Building partnerships with organizations across Canada is essential to our work. Collaborations with these stakeholders help to strengthen our research, our knowledge of systemic housing issues in Canada, and broaden our reach.
In 2022, the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate leveraged the work of Trans PULSE Canada and the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network to convene two expert engagement meetings. The meetings were held with Two-Spirit, trans and non-binary people (and allies) with lived or living experience of homelessness and housing precarity, and Two-Spirit, trans and non-binary academic and community leaders, to further inform future research and engagement efforts of the Office and the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Federal and Indigenous partners
Last year, the Advocate also built strong relationships with government partners, primarily at the federal level, as well as with national Indigenous organizations. The Advocate held introductory bilateral meetings with all federal Ministers overseeing key housing programs, as well as appeared before the Federal, Provincial-Territorial Housing Forum of Deputy Ministers. The Advocate also met with the executive leadership of the national Indigenous organizations to establish strong relationships and to plan regional engagements. Through regional visits, the Advocate was also able to begin engaging with some municipal governments in British Columbia, as well as the Indigenous leadership organizations in Nunavut and Nunatsiavut.
Working together on accessibility
Last year, the Federal Housing Advocate developed partnerships to advance our shared goals with the people and organizations who have mandates under the Accessible Canada Act, including the Accessibility Commissioner at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Chief Accessibility Officer, and Accessibility Standards Canada.
Canada does not currently have an adequate supply of accessible housing for people with disabilities. As our population ages in the next few decades and the average life expectancy increases, the need for accessible housing will increase dramatically. Seniors are twice as likely to have a disability as younger people; it is estimated that in the next two decades, one in four people will have a disability.
Canada’s current supply of housing stock specifically for seniors is in short supply. There are predicted shortages of purpose-built seniors housing and long-term care facilities. Already, because of the lack of accessible housing options and choices, some seniors and people with disabilities who could live independently are forced to take up long-term care beds, which are in high demand, costly, and should be reserved for people with complex care needs.
In our work together, we are highlighting the need for Canada to build accessibility into its housing policies and programs so that seniors and people with disabilities have a full range of housing choices that suit their needs. New housing must be designed to ensure equity for all Canadians, including seniors and people with disabilities.
One of the Advocate’s priorities is to highlight the urgent need for accessible housing in the face of Canada’s rapidly aging population, and ensure that new housing is designed to allow people to age in place.
The reality is that many seniors will need to age in place — that is, stay in their own homes as they grow older. Seniors who are aging at home will need to be in housing that meets their accessibility needs and accommodates future disabilities. Many homes will require renovations — some of which are extensive, expensive, disruptive and time consuming, if they are even possible at all. This situation is expected to create additional burdens for Canada’s aging population, regardless of people’s socio-economic position, with those most disadvantaged being most deeply affected.
With the goal of ensuring equity and accessibility for all, Accessibility Standards Canada has published a technical standard on Accessible Dwellings in partnership with Canadian Standards Association (CSA/ASC – B652 – Accessible Dwellings). This standard can be adopted into regulations to ensure accessibility is incorporated into newly built homes. This would allow new homes to meet the evolving needs of seniors, people with disabilities, families, and others.
The Federal Housing Advocate is calling on the federal government to rapidly incorporate accessibility standards for housing into the National Building Code alongside provinces and territories to make these standards legally enforceable.
The National Housing Strategy — Canada’s $82 billion strategy to address the many housing crises that rage across this country — will result in waves of construction booms from coast to coast to coast. We have an opportunity to build in accessibility from the start. Now is the time to enact changes to make a real difference for people in the future.
The government must ensure that all new housing achieves the Accessible Canada Act’s goal of creating a barrier-free Canada, and the human right to adequate housing enshrined in the National Housing Strategy Act.
Recommendations VIII – Accessibility
- The Federal Housing Advocate recommends that all new housing units that receive government funding or incentives meet the minimum criteria of visitability (having a level entrance, and having wider doorways and hallways and a wheelchair accessible washroom on the entry-level floor).
- The Federal Housing Advocate calls for all new residential units built in Canada to meet the criteria of Universal Design as well as the minimal Building Code requirements for housing related to accessibility conversion, allowing for easy, less structurally complex, expensive and disruptive future accessibly renovations.
- The Federal Housing Advocate calls for the adoption of the Accessible Dwellings Standard by provinces and territories, ensuring the accessibility standards are legally enforceable with the aim of removing and preventing barriers in the built environment for persons with disabilities, and all people who use it.
Detailed recommendations are available in Annex A.
National Housing Council
The National Housing Council is an important partner that shares our goal of advancing the right to housing for all.
Like the Federal Housing Advocate, the National Housing Council was established by the National Housing Strategy Act to promote participation and inclusion in the development of housing policy, provide advice to the Minister responsible for housing on advancing the right to housing, and to offer advice on the effectiveness of the National Housing Strategy to the Minister. The Council also plays a key role in conducting review panel hearings at the request of the Advocate.
The Council includes 12 diverse appointed members from across the country, who bring lived and professional expertise on the issues of housing and homelessness facing their communities. In addition to the Advocate, ex-officio members of the Council include the CEO of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Deputy Ministers of Infrastructure Canada, Indigenous Services Canada, and Women and Gender Equality Canada, and the chair of the Provincial-Territorial Housing Ministers’ Forum.
Last year, the Advocate joined the Council’s online meetings in April, June, and December 2022 and February 2023, as well as their first in-person meeting in September 2022. She has also held regular meetings with the Appointed Co-Chair of the Council to foster collaboration on advancing the right to housing.
Throughout the year, we worked with the Council to align and strengthen our research and engagement. In particular, the Council’s reports on the National Housing Strategy have helped to inform the Advocate’s recommendations to the Minister on changes required to the National Housing Strategy. We also provided input into the Council’s research and engagement work.
The area of most intensive collaboration with the Council has been in the development of guidelines for review panels. Review Panels are a new, made-in-Canada, participatory human rights mechanism established by the National Housing Strategy Act. Review panels are mandated to hold public hearings on major systemic housing issues identified by the Advocate, and to deliver a report to the Minister with their opinion and recommendations on what needs to be done to address the issue and advance the right to housing.