One of the Federal Housing Advocate’s roles is to keep track of how Canada is doing on the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing. Having comprehensive data, monitoring tools and frameworks that are grounded in human rights will help us to see what progress Canada is making and where we still need to improve.
The intersection of the right to housing and the rights of people with disabilities
This year, the Federal Housing Advocate worked closely with the Canadian Human Rights Commission to engage with people with disabilities and monitor how well their human rights are being respected in Canada, including their right to adequate housing.
The Commission is designated as Canada’s National Monitoring Mechanism (NMM), with a mandate to monitor the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD).
The NMM has consistently received feedback from rights holders to prioritize issues of housing and disability. So, we are working together to coordinate efforts to create a consistent human rights-based approach to our respective monitoring duties.
In June 2022, the Advocate participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Commission as part of a side-event at the United Nations meeting of countries who have signed on to the CRPD. The virtual panel discussion highlighted the intersection of housing rights and disability rights in Canada. This accessible virtual event was attended by more than 100 participants and included panelists with diverse lived expertise. The discussion also raised awareness on the work between the Federal Housing Advocate and the NMM to jointly monitor this intersection of rights.
In December 2022, the Advocate joined the NMM at its Learning Circles event, with the goal of listening to the views of people with disabilities to help shape our joint monitoring work. It was an opportunity for people with disabilities to be heard on this issue. The discussions at the event allowed us to engage with people directly to develop a set of indicators to help measure the intersection of the right to adequate housing and disability rights.
During this event, we asked everyone:
- What do you think needs to be better understood— by governments, service providers and the public—about the right to adequate housing for people with disabilities?
- To help us track progress on the right to housing for people with disabilities, we need to know: who is not being listened to, and what stories, experiences, and information need to be added to the picture?
The discussions and perspectives we heard from this event will be critical in helping to shape our joint monitoring efforts moving forward.
Recommendations IX – People with disabilities
- As a matter of priority, broaden dedicated social and financial supports for people with disabilities as well as supportive housing in recognition of their unique needs and to ensure that they are able to maintain their dignity and independence. These supports must be inclusive and empower people to maintain a quality of life on par with people without disabilities. They should be more accessible geographically, including in remote and northern communities. Supports must also be reflective of inflation and interest rates.
- Take urgent steps to ensure adequate housing for people with disabilities. Adequate housing is defined as housing that is visitable, safe, accessible, habitable, culturally adequate, and affordable. Steps should include developing public policy to address the increasing cost of housing, including but not limited to the implementation of rent caps and the introduction of more non-market housing. Any new policies should be developed in collaboration with people with disabilities of diverse intersectional lived experiences and their advocates.
- Increase the percentage of fully accessible units required for new builds to receive federal funding to 100%.
- Develop a coordinated housing strategy between federal, provincial and municipal governments to clearly determine who is and is not responsible for providing housing solutions for people with disabilities. The goals of the National Housing Strategy and the National Housing Strategy Act require a collaborative effort across departments and jurisdictions to respond adequately to the needs of vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities. Jurisdictional confusion should never result in housing precarity for people with disabilities.
- Implement a clear strategy and committed timeline toward the deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities, including people with disabilities who are criminalized and institutionalized in inappropriate facilities such as hospitals, nursing or seniors’ homes and other long-term care facilities due to a lack of adequate community-based supports and services. The deinstitutionalization strategy should include a framework led by people with disabilities to ensure safe, accessible and affordable housing in the community, through public housing or rental subsidies, for persons leaving institutions.
Detailed recommendations are available in Annex A.