The Hub Researcher explores Canada’s affordable housing crisis
Research with Reach

Researcher explores Canada’s affordable housing crisis

By: Marta Gold

Katie MacDonald’s research looks at supports for workers in affordable housing sector

More public infrastructure and housing justice are some of the solutions Dr. Katie MacDonald is exploring in her research into the housing crisis affecting people across Canada.

Housing justice refers to the idea that everyone’s housing needs should be met, and that housing discrimination and inequity should end.

“We need housing to not be a commodity. We need it to be something that people get because they’re a person who deserves housing,” says MacDonald, an associate professor of Sociology at Athabasca University (AU).

The housing crisis is not new, she adds, though it is certainly a focus of public attention right now, with increasing rental rates, a loss of rentals at the low end of the market, and more people living in encampments. Through her research and her own experience working in affordable housing, she has identified systemic flaws.

“The housing system itself is built to produce crisis for some people,” she says.

“We need housing to not be a commodity. We need it to be something that people get because they're a person who deserves housing.”

– Dr. Katie MacDonald, associate professor of sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Research explores experiences of workers in affordable housing sector

MacDonald’s research at AU focuses on the experience of people who work in the affordable housing sector, often with limited professional development opportunities to prepare them for what is often an extremely demoralizing job.

“One person I talked to said, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever had a good day at work,’” she says.

While workers entered the field to help people, they find most of their work involves saying “no” to clients needing somewhere to live.

MacDonald says she and her research assistant, Eryn Leigh, suggest these workers are experiencing “a kind of moral suffering, because it goes against their morals that they can’t house people.”

Supporting workers helps those in need of affordable housing

Finding ways to support workers in affordable housing is critical, since they are the ones responsible for implementing government policies at the local, provincial, and federal levels, she adds.

Her research can also help to find ways to make housing more secure and more stable for those in need.

Only about 5% of the housing market in Canada is public, or non-market, says MacDonald. In other countries it can be much higher; in Singapore, for example, it’s more than 80%.

This lack of affordable public housing, coupled with a lack of supports for those in the field, is contributing to creating the housing crisis, she says.

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  • April 17, 2024
Guest Blog from:
Marta Gold