Social Housing & Human Rights Conference

April 2023 – Winnipeg, MB

The Social Housing and Human Rights Conference took place on April 20th and 21st, 2023 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This event was the first step in our collaborative efforts to develop a unified call to action and advocacy plan for social housing, where rents are geared to income, in Canada.

Conference attendees began to strategize to advocate for changes to national housing policy to ensure a focus on social housing. Advocacy training led by Institute for Change Leaders helped participants develop their skills to mobilize their communities to advocate for change. 

Keynote Speaker: Leilani Farha

Our keynote speaker, Leilani Farha, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, is a Canadian lawyer, Global Director of The Shift and the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing (2014-2020). Her documentary PUSH: The Film exposed the growing crisis caused by the financialization of housing, inspiring right-to-housing advocates to scale up efforts to call on governments to take immediate action.

In this keynote address, Leilani provided her insights on the crisis in low-cost rental housing, how Canada’s Right to Housing legislation can be used as a tool for housing advocates to mobilize to shift public discourse and public policy toward a renewed commitment to expand social housing in Canada.

Aligning Social Housing with the National Housing Strategy

Presenter – Steve Pomeroy, Industry Professor at McMaster University, Expert Advisor at the Canadian Housing Evidence Collaborative, and Principal Consultant at Focus Consulting.

Canada needs more non-market rent-geared-to-income housing. We have an opportunity to utilize the National Housing Strategy (NHS) to mitigate our current housing crisis, but there is work to do to make this happen.

This session provided a broad historical review and analysis of what governments have been doing to address the housing needs of low-income Canadians and learn about the opportunities and limitations of the NHS when it comes to rent-geared-to-income (RGI) social housing and some of the key public policy ideas that are aiming to address the challenges. We also heard about how some provinces and municipalities are partnering with the federal government to meet the need for RGI  housing.

Organizing for Change Training

Training by Duncan Pike, Instructor, Institute for Change Leaders in partnership with Michelle Bilek, National Organizer for the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

Participants came together to build their capacity to collectively mobilize and advocate to make social housing a public policy priority.

The training helped participants to:

  • Understand the strategic role of storytelling in our collective movement for the right to housing;
  • Learn to lead change through their personal narrative;
  • Build a concrete action plan to advocate for social housing through understanding power and developing tailored strategies and tactics.

Social Housing and Human Rights: Principles and Considerations

Housing is not one-size-fits-all. To ensure that everyone in Canada has access to good-quality, safe housing, we must ensure that social housing programs are implemented in a way that addresses the many factors that shape people’s experiences of, and access to, housing. This paper begins with five framing principles, then proposes several considerations to ensure Canada’s social housing programs address all housing needs for all people. This version of the paper reflects the feedback that conference participants provided on an earlier version of this paper. It is intended to act as a ‘living document’ that will evolve over time as housing needs change.

Speaker’s Corner

Conference participants from across Canada share their insights and personal stories about social housing.

Tracy from Thunder Bay, ON is on a wait list for social housing because she can no longer afford decent shelter & a safe place to live. ⁦
Luca opens up about the importance of social housing when they faced gender discrimination.
Amanda from Winnipeg, MB knows social housing is a way to reduce homelessness.
Andrea describes life-saving impacts of social housing when she faced challenges as young person who left home in Quebec for Yukon.
Carlos from Winnipeg, MB discusses common benefits of co-op and social housing.

May 4 and 9 Follow-up meetings

In follow up meetings, the coalition began to articulate its campaign strategy and plan.

Join us in demanding a real solution to the housing crisis.