National Housing Day – Renewing our Call for a National Housing and Homelessness Strategy

On National Housing Day it is important to recognize that Canada has made some significant efforts to improve access to affordable housing and address homelessness. However, the fact still remains that there are between 150,000 and 300,000 people who are homeless in Canada.[1] Many civil society organizations, activists, politicians[2], as well as federal Standing Committee reports and the UN committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women[3] have called for a national strategy to deal with the housing and homelessness crisis, yet we are still waiting. Canada is the only G8 country without such a strategy.

CFUW has been an advocate for improving access to affordable housing since the early 1990’s. We are particularly concerned about the gendered impacts of homelessness and poverty. Poverty and lack of affordable housing options can also prevent women from leaving abusive relationships. This is quite troubling as we know that gender based violence continues to affect women and children in Canada. According to a survey from 2004, of the 6,109 women and children residing in shelters across Canada, about 5,000 had escaped an abusive situation representing about three-quarters of all women residing in shelters.[4]

Aboriginal peoples, newcomers, lone parents, women, people living with disabilities, and seniors are all disproportionately affected by housing insecurity. Although there are many persuasive moral and human rights arguments for addressing this glaring reality, it also makes financial sense. It is estimated that Canadians are already paying $1 billion a year for the emergency shelter, health care, and criminal justice costs associated with homelessness. In 2001, the BC Provincial Government published a study which determined that the costs of services for someone that was homeless were 33% higher than for someone who had been homeless and subsequently housed. [5]

We therefore take this opportunity on National Housing Day to renew the call on the federal government to once and for all establish a National Housing and Homelessness Strategy involving the provincial, territorial, municipal and Aboriginal governments.


[1] Eggleton, A. and Segal, H. (2009). In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness. The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Report of the Subcommittee on Cities. Senate of Canada.

[2] See Libby Davies Private Member’s Bill C-304 An Act Ensuring Secure, Adequate Accessible and Afforable Housing for Canadians:http://www.parl.gc.ca/LEGISInfo/BillDetails.aspx?billId=3630084&Language=E&Mode=1

[3] UN CEDAW. (2008). Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Canada.

[4] Women Housing and Equality Network. Fact Sheet Women and Girls: Poverty and Homelessness. Retrieved from: http://www.equalityrights.org/when/

[5] Eggleton, A and Segal H. (2009)

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