The following urban challenges were identified by community organizations throughout Canada, the United States, and India and submitted for an MUCP or IMUCP partnership.

This year’s MUCP and IMUCP cohorts concluded with an exhibition at Hart House at the University of Toronto.

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Read more about the 2023/24 MUCP and IMUCP projects

“Hidden Homelessness” is focused on investigating situations of homelessness that are under-researched or hidden. This MUCP project intends to identify women and gender-diverse people in Toronto experiencing hidden homelessness who do not access support from conventional service providers, such as drop-in shelters and respite sites. There is an acute lack of trauma-informed housing and support services in Toronto, and many women and gender-diverse people are deterred or frightened from accessing co-ed and male-dominated environments, leaving them with limited options and excluding them from conventional homeless data, often collected in drop-in shelters, respite sites, and encampments. This project will advance a rights-based approach to poverty by prioritizing the prevention of homelessness over emergency response, broadening outreach to underserved groups, and impacting transformational policy change.

The City of Toronto Connected Communities team facilitates municipal policy focused on issues of digital equity and digital infrastructure planning. The Connected Communities team is responsible for exploring the development of a public wi-fi & connectivity strategy for new, homeless and undocumented Torontonians. This MUCP project will build on City Council’s declaration of Toronto as a sanctuary city and will explore how the public wi-fi/connectivity program can be expanded outside of providing access through City-owned facilities and public spaces. This will align with three other policy areas: 1) Undocumented Torontonians, Access to City Services for Undocumented Torontonians; 2) City of Toronto Newcomers: Toronto Newcomer Strategy; 3) City of Toronto Housing: HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan.

IBI Group is a globally integrated architecture, planning, engineering and technology firm that designs every aspect of an integrated city, from high-rises to industrial buildings, schools, state of the art hospitals, transit stations, highways bike lanes and parks. CurbIQ is a product of the IBI Group that through flexible software solutions helps city officials better understand their parking options, restrictions and mobility options around them. Many cities are beginning to realize the value in understanding their curbs and its usage so that the curbside can be better managed, and accessibility and equity can be increased for all users from pedestrians to cyclists, micromobility users, and courier vehicles. The MUCP team working with the IBI Group will help spread awareness and value of having digital curb data for the University of Toronto Campus, to make informed curbside planning decisions; create a focus on the equity and sustainability aspects of curbsides; give a perspective of needed curbside uses and creative curbside management practices.

The Kensington Market Business Improvement Area (KMBIA) was formed in 2009 and represents over 240 businesses. As Kensington Market (KM) has changed, the community wants to keep the neighbourhood’s tradition as a place that welcomes people from many walks of life. They would like to keep this festival going and growing, in terms of inclusivity. Pedestrian Sundays Kensington (PSK) has become homogenous in terms of its activities and the crowd it attracts. There is a desire among KM residents, business owners, and organizers for PSK to attract a wider intergenerational audience and offer more variety in programming and activation. The MUCP project will connect people and resources with a focus on helping the Kensington Market BIA make PSK and the neighbourhood thrive.

Toronto Climate Action Network (TCAN) is a network of over 50 climate action organizations building a movement together in and around Toronto. TCAN’s mission is to foster collaboration among diverse, action-oriented organizations working in Toronto to prevent climate breakdown, strengthen climate resilience, and advance climate justice. This MUCP project is about how to enable, empower and equip community-led climate action to support the implementation of Toronto’s TransformTO Net Zero Strategy by 2040. The City has begun implementation plans at the systems level, but there is also a need for ground-up, community-led implementation initiatives, and this project seeks to help catalyze those initiatives by leveraging TCAN’s network, and their member groups’ commitment to climate justice.

The Community and Cultural Spaces Trust (CCST) is a new trust dedicated to the long-term preservation of affordable space and land for arts, culture and community activities in Ward 9 (Davenport). Building on the successes of the community land trust movement and other community ownership models, the goal is to mitigate the current displacement of arts and community organizations. The community space needs/assets assessments in this sector have typically been approached through traditional research methods and presented via one-off reports, making them outdated shortly after publication. The CCST MUCP team will work on the creation of an ever-evolving online resource of space needs and assets assessment that can inform the CCST decision-making and can be used to present community needs to funders, elected representatives and other stakeholders. This might include mapping (layering zoning requirements, average costs per square foot of commercial space, community interests or other data sets over each other) or other forms of creative data visualization. This project may also provide a prototype for other Community Land Trusts.

Building Roots provides food security and community resources to Moss Park community and residents of the Downtown East end of Toronto. They run a weekly pay-what-you-can fresh food market, community information sharing, coffee, and conversations for Moss Park residents. The community is made up of newcomers to Canada who often lack a sense of belonging as they are in transition. Many community members that come to the market are refugees living in a nearby shelter. This MUCP project will look at policies that make it difficult for refugees to obtain training, work, and a sense of belonging. The students will review and gain a better understanding of accessible resources; develop designs so that refugees have a hub for commonly sought-after resources and information; and review informal systems of support to address needs that are most important to this population.

Town+Gown is a New York City-wide action research program, residing at the NYC Department of Design and Construction, that provides research resources for practitioners and academics in the built environment to develop and facilitate research projects, including experiential learning engagements with students.

This MUCP project is about New York City, with the potential to develop a roadmap for replicating the project in other cities, such as Toronto; and about horizontal subsurface infrastructure (and surface infrastructure that suggests subsurface infrastructure vulnerability), which is invisible most of the time and not well understood by the general public, not horizontal assets like public buildings. Starting with the case study Community Districts and using the Disadvantaged Community map produced by last year’s MUCP team, this project would increase the number of case study Community Districts in Queens (the borough covered by the LAMP.3 project) and perform the Community District Needs Statement analysis (developed by the prior MUCP team) on the additional case study districts, refining the earlier analysis. The team will perform a demographic analysis of these case study Community Districts to create personas to help make this analysis real and provide the foundation for educating community members.

TCBN’s primary objectives are to: provide equitable economic opportunities that promote economic inclusion for all Toronto residents; contribute to the development of a system of training and workforce development programs to enable economic inclusion; and contribute to sustainable communities with neighbourhood and environmental improvements built through new transit infrastructure.

Moss Park, a neighbourhood in Toronto’s downtown east, is experiencing extraordinary pressures of urban change and redevelopment. These pressures include land speculation and gentrification that have become accelerated due to the neighbourhood being a site of a future station for the Ontario Line. The magnitude of change has the potential of completely altering the composition of the neighbourhood and ultimately displacing many of the individuals and small businesses that call Moss Park home. Members of the community have identified a Social Development Plan as one way to help shape the processes and direction of change within the neighbourhood. The MUCP team will research two large challenges TCBN has identified: 1) an active outreach strategy to drive local demand from community members; and 2) assistance in translating planning documents and language into simple messaging that can be easily disseminated in the local community.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is an IT services, consulting, and business solutions organization that has partnered with many of the world’s largest businesses in their transformation journeys for over 55 years. In Canada, TCS is among the five largest IT services providers, serving more than 100 of the country’s largest companies for 30+ years. In 2022, TCS announced it has partnered with Canada Running Series (CRS) to become the new title sponsor and official IT services and technology consulting partner of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon through 2026.

This MUCP project will focus on reducing traffic congestion and vehicle emissions for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon route on race day and allow motorists to travel around road closures with ease and help place spectators on the streets near local businesses that are open that day to foster economic impact. The project challenge is to design a new course route for the following distances: 5k with a time limit to complete in 1 hour and 20 minutes, 21k (Half Marathon) with a time limit to complete in 3 hours and 30 minutes and 42k (Full Marathon) with a time limit to complete in 6 hours in Toronto, and the goal is to make the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon the most sustainable race in Canada.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is an IT services, consulting and business solutions organization that has partnered with many of the world’s largest businesses in their transformation journeys for the last fifty years. TCS offers a consulting-led, cognitive powered, integrated portfolio of business, technology and engineering services and solutions.

Climate change is an immense global concern and currently, about 55% of the global population is concentrated in urban areas and it is predicted by the UN that by the year 2050, this will increase to about 70%. This statistic points not only to an oncoming population surge in the existing urban cities but also to the emergence of many new urbanization hubs. Climate change and urbanization are converging in dangerous ways. Climate change is alarmingly increasing the frequency and severity of natural catastrophes such as droughts, hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, and hailstorms. This MUCP project will look at new and future climate change risks faced by Downtown Toronto: how the infrastructure was built (evaluating old risk protection measures through design); and how it may be impacted or become redundant as the climate crisis worsens. They will provide recommendations on how infrastructure 4.0 could be leveraged and retrofitted to the existing infrastructure so that Downtown Canada can withstand the oncoming shocks and stresses.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is an IT services, consulting and business solutions organization that has partnered with many of the world’s largest businesses in their transformation journeys for the last fifty years. TCS offers a consulting-led, cognitive powered, integrated portfolio of business, technology and engineering services and solutions.

One of the known effects of urbanization is urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl or urban encroachment, where the increase in population in the city leads to the rapid expansion of the geographical areas of the city. Urban sprawl leads to the movement of people from higher density urban cores to lower density suburbs, resulting in the expansion of the city. It is predicted that, displaced by the worsening effects of climate change, the Global North will become a go-to destination for migrants from all over the world. Canada, being one such hot destination, is likely to see its population swell in the next many decades. While the population in Downtown Toronto is increasing, it is also increasing in the suburbs of Toronto, such as Vaughan, Markham, Brampton, and Richmond Hill. This MUCP project challenges the team to develop an understanding of how urban sprawl is panning out in the suburbs and to assess the development activities currently underway and planned for in the future, and how the principles of sustainability are being applied. The team will identify gaps between the risks anticipated in these locations due to the sprawl and preparedness, and provide recommendations on how infrastructure 4.0 could be leveraged while building these cities so that they could withstand future shocks and stresses.

The Centre of Learning & Development (CL&D), formerly known as East End Literacy, was founded in 1979 as a community-based literacy organization serving downtown east Toronto. In 2006, the organization changed its name to reflect its growing initiatives and on-going commitment to community development and social inclusion. Today, CL&D delivers programs in: Adult Literacy Leadership Development, Immigrant Integration and Civic Engagement Skills Development.

The MUCP team will develop a meaningful community-based program that would support the needs of at risk youth in the Regent Park community. CL&D’s goal is to move from prevention to intervention. This research will explore potential possibilities to work with youth involved in violent behaviour or high-risk activities and how CL&D can interrupt the reoccurrence or escalation of violence through training programs.

The Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) is the national platform that houses the best in Canadian city building, where policymakers, urban professionals, civic and business leaders, community activists, and academics can learn, share, and collaborate with one another from coast to coast to coast.

Throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, Infrastructure Canada is investing in new transit lines. Often these run along or under vibrant urban corridors – case in point, the Ontario Line subway construction under Toronto’s Queen Street, or the Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit. The disruption from the construction can harm or even shutter local businesses already suffering from the aftermath of the pandemic and the rise of e-commerce. As foot traffic dwindles and parking is removed, what can local businesses do to stay afloat? This MUCP project seeks to assess the impact of new infrastructure on main streets in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Main streets have typically been a focal point for urban society. They are places where people congregate for a wide variety of reasons. The aim of this research project is to identify innovative approaches to community engagement before and during infrastructure construction, and to design a monitoring system to identify impacts as they occur in real-time.

HousingNowTO is a pro-bono professional services collective that uses data, planning and architectural best practices to ensure that the City of Toronto maximizes opportunities for creating new affordable-housing on surplus City-owned lands.

This MUCP student team will work on an upcoming HousingNow project to reimagine a surplus land site in the City of Toronto by designing multiple options for affordable housing, that integrate social equity and climate and social justice. The goal of the MUCP students in this research team is to provide HousingNowTO with insights and actionable analysis to help them influence the future direction of the site with the City of Toronto.

International MUCP – Projects in Pune, India

For 2023-24, some MUCP projects are based in Pune, India and known as IMUCP.

The Pune India Public Relations Office Department has used a manual and time consuming process to maintain a searchable archive of all the city news over the past 10 years. Today, most of the newspapers are providing digital content – e.g., epaper, recent updates online website. This offers an opportunity to standardize the process for city news archival material and extend it to all other types of media e.g., TV Channels and other social media channels. This IMUCP project requires the students to create a searchable archive of the city news for referencing in the future.

Lack of good public transportation infrastructure in Pune, India is forcing people to use their personal vehicles to commute to work and other travel. The resulting traffic congestion has significantly increased air pollution and green house gas (GHG) emissions. An effort has been made to introduce Cleaner fuels (CNG) and electric vehicles and enhancements to public transit systems. A comprehensive mobility plan was developed for Pune in 2008, but this plan needs to be updated due to tremendous growth in the city since that time. The IMUCP students will engage in research to equip the urban transport planners to better identify the full impacts of transportation decisions, including external impacts such as traffic congestion, parking, etc., so they can help reduce the air pollutant and GHG impacts.