Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance

Most Canadians now live in cities and large metropolitan areas. Social, economic, and environmental policymaking by all levels of government is increasingly urban in its focus.
Western’s Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance (CUP-LG) was created in 2017 to respond to the many new challenges facing local governments and urban policymakers at all levels. Bringing together academic researchers and students from across Western and beyond, our goal is to facilitate new interdisciplinary collaborations on pressing questions, to foster dialogue between academics and policy practitioners, and to communicate the results of research to policy professionals and the broader public.
As Western’s hub for urban research, the Centre builds on the university’s established strengths: the graduate Local Government Program and undergraduate Urban Development Program, the Human Environments Analysis Laboratory, and the work of dozens of faculty members and graduate students across multiple Social Science departments. The Centre is a proud member of Western’s Network for Economic and Social Trends (NEST), which brings together the research centres in the Faculty of Social Science.


Community Engagement in Housing Politics: Political Inequality and the Challenges of Reforming Local Government

Housing costs are skyrocketing in many American cities. In this talk, I explore how political inequality in local politics makes it difficult to build new housing and reform housing policy. Using a mix of novel administrative data, in-depth interviews, and archival evidence, I find that local policies amplify the voices of older, privileged homeowners - and that reforming these policies is extraordinarily difficult. 

Katie EinsteinDr. Katherine Levin Einstein is an associate professor of political science at Boston University and a faculty fellow at the Initiative on Cities. Her research and teaching interests broadly include urban politics and policy, racial and ethnic politics, and American public policy. She is one of the authors of Neighborhood Defenders: Participatory Politics and America's Housing Crisis (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Her articles have also appeared in multiple peer-reviewed outlets including the American Journal of Political Science, Perspectives on Politics, Political Behavior, and the Urban Affairs Review. She currently is one of the principal investigators of the Menino Survey of Mayors, a multi-year survey of U.S. mayors exploring a wide spectrum of political and policy issues. Her research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation.


The slow dispossession of home: Migrants and minorities in Britain and implications for local governance

Dr. Nissa Finney, Professor of Human Geography, University of St. Andrews, Scotland

There has been slow dispossession of home for migrants and minorities in Britain that constitutes both social and spatial injustice. This process, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, has occurred through changes to housing provision and exclusions within housing systems which continue to drive housing deprivation for minorities. To make this argument, Prof. Finney draws on innovative mixed-methods research conducted by the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) since 2015. This includes qualitative research with ethnic minority residents and actors involved in social housing provision in urban peripheries of Glasgow and Manchester including neighbourhoods that have experienced demolition and regeneration; analysis of Census data, including for small areas; and early ‘first view’ analysis of the Evidence of Equality National Survey (EVENS), a new survey undertaken by CoDE in 2021 that is the largest and most comprehensive contemporary survey documenting the experiences of ethnic and religious minorities in Britain. Prof. Finney will reflect on the implications for local governance in a context of national and regional devolution in the UK. 


Nissa FinneyDr. Nissa Finney is Professor of Human Geography at the University of St Andrews. Her work specialises in neighbourhood change, residential mobility, and housing experiences within an overarching framework of social and spatial justice. Much of Nissa’s work considers race and ethnicity, and uses mixed methods approaches. Nissa is a member of the ESRC Centre for Population Change and a founding member of the ESRC Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity.


City-builder John Fleming joins Western’s Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance

John M. FlemingThe Centre is excited to welcome nationally recognized urban planner John M. Fleming as a Distinguished Practitioner Research Fellow. Over the next two years, John will build on his significant professional experience to carry out research on local governance, civic engagement, and policy making in the field of city building and design. He will also collaborate with faculty and mentor students.

Mr. Fleming said, “I’m thrilled to be joining the scholarly community at the Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance at Western. During my 30 years in professional practice, I’ve had lots of revealing and inspiring conversations about city building and design with members of the community, as well as planning and design colleagues from across the country. These conversations have led me to the Centre with the goal of undertaking research that can play a meaningful role in moving the profession forward in Canada. I’m also excited by the prospect of building collaborative ties between the Centre and members of my professional network in London and across the country.”

WORKSHOP - FEB. 4, 2022 - 10AM

Workshop Poster

Register at Eventbite: https://bit.ly/3fxW07h 


Michael Buzzelli begins term as Centre director

Michael BuzzelliDr. Michael Buzzelli became the second director of the Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance on January 1, 2022. He brings a wealth of experience ad community connections to his new role. He has led several national and international research projects on a range of urban issues as well as graduate policy training and consulting work across Canada. From 2018–21, Michael was appointed Western Teaching Fellow (Social Science) and developed a project on town-gown relations and experiential learning. In London, Michael has served on the Board of Directors of the London and Middlesex Community Housing, the largest social housing provider in the region (Member 2014-17, Chair, 2017-18). Since 2019 he has served on the City of London’s Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-oppression Advisory Committee (DIAAC). Michael looks forward to expanding on the Centre’s role as Western’s hub for research and dialogue on urban policy and local governance issues. 


New report on the perverse effects of urban development financing in Canada

Andrew SanctonWe are pleased to announce the launch of a new report by Professor Emeritus Andrew Sancton entitled Reassessing the Case for Development Charges in Canadian Municipalities. On the basis that “growth should pay for growth,” municipalities levy development charges to cover the cost of new infrastructure. They are paid by property developers on completion of projects and most agree that they are passed on to new home buyers. They have been widely criticized for driving up housing prices in hot housing markets such as the Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver. Indeed, development charges add as much as $90,000 to the cost of a new house in some parts of the GTA, adding to the housing unaffordability crisis.

The report outlines the history of development charges and shows that arguments commonly made in their favour rely on faulty assumptions. He goes on to examine how growth-related infrastructure is financed in other jurisdictions, including Quebec, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, indicating that other approaches exist.

A virtual launch event with Prof. Sancton in conversation with the Centre's Distinguished Research Practitioner John Fleming was held on Monday, October 18, 2021, with 70 people attending. A video of the event is available here.

Research areas in 2020–22

The Centre will focus on three research areas each year. Each will culminate in a research report or other publication targeted at policy professionals working in local or provincial government, non-governmental organizations, or private practice. In the future, we will solicit ideas for research areas from the policy community. 

Local Elections

London is the first Ontario municipality to adopt a ranked-choice voting electoral system. Centre graduate research associate Charlotte Kurs has written a report that describes London's experience with administering the an election using the new electoral system. The report, entitled Administering a Ranked-Choice Voting Election: Lessons from London, Ontario, is the third report in the Centre's research report series.

A webinar describing the report's findings, along with a Q&A with senior municipal administrators, is available on Youtube: 


Informed Local Economic Development

Funded through a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, this project  investigates how local economic development practitioners engage in informed and evidence-based planning and policy decision-making, exploring what information (or lack thereof) is consulted in the planning process, and ways that impacts and outcomes are measured. A key practical contribution is to assist city officials by providing tangible knowledge and tools for conducting informed planning and policymaking for both immigration and, more broadly, local economic development as a whole.

Canadian Local Government Inventory

It has been over a decade since provincial legal and regulatory frameworks for local government have been comprehensively reviewed and compared. We are building an inventory of information regarding the provincial-municipal relationship in each province and territory.

Two research reports, Power and Purpose: Canadian Municipal Law in Transition and Theme and Variations: Metropolitan Governance in Canadawere published in partnership with the University of Toronto’s Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance in 2020.

Join our mailing list

* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance at Western University:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Are you interested in joining the Centre as a Faculty Associate, Graduate Fellow, or Visiting Scholar? Contact us for more information!