Housing is a human right. Enshrined under Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, housing is an essential part of an adequate standard of living.
In Canada, we’ve taken important steps towards realizing this right for everyone through the national housing strategy, recognizing the right to housing into law. However, ask anyone in the housing sector and they will tell you we still have a ways to go. And with a federal election in just a few weeks, platforms championing housing affordability have completely missed the mark on addressing the basic human right to housing.
Currently, 1 in every 5 households experiences housing affordability issues, while 3 million people in Canada are precariously housed. Meaning, it should come as no surprise that Canada is amid a housing crisis.
While there is no one simple answer to fix the housing crisis, a very easy way to explain homelessness is simply that there is a lack of housing. Yet, across the country, the urgency for immediate and rights-based approaches to ending homelessness doesn’t seem as dire as the realities on the ground.
The National leaders’ debate on housing last evening boasted candidates from all parties, but not one leader committed on stage to ending homelessness and fully adopting the international human right’s approach to housing.
This is felt across the country. Ontario plans to build 100 affordable apartments in Scarborough but is facing termination following funding cuts from the Provincial Government. In Montreal, the Mayor and City Council are threatening to cancel the construction of condominiums after the developers backtracked a proposal to include social housing within the towers. Whereas here in Ottawa, Timbercreek Management has forcibly displaced 4,000 residents of the Herongate community.
This is not the direction we should be moving to realize the right to housing. A forced move from the neighbourhood you have built your home is without question a form of displacement, however, it is also a phenomenon that disproportionately impacts low-income people. Aside from the myriad of implications for displacement, Canada’s housing crisis also perpetuates violence against women and children living low-income. And if these few examples aren’t alarming enough, improved housing conditions are linked to disease prevention, mitigating climate change, addressing food insecurity and of course, poverty reduction.
When families have access to affordable housing, food bank usage and healthcare costs drop. The result is that when we treat housing like what it is – a human right, instead of a commodity, we take one of many important steps towards building a more equitable and just society for everyone.
When we consider how the lack of housing has broad negative impacts throughout our communities, we also see how upholding the right to housing can have important positive strides that bring us to compete on the world stage as a country that fully believes everyone deserves the right to an adequate standard of living.
Housing goes further than having a home, it’s about who gets to live where, and why.
It’s time Canadian leaders take steps to ensure access to affordable housing across the country.
And you can join the call this October 17th, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, through participating in Chew On This! -, Canada’s largest anti-poverty movement. This year, campaigners will be handing out postcards to be sent directly to the Prime Minister’s Office asking that the Government of Canada honour its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to eliminate. Together we can tell whoever wins the election that Canadians want bold reforms to address poverty in our country, and that involves the right to affordable housing.
Sam Pevalin is a Communications Volunteer at Dignity for All.