As a new year dawns, it is tradition to reflect on the year past. Here, we provide a brief retrospective on the achievements of Community Housing Canada in 2022. Our research is divided into six clusters, each exploring a specific issue that the community housing sector faces. Working with community housing providers, we aim to promote sustainability and resilience in the sector. This blog post highlights a key output from each research cluster. Interested in seeing what else we have done? Check out Our Work at www.communityhousingcanada.ca.
Area of Inquiry I: Conceptualizing Community Housing within a Human Rights Framework examines the right to housing in theory and practice. In 2022, Kenna McDowell defended her master’s thesis, “At Home Here?: LGBTQ refugees’ housing experiences in Alberta, Canada”. This research explores the unique challenges that LGBTQ2 refugees face when finding appropriate housing in Alberta. It finds significant barriers related to affordability, social housing supply, and discrimination. One key challenge for recent refugees (and many others) is that Income support programs do not provide enough support to make market-rate housing affordable, as rates fall below the poverty line. This means that recipients are often reliant on social housing, which is characterized by low supply, long waitlists, and strict eligibility requirements. LGBTQ refugees also experience significant discrimination in housing in Alberta, as they contend with racism, homophobia and xenophobia. To access McDowell’s thesis, click here.
Area of Inquiry II: Enhancing Building Performance in Community Housing considers the interrelationships between building performance and the social and environmental components of community housing. In 2022, Dr. Runa Das co-authored a report with Dr. Mari Martiskainen for the David Suzuki Foundation. The report, “Keeping the Lights On: Ensuring energy affordability, equity and access in the transition to clean electricity in Canada,” focuses on issues related to an equitable energy transition in Canada that addresses energy poverty. Our current energy systems leave some Canadians vulnerable to energy poverty. Indeed, almost one in 10 Canadian households spend more than 10 percent of their income on energy bills. Many cannot afford the cost of maintaining a sufficient level of energy services, resulting in damaging effects on health, social relationships and, in extreme cases, survival. The report explores how we can – and why we should – break these harmful cycles. Read the report here.
Area of Inquiry III: Fostering Social Inclusion in Community Housing examines topics ranging from housing security for people with disabilities to the residential strategies of low-income newcomers. Dr. Chloé Reiser, a post-doctoral fellow based at the University of New Brunswick, published an article, “Before displacement: studentification, campus-led gentrification and rental market transformation in a multiethnic neighbourhood (Parc-Extension, Montréal),” that explores housing dynamics in an area of Montréal that is home to a large immigrant population. The study found that rental housing in the neighbourhood is being modified for student use, drawing on a unique dataset showing how the rental landscape is changing. Critically, the study shows how both gentrification and studentification participate in the rise of evictions and displacement pressures for long-term residents. The article can be accessed here.
Area of Inquiry IV: Understanding and Evaluating Models of Community Housing identifies, describes and analyzes the varied models and roles of community housing providers. Dr. Rebecca Schiff brings expertise in rural health and housing to the project, and is also affiliated with our friends at At Home in the North! In 2022, Dr. Rebecca Schiff and Ph.D. candidate Ashley Wilkinson produced a booklet called Non-Market Housing Models in Canada: A Case Series. It showcases promising, effective, and impactful practices and models of community housing in a user-friendly format. Key information includes rent arrangements, the number of units a given provider operates, and the various tenures that are on offer. The booklet is available in both English and French.
Area of Inquiry V: Imagining Community Housing Futures identifies and compares the imaginaries (ways of understanding) that shape the community housing sector. It pays particular attention to Indigenous conceptualizations of housing and how the community can be transformed and decolonized to be more appropriate for a variety of cultures. Cheyenne Greyeyes, a researcher affiliated with Area of Inquiry V, and Celina Vipond, recently published an article in Radical Housing titled “What is home? Wisdom from nêhiyawêwin.” The authors work to decolonize conceptions of home and family in Canadian society and show how knowledge surrounding Indigenous notions of housing and home are intrinsically embedded in the lexicon of nêhiyawêwin (Y-dialect Cree), and assert that Indigenous communities must have authority over policies that concern them. Access the article here.
Last but not least, our research cluster called the Cross-Cutting Theme focuses on the housing needs of the 12 vulnerable groups identified in the National Housing Strategy (NHS). They also support the Areas of Inquiry in engaging with housing vulnerability. It has conducted and reported on a major survey of housing vulnerability and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its report, “Housing Vulnerability and Well-Being in the COVID-19 Pandemic: A B.C. Survey on the Secondary Effects of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions” explores how different aspects of housing affected household vulnerability and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, the results of the survey show that households that live in non-market (community) housing experienced better well-being outcomes than tenants living in market rental units.
2022 was a big year for Community Housing Canada, and we look forward to sharing more of our research with you in the future. All the best in 2023!