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Collingwood Affordable Housing

To illustrate the utility of MapChat for community-based discussions, a pilot study was undertaken in the seasonal resort town of Collingwood, Ontario, Canada.  Collingwood is a popular skiing venue during the Canadian winter.  The location's amenity factors have propelled property values upward in recent years. This has encouraged local residents to trade high value homes for lower value residences, and has made affordable housing scarce particularly for seasonal workers.  The Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness (SCATEH) is one of several non-profit groups that have formed to address these issues, along with the local government's affordable housing task force. SCATEH is comprised of local citizens, representatives from other groups such as the Georgian Triangle Housing Resource Centre, and members of various religious congregations.

Members of SCATEH were approached in the spring of 2007 by researchers from the University of Waterloo, Ontario (UW) to discuss the use of MapChat as a means of reviewing the location of officially designated affordable housing in the community and identifying potential locations for new housing. MapChat was used in three distinct ways for this study. First, a group session was convened where participants assembled in a face-to-face environment with the UW researchers to learn the use of the MapChat tool, but with each using the tool individuall.  Next, the participants were asked to access MapChat from home over a period of several to continue commenting on their maps individually.  Finally, all of the individual comments and data were merged into a common MapChat database, which was opened to the participants for another period of time to allow the participants as a group to engage in a live multi-participant discussion.

Experience from this application showed that the MapChat tool has great promise as a means of bringing non-technical users together in a virtual forum to discuss a spatial decision issue and to use basic yet very functional GIS tools on the Internet. The fact that all members of the SCATEH user group had only low to basic computing skills, and none had ever before interacted with spatial data of any sort on any computing platform, confirms that it is possible to use MapChat in the manner that the design of the software intended.


Related Publications:

Noble, B. (2007) "Assessment of affordable housing options using collaborative geospatial software", Masters thesis, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario.