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Yaffle your next project

By Rebecca Cohoe

Yaffle.ca is Memorial's online connecting tool. One of its most significant jobs is to provide a way for people from outside Memorial to ask for research help. With hundreds of community-suggested opportunities to choose from, your next project is just a click away. Here's one . . .

The opportunity:
Since moving to Newfoundland and Labrador about six years ago, Emily Urquhart has had plenty of visitors from across Canada. She noticed that they all seemed to have a similar story to tell about "a friend or friend-of-a-friend who bought a house in this province for practically no cost at all." Ms. Urquhart was intrigued: the stories had the tell-tale elements of a folk tale, especially the one where the new owner actually found hidden treasure beneath the floorboards of an old outport salt box.

"My curiosity was piqued," she admits.

She wanted to know whether the stories were true, and if they were, wondered, "What is the community impact of these non-local residents?"

Anecdotal evidence seems to confirm a recent spike in non-local home ownership, particularly in the Bonavista area where Ms. Urquhart is focussing her study. The effects of the influx of non-local home owners appear to have been quite broad.

"There's an aesthetic impact," she said. "Often the newcomers buy older heritage homes and restore them. Locals I spoke with cited this as a positive thing. There's also a social impact. People develop friendships with their neighbours "from away." The newcomers are also great fodder for gossip!"

The project:
As an ethnographer, Ms. Urquhart's focus is on the social and community impacts of the newcomers. However, she says that doesn't leave time for quantitative work on a regional scale. While she has spent significant time in the Bonavista region and conducted many interviews with residents, she's had some trouble finding survey data on the number of non-local homeowners. She's looking for someone who would be interested in complementing the work that she's already done with a more statistically focused approach.

Ms. Urquhart believes that the potential researcher should have a background in quantitative data collection methods, with experience developing surveys.

"It's a bit tricky because summer residents spend as little as two weeks in Newfoundland, and sometimes skip years, so I think it would need to be at least a two summer project," she said.

She also believes that it could be a good project for a student, perhaps someone from the region. Along with helping to solidify her assertion that non-local home ownership is a trend worth paying attention to, she also believes that the statistical project could have public policy implications.

"Many coastal communities have implemented laws and regulations regarding waterfront land ownership by non-residents, PEI and Ireland being two examples," she said. "Without statistical data on the issue, it's difficult to address this issue in Newfoundland and Labrador."

Interested in learning more about this project? Think you could help? Bojan Fürst, manager of knowledge mobilization at the Harris Centre, would love to tell you more. Call him at 709-864-2120 or email him at bfurst@mun.ca.

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