Affordable Housing

Berlin Ad+PR, 2015
Role: Strategist, Art Director
Collaborator: Zachary Fritz

The Problem

In 2013 when the city of Edmonton started the development of Terwilliger affordable housing project, it faced a great opposition from the residents of the neighbourhood. Subsequently, in the next coming months the city council passed a moratorium on investment by the city on affordable housing. 

As part of the End Poverty Initiative, The City of Edmonton has plans to add a considerable number of new affordable housing units across the city in the coming years, but is aware of some resistance to the idea, mostly from people who don’t want it to be near them.

In the Fall of 2015Berlin Ad+PR was hired to investigate public opinion on the issue and design solutions that would prevent potential road blocks.



This project was done in less than two months, and involved collaborations with different firms and private contractors.


Primary Research


In collaboration with Leger Marketing, a survey was designed to:

  • Explore Edmontonians’ understanding and perceptions of non-market housing
  • Understand the perceived positive aspects and apprehensions surrounding non-market housing
  • Gauge Edmontonians’ support for non-market housing in their neighbourhoods

Focus Group

To balance quantitative data from the survey, a series of focus groups were organized to collect qualitative data. Berlin interviewed 10 Edmontonians from various demographic and psychographic profiles.


The following findings concluded the primary research and guided our problem framing and the campaign framework:

  • Most Edmontonians did not know what non-market housing was.
  • Even though the majority of people supported non-market housing, they would not want it near them.
  • Surprisingly, safety was not one of their main concerns.
  • The majority shared these concerns: The effect on the property value, possible increase in noise and traffic, the effect on aesthetic quality of the neighbourhood, and the effect on education quality of neighbourhood schools.

Problem Framing

Through research, it quickly became obvious that much of the opposition to the project was due to a lack of accurate information on the matter. Most of public opinion was based on assumptions that were not true, simply because there had not been enough information in the public domain about the successes of affordable housing. Therefore, raising awareness, education, and myth busting became the objective of the campaign.

Communications Plan

Based on the results of the primary research, we identified that the term “non-market housing” was very ambiguous to the public and conveyed very little about its purpose. The term “affordable housing” although inaccurate as an umbrella term within the organizational terminology, was considered more appropriate in meaning within its vernacular context.

Based on the set framework, the content was produced around 6 fundamental questions:

  1. What is Affordable Housing?
  2. What is the need?
  3. Why is it necessary to spread it across the city?
  4. How does it affect your property value?
  5. How does it reduce cost of service?
  6. Why is having a diverse neighbourhood beneficial?


Media Distribution

As part of the communications strategy, we decided to distribute the content on multiple platforms in a variety of media, to reach widest audience. Our choice of media was also informed by the necessity to target specific audiences during specific periods of time. The campaign was designed to target residents who were set to have affordable housing developed in their neighbourhood quickly predominantly as they were the ones who needed the information the most.

  • Press Conference: To kick off the campaign and create media traction, specially with the presence of the Mayor Don Iveson
  • Toolkit (PDF, Print): To serve as a point of reference and extensive body of research that could be used for education, and as a guide for advocates of the issue
  • Website: To serve as a point of contact and a container for all the the content and research
  • 1 minute animation video: To increase social media engagement as a popular medium for social media
  • 10 seconds pre-roll animations: Designed for youtube pre-rolls, divided into specific issues and for narrow audience targeting
  • Direct Engagement: Guerilla presence, intercept engagement, and presence in conferences and common interest events
Mayor Don Iveson at the Press Conference

Mayor Don Iveson at the Press Conference



Following the launch of the campaign, most major media in Edmonton covered the issue. The conversations that followed were more in the context of topics and reasoning around the project rather than highly politicised unnuanced objections. There is still opposition to the affordable housing initiative and the moratorium has not been removed, however the city of Edmonton has become more confident given the newly started conversations.