The National Housing Strategy recognizes that women and their children are disproportionately impacted by housing need and that intersections of identities such as race, sexual orientation, age and socio-economic status create distinct types of housing barriers for them. For this reason, the federal government aims to put 33% of the strategy’s investments, with a minimum of 25%, towards serving the unique needs of women and their children.
3 Key Goals
Address the diverse housing needs of women and their children by investing in a range of activities through the National Housing Strategy.
Make targeted investments in housing that are specifically dedicated or committed to women and their children.
Invest in housing, research and affordability assistance to support the needs of women and their children.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Women and their children are particularly vulnerable when it comes to housing
The strategy is committed to helping those in greatest need find adequate, affordable and suitable housing that meets their needs. Women and their children are among those most in need. Based on the 2018 Canadian Housing Survey:
- Women are more likely to be in core housing need than men (9.7% compared to 8.2%).
- Women are more likely to be lone parents than men (13.2% compared to 9.6%).
- Female lone parents are more likely to be in core housing need than male lone parents (20.2% compared to 17.2%).
Core housing need among women is even more widespread within certain groups according to this survey:
- 13% of Aboriginal females compared to 12.5% of Aboriginal males.
- 14.3% of female visible minorities compared to 11.7% of male visible minorities.
- 20.1% of recent female immigrants (those who landed between 2014 and 2018) compared to 19.1% of recent male immigrants.
- 13.3% of female seniors compared to 7.7% of male seniors.
The strategy’s investments for women and their children
In order to effectively address the wide-ranging barriers faced by women and their children when seeking safe, socially inclusive and affordable housing, a comprehensive approach is required. The strategy provides funding for a range of activities that target and support women and their children. This includes:
- creating new housing units
- repairing and renewing existing housing units
- conducting research, collecting data and disseminating knowledge
- supporting housing sector capacity building
- providing operating support for community housing providers
- providing affordability support
This approach reflects the variety of actions needed and diversity of initiatives under the strategy that meets the needs of women and their children.
(1) Funding that targets women and their children
The strategy’s investments that target the needs of women and their children include projects and units that are specifically funded to appropriately house women and their children or women living alone.
Dedicated units may only be occupied by women and their children or women living alone.
Committed units are meant for women and their children or women living alone but may be offered to others if there is need and the units are unoccupied.
When we receive an application for funding, we collect information on the intention to dedicate or commit units to women and their children. Funding for projects led by organizations that have a specific mandate to serve women and their children is categorized as committed unless the organization explicitly indicates an intention to dedicate units to women and their children or women living alone.
Spotlight on New Bryony House shelter
Bryony House is building a new shelter in Halifax after damages sustained from Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 force the organization to close its original facility and temporarily provide services across scattered sites. The new shelter will have 24 bedrooms, all dedicated to women and children fleeing domestic violence. It will also feature childcare and youth spaces, private rooms, enhanced safety and 100% accessibility. The project is being funded with $3.2 million from the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, in partnership with the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Housing Nova Scotia and Halifax Regional Municipality.
Spotlight on habitations 18e Avenue
In April 2020, the City of Montreal announced an agreement with Réseau Habitation Femmes to build 26 modular, non-profit housing units. These units are dedicated to low-income, lone-parent and single women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The project will feature studio, 1, 2 and 3-bedroom units and offers community support services on site. Habitations 18e Avenue is receiving over $10.8 million from the Rapid Housing Initiative. The project will also receive funding from the Government of Quebec.
Spotlight on the Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s affordable housing repairs
In August 2019, the federal government announced $1.3 billion in National Housing Co-Investment Fund funding over 10 years for the repair of over 58,000 units in Toronto’s community and affordable housing stock, managed by Toronto Community Housing Corporation. As part of the funding agreement, the corporation is committing 33% of the repaired units to women-led households.
Spotlight on Habitat for Humanity Canada Portfolio
Announced in August 2019, Habitat for Humanity Canada is undertaking a 3-year construction project to build 416 new housing units across Canada with over $35 million in funding from the National Housing Co-Investment Fund’s committed to a target for 33% of the homes to serve women and children. Eligible projects may be located anywhere in Canada. To date Habitat for Humanity Canada has selected projects across 8 provinces and Yukon.
Spotlight on the Courtyard Project by the YWCA of Banff
In 2018, CMHC announced funding for the YWCA of Banff’s Courtyard Project as part of a $10 million commitment to support the Alberta Rural Development Network’s Sustainable Housing Initiative. The funding for this project is committed to women and their children given that the YWCA of Banff’s organizational mission is: “Empowering women, girls and our community through leadership development, advocacy and the provision of relevant programming and services.” The project will provide 51 new, net zero container housing units, 33 of which will be affordable. It will support the most vulnerable at-risk populations in Banff, including:
- single mothers with children
- survivors of domestic violence
- LGBTQ+ individuals
- individuals with accessibility needs
The Courtyard Project is being jointly funded by the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund, the Town of Banff and the province of Alberta’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy.
(2) Funding that supports women and their children
The strategy’s investments that support women and their children are categorized as designed or occupied.
The designed category includes funding for housing projects and units with features that are considered desirable to women.
In January 2019, CMHC held a series of sessions with over 50 organizations and approximately 75 women with lived experience of housing need across Canada. Based on these sessions, the following housing features have been identified as being desirable to women and their children:
- Building features such as security features, outdoor playground areas, indoor play spaces, 2 and 3-bedroom units, community gardens and multi-purpose spaces (with communal kitchens or services to tenants).
- On-site support services such as childhood education services, support services for women and their children, crisis intervention workers, social workers, handy persons, health care workers, community navigators or advocates, interpreters, lawyers or legal assistants, peer-leaders or mentors and agencies that come on site to offer part-time support services.
- Proximity to amenities such as public transportation, grocery stores, parks and recreation spaces, schools and child care, health care and cultural centres.
The designed category also contains activities under the strategy’s Research and Data Initiative that help to better understand the housing needs of women and children and offer potential solutions to address them. These activities include research projects, Solutions Labs and Demonstrations Initiatives that have a specific focus on women and their children.
The occupied category includes funding for housing units that are occupied by women and their children or women living alone. Many of these units are in community and affordable housing, where female-led households are overrepresented. According to the 2018 Canadian Housing Survey, female-led households represent 32% of all households in Canada but make up 51% of renter households in social and affordable housing and 54% of renter households in subsidized housing. The survey defines social and affordable housing as non-market rental housing (i.e., where housing allocation and rent-setting mechanisms are not entirely dictated by the law of supply and demand). The National Housing Strategy supports community and affordable housing, which includes social and affordable housing, through different initiatives.
This includes funding for:
- Housing projects with existing operating agreements funded under legacy community housing programs (pre-1990s)
- Housing projects with renewed funding under the strategy’s Canada Community Housing Initiative for provincially and territorially administered agreements
- Housing projects with renewed funding under the strategy’s Federal Community Housing Initiative for federally-administered agreements
- Creation and repair of affordable and community housing units
- Rent supplements to give households access to affordable housing, such as through the strategy’s Canada Housing Benefit
Spotlight on 188 East 6th Avenue, Vancouver
Announced in August 2019, 188 East 6th Avenue, Vancouver is a joint project between Catalyst Community Developments Society and the City of Vancouver that is receiving $48.5 million in funding from the Rental Construction Financing Initiative. The development will contain 145 units and has several features that have been identified as desirable by women with lived experience of housing need. These features include:
- A mix of bedroom types with 30 3-bedroom apartments and 43 2-bedroom apartments
- play area
- multi-purpose amenity room
The building is located near several amenities including a school, childcare centre, community centre, public transit, a grocery store, a park and a healthcare centre. Due to its design features and proximity to amenities, many of the units fall under the category of being designed for women and their children.
Spotlight on Understanding Women’s Housing Need and Homelessness in Canada
Understanding Women’s Housing Need and Homelessness in Canada is a research project commissioned through the Research and Planning Fund and led by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. The goal of the project is to develop a strong national evidence base on the unique causes and conditions of housing need and homelessness for:
- gender-diverse people
Gaps in the literature indicate a lack of synthesized research on the topic. Current estimates of women experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity are likely low due to the often hidden nature of their homelessness.
This project will address these gaps through an extensive literature review and national survey and consultation targeting those with lived experience of housing need and homelessness. It will include a specific focus on the challenges faced by Indigenous women. A range of topics will be explored, including:
- gender-based barriers to housing supports and services
- system drivers of housing need and homelessness for women throughout their lives
- connections between gender-based violence and housing needs
- gender-specific homelessness prevention strategies
The $100,000 in funding for this project falls under the designed category. Recommendations stemming from this project will help policymakers and practitioners to:
- advance housing equity
- address housing insecurity
Legacy funding for community housing under the Strategy
The legacy funding under the strategy originates from federal community (social) housing programs that were introduced between the 1950s and mid-1980s. Under these housing programs, long-term operating agreements (25 to 50 years) were put in place between government and housing providers to financially support the operations and keep rents affordable for tenants. As operating agreements are expiring, housing providers are eligible to sign up for continued support under the Federal Community Housing Initiative and the Canada Community Housing Initiative. We estimate that 416,000 community housing units were supported through legacy agreements in the first year of the strategy. Based on the 2018 Canadian Housing Survey estimate that 51% of households in social and affordable housing are female-led, we estimate that legacy funding under the strategy supported over 212,000 units occupied by women and their children or women living alone. This is an approximation as the community housing units supported under the strategy’s legacy funding do not completely overlap with the renter households in social and affordable housing from the Canadian Housing Survey.
The National Housing Strategy is a 10-year, $70+ billion plan to build stronger communities and help Canadians across the country access a safe, affordable home. Its focus is on the country’s most vulnerable populations.