Housing is a human right

November 21, 2023

Canada is in the midst of a housing crisis. Affordability, homelessness, and lack of safe and adequate housing are all growing issues that deeply affect almost every community across the country. United Way Centraide Canada is renewing its focus on housing to shape our unique contribution towards the issues of affordable housing and homelessness for all communities through convening with all levels of governments and within the sector, engaging in policy development for more affordable and accessible housing, and strategic government relations.

Although we know a home should be affordable, millions of people rely on community service organizations to fill the gaps left by inadequate incomes and access to basic needs. Data from 211 show that over 43,000 housing/shelter related needs were expressed by people reaching out to the helpline between January and June 2023, a 22% increase from the previous 6 months (July-December 2022). Additionally, data from York University’s Homeless Hub informs us that at least 35,000 people living in Canada are without shelter on any given night.

People like Marie struggle with juggling the costs of rent and all other essential needs and find themselves in a position to have to choose between shelter or food. Everyone is deserving of a home regardless of their demographics, where they live, or what their financial situation may be. For this reason, United Way Centraides across the country are taking action to build a more equitable future by tackling the housing crisis. We do this by designing and leading programs, providing shelter, and enabling community organizations through collaboration and funding.

United Way Halifax has helped fund housing support organizations like Welcome Housing, Public Good, and The North Grove to address homelessness in Nova Scotia. Alongside partners, service providers, and community groups, United Way Halifax is also working on establishing a community land trust that will make housing more equitable and affordable in the long term. Through the “100 More Homes Penticton,” United Way British Columbia and community partners were able to provide housing for 133 people and counting through a 3-year Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Penticton to collaborate around homelessness and non-market housing planning.

The depth of the housing crisis is glaring when new African refugee claimants and asylum seekers have been forced to sleep on the streets of Toronto upon arrival due to the lack of available, local shelters. To address the situation, United Way Greater Toronto announced over $415,000 in grants to support African resettlement. While these interventions are helping many struggling with homelessness, it is evident that there is a dire need for long-term systemic solutions for housing across our country.

National Housing Day is an occasion to reflect on the state of housing in Canada and spark conversations and action towards alleviating the ongoing crisis affecting most communities. To bolster the work of community organizations and make progress against a more equitable future for all communities across Canada, we urge the Government of Canada to increase investments in affordable housing, adequate income and employment supports, and other community services.

Housing is a human right, not a commodity. Together, we can make a difference and ensure that everyone has a place to call home.

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