A human right: Research aims to build sustainable, resilient community housing in Canada

New research partnership with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation focuses on community housing.

Katie Willis - 30 June 2020

A newly funded research partnership is focused on making Canada’s community housing options sustainable and resilient. 

“Safe, affordable housing is a foundation for life and should be accessible to everyone, regardless of income,” said Damian Collins, project director and professor of human geography in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “Canada’s current housing system, with its widespread challenges, does not allow many households in low-to-moderate incomes to realize their right to housing.” 

And the new research partnership, called Community Housing Canada: Partners in Resilience, is poised to address these challenges, examining Canada’s system of community housing, which includes non-market housing that is operated by non-profit organizations, co-operatives and all levels of government. “There are currently around 630,000 community housing units across Canada, representing 4.3 per cent of all housing,” explained Collins. “The mandate of our partnership is to work with the community housing sector in Canada to enhance its sustainability and resilience.” 

Housed at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Science, Community Housing Canada is made possible through funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Collins and his UAlberta team will be working closely with lead community partner Capital Region Housing alongside 7 university partners and 12 community housing organizations across the country, from Vancouver Island to New Brunswick.

A human right

“My background is in homelessness research, so I am thrilled to be leading research that will help to address Canada’s homelessness crisis,” added Collins. 

“I see community housing as essential in both preventing and responding to homelessness. This is a new era in housing research in Canada, focused on identifying changes in policy and practice that will make housing more affordable and accessible for all. In doing so, we will help to ensure that safe, affordable housing is truly a human right.”

Collaborators on this research project include Joshua Evans, assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and co-lead of The Affordable Housing Solutions Lab, as well as Runa Das at Royal Roads University who will lead the partnership’s work on improving environmental standards in the community housing sector.