Area I: Conceptualizing Community Housing within a Human Rights Framework

What are the implications of a human right to housing for the Canadian community housing sector, and what role does the community housing sector have in realizing this right for Canadians?

“Housing is essential to the inherent dignity and well-being of the person and to building sustainable and inclusive communities”
– Canada’s National Housing Strategy

We examine the right to housing in theory and practice and have undertaken projects on eviction prevention, and the experiences of immigrants and refugees, many of whom rely on affordable or subsidized housing during settlement.

We are currently conducting research that compares the market provision of secondary suites with the non-market provision of affordable units through a right-to-housing lens.


  • To assist the community housing sector in understanding and operationalizing the right to housing;
  • To create a framework for rights-based assessment of community housing practices and processes;
  • To develop an understanding of the core principles of the National Housing Strategy and their applicability to community housing;
  • To conceptualize if and how the right to housing supports the sustainability and resilience of community housing.

Area Lead

Damian Collins | University of Alberta

Dr Collins takes on this role in addition to his role as the partnership’s Director. He leads his team in researching the role community housing plays in helping Canadians realize their human right to housing. He draws on his considerable experience analyzing public policies and institutional practices from rights-based perspectives.


Jim Dunn | McMaster University

Dr Dunn is an expert in the relationship between neighbourhoods, housing and health. His work investigates the impact of housing and neighbourhood interventions on healthy child development.

Cynthia Puddu | MacEwan University

Using community-based participatory research methods, Dr Puddu works closely with homeless youth in Edmonton, sharing their stories of difficulty and success.

Rob Shields | University of Alberta

Dr Shields holds a Henry Marshall Tory Chair and is a leading theorist of the materialities and cultures of urban space. 

Katie MacDonald | Athabasca University

Dr MacDonald’s focus is interdisciplinary community-engaged research focused on learning in encounters with difference. In particular, she is interested in understandings of relational poverty and has looked at sites on the global and local scales.

Jacqueline Gahagan | Dalhousie University

Dr Gahagan specialises in evaluating policy interventions, with a focus on gender and LGBTQ issues, particularly concerning health-promotion.

Current Students

Pablo Argibay Wikander | University of Alberta

My research focuses on the role of community housing in fulfilling the right to adequate housing for newcomers to Canada. The study is divided into three sections corresponding to Federal, Provincial-Municipal, and Neighbourhood scales to assess the housing regimes and Canadian refugee policy, housing and urban Imaginaries of refugees, and the right to housing and housing needs of refugees in Edmonton respectively.

My background is in Architecture and Urban Design, and I have previously worked with communities in Venezuela bringing ideas from the community into urban form. I hope to contribute to the project by understanding the imaginaries and housing needs of refugees in Edmonton to develop plans and designs that can fulfill the right to adequate community housing for refugees. Working with a multi-disciplinary team is an enriching and challenging experience at the same time. Therefore, I wish to contribute to the project from my perspective and learn from the experience of my colleagues.

Erika Cizek | University of Alberta

After completing my BA in Geography at Carleton University where I undertook an undergraduate thesis focusing on housing affordability in rural Ottawa, I am looking forward to further pursuing my interest in the growing need for affordable housing solutions in rural Canada. I spent much of my childhood and adolescence in the Kootenays, where I have seen many families and individuals forced to move elsewhere due to a lack of rental housing. Through my research, I hope to contribute to the housing debate in my community and help make it accessible to those who wish to build their lives in this stunning natural landscape.

Meagan Miller | University of Alberta

My research will centre on physical impairment/mobility limitation and community housing in Edmonton. Using a rights-based approach, I am interested in evaluating the accessibility of community housing and interpreting the degree to which it disables/enables people with physical impairments.

I completed my BA Honours at the University of Alberta in Spanish and Latin American Studies. After graduation, I worked as the News Coordinator for CJSR 88.5 FM, Edmonton’s volunteer-powered campus and community radio station. I hope my background in audio journalism can be used to share the work of this project with a wider audience and amplify the voices of disability communities living in these facilities.

Laura Bates | University of Alberta

My research uses a human rights framework to analyze the role of the community housing sector in realizing the right to housing. The study will also develop a rights-based tool in collaboration with the sector, to enable community housing providers to evaluate how existing and proposed initiatives can respect, protect and fulfil the right to housing.

I completed my undergraduate and Master’s degrees at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where I rapidly developed a passion for social science research. My previous research interests have been diverse, including recreational camping, youth disability, aging in place, island communities, and precarious housing. Since beginning my PhD at the University of Alberta in 2019, I have learned so much about social and non-market housing in the Canadian context, and about the challenges and priorities of the community housing sector. I feel privileged to be involved in this collaborative research team, and I am looking forward to assisting the sector in realizing the right to housing.

Kenna McDowell | University of Alberta

Kenna successfully defended her thesis in August 2022.

Kenna’s research focuses on the housing experiences of LGBTQ2 refugees in the Canadian social and affordable housing sector. Her research will adopt Intersectionality and homonationalism as theoretical frameworks to examine the extent to which the right to housing has been realized for LGBTQ2 refugees. This research aims to identify the ways in which law and policy can be altered or expanded to better suit the needs of LGBTQ2 refugees and help to realize the right to housing for all. 

My undergraduate degree in Women’s and Gender Studies taught me how structures like heterosexism, patriarchy, capitalism and white supremacy shape our world, including our housing systems. However, it also taught me that a different world is possible and that we can effectively resist the structures that marginalize us. I feel humbled to get to work towards the creation of this new world in a small way, and I hope that my research will contribute to creating a more equitable housing system in Alberta.

Isabella Grande | University of Alberta

It’s very exciting to have this opportunity to be a part of this project, especially as an undergraduate and to learn more about the housing trends in Canada. I’ve learned so much already and hope our research this summer on secondary suites can be a kick-start to a much bigger project.

Rebecca Bolen | University of Alberta

I am really excited to be in this project and to be learning more about emerging housing trends in Canada and especially about different forms of rental housing. I hope our research will provide new insights into the connection between secondary suites and community housing, as cities start to use both to address similar needs for affordable housing.

Community Partners


Secondary Suites, Second Thoughts” – CHEC Emerging Research/Emerging Scholars Webinar
by Bon Swanson

The reticent state? Interpreting emergency responses to homelessness in Alberta, Canada
Evans, J., Stout, M., Collins, D., McDowell, K

The role of community housing in successful city building” – City Building at the University of Alberta
by Damian Collins

Preventing Evictions in Community Housing – The Best Evidence Podcast
by Damian Collins

The Right to Housing in Edmonton: What are Your Rights When Renting?The Affordable Housing Solution Lab (AHSL)
The Affordable Housing Solution Lab (AHSL) is pleased to share our 1st activity in a series focused on the Right to Housing in Edmonton. This video is a zoom recording of a Feb. 24/21 lunch & learn panel session featuring the topic: ‘What are your rights when renting?

2020 Edmonton Housing Month: Capital Region Housing and University of Alberta presentation

November 24, 2020 – New Directions in Community Housing Research, co-presented by Esther de Vos, Capital Region Housing and Damian Collins and Kenna McDowell, the University of Alberta.

[Report] LGBTQ2 Vulnerability in the Canadian Housing Sector

This report provides an overview of what is known about the experiences of LGBTQ2 people within the Canadian housing sector.

[Podcast] LGBTQ Vulnerability in the Canadian Housing Sector

Bon Swanson talks to Kenna McDowell about her student report titled “LGBTQ2 Vulnerability in the Canadian Housing Sector”.

[Report] Home-Making and Tenancy Sustainability

This report focuses on rental tenants’ ability to perform home-making practices and the subsequent effects on tenancy sustainability. It includes an original analysis of landlords’ and tenants’ rights vis-a-vis home-making practices in two Canadian provinces: Alberta and British Columbia.

[Podcast] Home-Making and Tenancy Sustainability

In this episode, Bon Swanson has a conversation with Alexandra Stout about her recently completed report titled “Home-Making and Tenancy Sustainability”.