Since the start of her mandate, the Federal Housing Advocate has committed to focusing her work on those with greatest housing need, including Two-Spirit, trans and non-binary people who are disproportionately affected by housing need. It is essential when considering this priority group to do so with a keen intersectional lens. This is because for gender-diverse people who face intersectional forms of discrimination—such as racialized trans people, or non-binary people with disabilities—the barriers to housing are even greater.
Learning more about barriers to housing
In 2022–2023, the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate commissioned the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network to prepare a research brief entitled Housing Need and Homelessness amongst Gender-Diverse People in Canada — A Preliminary Portrait. Drawing on a scoping literature review on homelessness among gender-diverse people in Canada, as well as quantitative and qualitative data from the Pan-Canadian Women’s Housing and Homelessness Survey, the brief examines significant, intersecting human rights violations in the area of housing, including:
- gender-based discrimination in the rental housing market,
- disproportionate housing accessibility and adequacy issues,
- unique barriers to security of tenure, and
- socio-economic marginalization that erodes access to affordable, safe, and permanent housing for gender diverse people.
This research contributes to a body of evidence to support the Advocate’s systemic reviews and also to help academics and government duty bearers to understand where to focus their efforts and future research. Some key areas for future research range from collecting better national data on housing need and homelessness experienced by Two-Spirit, trans, non-binary, and gender diverse people, to the impact of financialization on gender-diverse households, to experiences of hidden homelessness among this community.
Gaps in housing data for trans and gender diverse people
Historically, 2SLGBTQ+ people have accounted for a disproportionately large percentage of Canadians who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless, or in core housing need. The 2SLGBTQ+ population is much more likely to be renters than the general population (53% vs. 31%), more likely to be in core housing need (17% vs 12%), and less likely to report being satisfied with their dwelling (74% vs 83%), according to Statistics Canada. Recent research from Statistics Canada reveals that 2SLGBTQ+ individuals may also be at greater risk of losing access to safe and secure housing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, data remains limited regarding the housing and homelessness experiences of low income Two-Spirit, trans, and non-binary people living in Canada, particularly with attention to differences within the Two-Spirit, trans, and non-binary community related to household income, Indigenous identity, racialization, and disability.
In 2022–2023, we set out to provide some new disaggregated data to help fill this gap. Together, the Office of the Federal Advocate and the Policy, Research and International Relations Division of the Canadian Human Rights Commission funded and commissioned a report from Trans PULSE Canada. The report is based on housing data from the organization’s national survey, a large community-based study of the health of trans and non-binary people in Canada, funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research.
Key findings included:
- Half of participants anticipated discrimination in obtaining housing because of who they are.
- 9.8% of participants had avoided accessing a shelter when they needed one because of gender identity/expression.
- 9.3% of participants were homeless or living in precarious housing, most often living temporarily with partners, friends, or family (8.6%).
- Indigenous participants reported the highest rates of having ever lost housing (20.3%) or having to move (35.8%) because of who they are, as well as food insecurity (27.1%).
- Black participants reported the highest rates of having been denied banking (19.1%) because of who they are. Many Black participants anticipated discrimination in banking access (45.3%) and in obtaining housing (69.9%) because of who they are. Other racialized participants reported the highest rate of current homelessness (2.7%).
- Half of participants with disabilities received public social assistance or disability support in the past year. Participants with mobility disabilities had the highest reported level of avoiding using shelter (18.7%) and being denied shelter access (3.8%).
Trans PULSE Canada used multiple approaches to make the survey accessible, however, it was not possible to conduct a random sample of the trans and non-binary population. Therefore, results cannot be assumed to represent true population demographics. For instance, that 9.3% of participants were homeless or living in precarious housing, does not mean exactly 9.3% of all trans and non-binary people in Canada are homeless or living in precarious housing.