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Addressing the Housing Needs of Canada’s LGBTQ2S+ Community

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 20 July 2021 00:00

A recent poll by CIBC says the financial well-being of members of the LGBTQ+ community has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The survey of 1,000 members of the LGBTQ+ community found that one in three had to reduce their expenses because of the economic impact of the pandemic, compared to 25 per cent for the Canadian average. In addition, 20 per cent of the community had received financial aid from the government during the pandemic, compared to 12 per cent for the Canadian average.

“In some ways, COVID has impacted the LGBTQ+ community more so than the Canadian population,” says Dev Tewari, senior director, strategy and transformation at CIBC. “Perhaps our community and many of the employment opportunities they have may be more in areas of the economy where COVID has had a larger impact.”
Tewari says there are diverse families within the LGBTQ+ community, so it’s more important for them to have legal wills and powers of attorney for health care purposes, for personal care and for property.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) recently announced a partnership with the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance to raise awareness of the challenges facing LGBTQ+ home buyers and sellers. 

“There are a number of specific housing issues that are faced by the LGBTQ+ community that need more time and attention from our industry and from government,” says John King, an Ottawa real estate broker, on a blog on CREA’s website. These issues include eliminating discrimination against members of the community relating to homeownership, renting and obtaining mortgages, he says.

“The rate of homeownership for members of the LGBTQ+ community is also below that of the general population, so we need to understand the reasons for this anomaly and take corrective action. Members of the LGBTQ+ community deserve the same access to housing as other members of society,” says King.

A research report from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says people who identify as LGBTQ2S+ have housing needs that are different from those of other Canadians. “They need to consider how their housing will affect their access to social or medical services and allow them to be part of an inclusive and welcoming community.”

The CMHC report says historically, LGBTQ2S+ Canadians have accounted for a disproportionately large percentage of the population who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless or in core housing need.

“Many experts believe the reason for LGBTQ2S+ homelessness is discrimination. First at home, then from society when trying to do things like access suitable housing,” says the report. “For example, far too many LGBTQ2S+ youth are forced to leave home after ‘coming out’ to their families. Once alone and on the streets, they face additional discrimination finding work, accessing education and securing a safe place to live.”

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), a national research institute devoted to homelessness in Canada, says LGBTQ2S youth are overrepresented in youth homelessness. It says about 40 per cent of homeless youth identify as part of the community.

“A high proportion of queer and trans youth experiencing homelessness feel safer on the streets than in shelters due to homophobic and transphobic violence that occurs in the shelter system and because shelter providers are not fully prepared to deal with homophobia and transphobia,” says the COH. “There is still minimal support available and there are no specialized housing initiatives that meet the needs of LGBTQ2S youth in Canada.

“Even with the legalization of same-sex marriage and various global initiatives that promote LGBTQ2S equality, homophobia and transphobia are still deeply ingrained in our everyday behaviours, language and in the policies of many institutions such as the shelter system; however, they are often normalized and invisible in such settings,” says COH.

LGBTQ2S+ renters face landlord discrimination and harassment and violence from other tenants, says a CMHC review of housing research on the topic.

The public housing agency says housing is also a problem for seniors in the community.

“For LGBTQ2S+ seniors, settling into a retirement or long-term care community can sometimes also mean having to ‘go back in the closet’,” says the CMHC report. “The reason is fear of discrimination, homophobia or transphobia from staff or fellow residents.”

It says many retirement residences are adopting more LGBTQ2S+-friendly policies, ranging from sensitivity training and inclusivity initiatives to events and celebrations with LGBTQ2S+ themes.

But it says, “Other community groups believe that creating LGBTQ2S+ retirement homes could contribute to the ‘ghettoization’ of LGBTQ2S+ seniors. These groups advocate fostering greater inclusivity and awareness of LGBTQ2S+ needs among all providers of seniors’ housing.”
The CMHC report concludes that private and public sectors need to partner and work on solving the issues and challenges facing the LGBTQ2S+ community, by working to eliminate stigmas, address ignorance, reduce discrimination and hate, and raise awareness of the issues. Specific programs need to be developed to address the needs of youth and seniors in need of housing assistance.

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Jim Adair

Jim Adair is editor of REM: Canada's Real Estate Magazine, a business publication for real estate agents and brokers. He has been writing about Canadian real estate, home building and renovation issues for more than 30 years. You can contact Jim at jim@remonline.com.

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