Housing and homelessness

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This paper is a companion piece to the report, Making Social Housing Friendly for Resettling Refugees. The intention with the present paper is to build on our assessment in the previous work. Ultimately, we are interested in understanding the relationships between cost of housing, suitability of housing, and the resettlement process. In many respects, the parameters and conditions of resettlement vary from family to family and individual to individual.
War and persecution force refugees to leave behind all that they know to embark on new and challenging experiences of resettlement. In Winnipeg, they meet a web of service providers willing to assist them in this process. Some of these organizations assist resettling refugees in finding and maintaining housing, which they identify as integral in building a foundation for successful resettlement. For resettling refugees, access to social housing is important, especially right after arrival when their incomes are the most constricted and their social networks are not yet established.
This work is an extension of a longer-term projectthat began in 2015, in which we partnered withWelcome Place, the housing arm of the ManitobaInterfaith Immigration Council (MIIC), which provides housing, legal and settlement supports for newly arriving refugees in Winnipeg.
What makes social housing ‘social’? In part, social housing is different from private-market housing because it intentionally provides low-cost housing for low-income households. But it is also a way of taking housing out of the market. It’s a way of keeping housing affordable, and of stabilizing housing as shelter, by removing the potential for speculation. And, it is provided collectively through community-based organizations and government programs, and funded collectively through taxes and government spending.
OTTAWA—Budget 2019, tabled today in the House of Commons, takes steps forward on municipal infrastructure, support for seniors and capping the regressive stock option deduction, but missed the mark on delivering housing affordability and the significant cost-savings that can only be achieved through a universal, single-payer pharmacare system, according to experts from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
VICTORIA—A new, more generous child benefit for children under 18, funding the CleanBC climate plan and capital investments in infrastructure around the province are positive elements of BC Budget 2019, but more ambitious action is still needed for middle and low income British Columbians, says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Office.
Finding affordable, secure, good quality housing is an essential and immediate part of the early settlement process for immigrants and refugees. Yet, obtaining appropriate housing can be daunting and often impossible in housing markets with a dearth of affordable housing and low vacancy rates. Newcomers are often unfamiliar with the particularities of local practices, lack social networks, and have limited financial resources, which contribute to their struggles when searching for housing that meets their needs.
The Trailer Overdose Prevention Site (TOPS, as its usually called, or Area 62) in Vancouver. Photo by Travis Lupick.
Illustration by Tim Scarth / Photos of Montreal by the author

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