build compact, complete communities as part of their efforts to achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability.


Through document review, surveys and semi-structured key-informant interviews, the author found that, in general, North Cowichan residents value privacy, separation from neighbours and independence above other aspects of housing and neighbourhood form. While these characteristics are not consistent with traditional smart growth residential forms, the author found that a subset of the population, particularly residents over fifty years of age, wanted to live in more urbanized environments. The author concluded that if the goal is to limit sprawl and attract residents to denser urban cores within the peri-urban zone, elected officials, planners, and developers will [KS1] need to offer residential forms that reflect preferences for privacy and independence. The author offers some suggestions that could help bridge the gap between the preferences of peri-urban residents and traditional smart growth urban forms.