Evidence of meeting #116 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was affordable.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Bonnie Brayton  National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network Canada, As an Individual
Arlene Hache  Community Advocate, As an Individual
Sonia Sidhu  Brampton South, Lib.
Martina Jileckova  Chief Executive Officer, Horizon Housing Society
Lisa Litz  Director of Stakeholder Relations, Horizon Housing Society
Jeff Morrison  Executive Director, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association
Dominika Krzeminska  Director, Programs and Strategic Initiatives, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

From an accessibility perspective, what recommendations do you think link back to the federal government for accessibility, when we look at shelters? It seems to be an issue for either the current housing stock, if we can call it that, and then new units.

4:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association

Jeff Morrison

As you know, under the national housing strategy, the largest single program under that strategy is the national co-investment fund, which is the $16-billion fund that invests in both repair and renewal of existing stock and building new stock. One of the requirements that the federal government has put on that co-investment fund is the need to meet accessibility standards. In other words, funding will not be provided unless units are demonstrated to meet accessibility standards. In that regard, I will say that it's caused some challenges for a number of housing providers to meet that standard, but if the requirement is maintained, then there will be some downstream effects, in terms of increasing the accessibility of both existing and new stock.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Excellent. Thank you.

We're now going to move over to Rachael Harder for seven minutes.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Awesome. Thank you so much.

Thank you to each of you for taking the time to come here to be with us today. We really appreciate you offering your insights.

We'll start with the Horizon Housing Society. I have a few questions for you folks. You talked about the three themes that you saw come out. In that, you mentioned that affordable housing is certainly one of those things. Within affordable housing, there's a whole continuum of moving from shelters into perhaps transitional affordable housing within the rental market and then hopefully.... I think all of us would agree that our dream would be that people can own a home and take pride in that.

Moving people along that continuum, by providing access to affordable housing without undue barriers, what does that process look like for an individual, right now? Is that process feasible? Can someone reasonably expect to transition from a shelter, all the way down the continuum into affordable, independent housing that they own? If they cannot reasonably expect or dream for that, then what are the barriers that are in place that would prevent an individual from being able to enjoy that?

4:55 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Horizon Housing Society

Martina Jileckova

Thank you for that question. It's a really good one. It's an interesting one. To me the answers all speak to the diversity of women who experience violence.

We can say that, ideally, home ownership is.... Some people will argue it's the ideal. Some people will say maybe do not strive for that.

However, let me answer in this way. All women who are fleeing violence and who find themselves in a shelter situation have one thing in common, and that is the threat of violence. Most of them will have some issue with finances. That's the affordability piece that comes into play. For some women, the affordability problem is relatively temporary. Their issue is the immediate threat they are fleeing. They will experience poverty that may be more temporary in nature. Once the immediate help is offered, they may be able to access resources through the partner from whom they're fleeing. Maybe they own a house already.

That's one sort of category. Sometimes that takes a while. There could be a court action and whatnot. It's not a simple process necessarily.

Other women who are fleeing violence have that immediate threat but their history of trauma goes back a long way. They are presenting at the shelters because they're homeless and have been for a long time, and now they have issues with addictions, perhaps mental health, and deep, deep trauma that has taken many years....

Those women are often in need of second-stage shelters, because there is a more complex need that needs to be addressed. We also find that just due to the history of the trauma they've experienced, they will need affordable rental housing once they leave even second-stage shelters for a longer period than those who, once they address the trauma, get on their feet a bit quicker.

That's an answer, simplified for the sake of being able to make the point, but you have, roughly, these two populations.

In terms of help, what we do is that we provide affordable rentals. That's what we know. We are the landlord with a heart. We provide affordable housing to women fleeing violence, and others, with supports. We work with partners in our community, such as Attainable Homes, to make sure that our residents, our tenants, know about the attainable home ownership programs out there in the community.

Our other partner is Habitat for Humanity. We make sure that those who stay with us understand that there are other options, provided that it fits with where they need to go next. People can stay with us permanently. We provide permanent, affordable housing and also provide access to other options such as attainable home ownership.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Can I ask what your funding model is? How are you sustained?

5 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Horizon Housing Society

Martina Jileckova

Horizon Housing is the largest not-for-profit charity in Calgary that focuses on families, individuals, seniors and specialized populations, including women fleeing violence. There are larger providers in Calgary, but we are the largest in terms of owning our own portfolio. We own and operate our units. We are self-sustaining, in the sense that we basically are an owner and property manager that doesn't take profit. We charge affordable rents geared to income on a scale. Some of our rents are deep subsidy; some are near market. We don't take profit from the rents that we charge. We run our portfolio and fund all our activities.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Could I ask for just a point of clarification?

When you're talking about having a lower and a higher...would that be more of a co-operative model?

5 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Horizon Housing Society

Martina Jileckova

It's one way to describe it. We call it integrated, inclusive housing. Our largest development is 200 units in a community in Calgary. Having that mixed community when it comes to incomes and needs creates a fiscally responsible environment. It's a building that sustains itself over a longer period of time, but it's also a socially responsible model.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Have you finished?

You can have more time, just because I need to write....

5 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

The chair stole some time, so Mr. Morrison, you have a minute.

5:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association

Jeff Morrison

Just on the question you asked about home ownership, that's a very North American concept as well. In Canada, about 70% of Canadians are in the private home ownership market. About 25%, give or take, are renters. In comparison, in many European countries—take Germany, for example—only about 50% of the population are in the private home ownership market. There, and in many places in Europe, renting is seen as just as viable a home option.

For many Canadians, most particularly women fleeing violence, the real challenge is, frankly, not home ownership but just having a home, period, having a roof over their heads. I think the challenge for them is finding a safe, stable place where they can just claim that, whether it's owned or rented. Just finding a safe place to feel “that's home” is more the challenge, as opposed to actually having a deed to the property.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Excellent, thank you very much.

We're now going to move over to Brigitte Sansoucy for seven minutes.

You have the floor.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thanks as well to the witnesses, particularly for their effort to stay focused on the main topic of our study.

I have a few questions for the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association. Last May, your association's indigenous caucus published a document entitled "A For Indigenous, By Indigenous National Housing Strategy".

You discussed the concerns of the indigenous caucus, but I would like you to tell us more specifically about the barriers to access to indigenous housing, more particularly for indigenous women who are victims of violence.

5:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association

Jeff Morrison

I'll start and then ask Ms. Krzeminska to continue if she has anything to add.

There's no question, as we said in our notes, that the housing challenges facing indigenous peoples, particularly in urban settings, are much greater than those facing the non-indigenous population. The rates of homelessness are much higher. The rates of indigenous families living in core housing need are much higher. The needs of indigenous peoples, most particularly indigenous women fleeing violence who move from a reserve setting to an urban setting, are very challenging. Oftentimes social, cultural and possibly linguistic support is lacking and is missing.

For indigenous women, moving to an urban setting without those supports—without access to housing—is a huge challenge. There are also some studies to document that there is housing discrimination that indigenous peoples face. There are studies that demonstrate that private landlords will often discriminate against an indigenous renter versus a non-indigenous renter. There are some systemic and cultural challenges that indigenous peoples face.

In the national strategy, all the measures that were announced are open to indigenous housing providers. What we've suggested in the document you've referenced is that the federal government needs to go one step further by announcing a fourth stream, an urban indigenous housing stream.

As you've correctly pointed out, we've entitled our strategy “A For Indigenous By Indigenous National Housing Strategy”, the point being that it would need to be a strategy that is governed for and developed by urban indigenous peoples, including those with lived experience, so the governance structure would be in place. There needs to be access to greater financing, specifically for indigenous housing as well, so that would be over and above the monies announced in the strategy. There also needs to be those cultural supports. If you imagine an indigenous woman, one who has moved, say, to an urban setting, who doesn't have access to those cultural supports, she's going to have an extremely tough time.

The indigenous strategy would build on the existing national strategy but be obviously targeted to those indigenous women and men in need.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you.

In March 2002, your association published a study entitled “On Her Own: Young Women and Homelessness in Canada”.

In that document, you recommended that a broad primary prevention program "that would alleviate poverty and improve housing affordability, employment insurance eligibility, employment opportunities for youth, antiviolence programs and support service for victims, and developmental support for youth and families with children [would be] highly desirable."

Sixteen years later, what problems and barriers do women victims of violence still face?

5:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association

Jeff Morrison

First, I'm very impressed that you unearthed a study that we did in 2002 and that I don't think I've seen.

As you know, Madame Sansoucy, a couple of months ago the federal government announced a national anti-poverty strategy that built on the measures that have been announced thus far by this government and put in place some measurements, some indices and some accountabilities within that strategy.

What we would argue is that the strategy contained nothing new in terms of direct measures to address and to fight poverty itself. We don't want to dismiss the efforts that have been made, including with the national housing strategy, to impact upon affordable housing, but I think we were disappointed that it was a case of, to quote the old commercial, “Where's the beef?” There really weren't those direct measures that we had hoped for that would be over and above those measures already announced.

Clearly women face increased rates of poverty, issues relating to education, and, as we've been discussing, the challenges of facing violence and so forth. We hope that as part of the anti-poverty measures the government will step forward with some additional direct measures, not just accountability or measurement-type activities but direct measures to influence and impact those things that would benefit women.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives stated in a report that dates back to 2015, but is still relevant, that many women avoid shelters. These are mothers who are looking for safer solutions for their children, and families facing homelessness often fear they will have to deal with childhood and family services. If their children are taken into custody, the women may also be unable to keep their housing because they would lose a large portion of the income they are guaranteed from the employment assistance, income assistance, child tax benefits and employment insurance they probably depend on.

Has either of your organizations observed these situations? Do women try to avoid shelters because there might be negative consequences for them if they contacted the official services?

5:10 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Horizon Housing Society

Martina Jileckova

Thank you.

The short answer is yes, we do. Women are very fearful, as you say, because if they find themselves in a shelter that is not specifically for women they face the real danger of losing their children. That's not necessarily the case when you are with the women-focused shelters and the second-stage housing that goes with them. They are geared to specifically keep families intact and together. You are correct.

In Calgary, we have a family shelter that is not necessarily for women fleeing violence. It's for any family that finds itself homeless. Again, it does the same job, keeping families together. That's a real issue. We, too, have some mechanisms in place such as shelters for women or family shelters that keep families together and prevent that from happening.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Excellent. Thank you very much.

We're now going to move over to Eva Nassif for seven minutes.

October 22nd, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you for your presentations.

I'll begin with you, Ms. Jileckova. You manage seven apartment buildings and eight group homes in Calgary, Alberta. You said you do business with women fleeing violence as well as with women who have mental and physical problems and persons living in poverty, including, obviously, women victims of violence.

What are the main reasons why tenants use your services and request assistance?

5:10 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Horizon Housing Society

Martina Jileckova

If I understand your question correctly, who are the people who seek housing with us?

They are people who are of low income. Some of our individuals or families would live on limited incomes, which they may be on for the rest of their lives due to disabilities. Some of our residents will seek temporary affordable housing solutions with us and eventually when their situation improves they may be able to move on and perhaps even move to a home ownership situation. That's not the majority of our residents, but do we see it happen? Yes, we do.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

From what I've understood about your apartment buildings, housing demand exceeds supply. You said that wait times in Calgary were long. Mr. Morrison talked about that too in referring to the wait list in Montreal, Toronto and elsewhere. Many people need social housing.

What's the waiting time in Calgary, where your units are?

5:15 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Horizon Housing Society

Martina Jileckova

Thank you for that question. I'm glad you asked.

In Calgary, I also happen to be a co-chair of the Community Housing Affordability Collective, which is a group of not-for-profit and private sector landlords in Calgary who come together to work on issues related to housing and bricks and mortar.

Just last month—this was work that we undertook over a period of about six months—we came up with a common vision for Calgary. We looked at the data and what we knew about the Calgary situation. In Calgary alone, we need 15,000 affordable rentals just to get to the national average. That's based on need in the community as identified by CMHC data and City of Calgary data. Those 15,000 affordable rentals are what we need to add to meet the national average in Calgary.