Canadian housing policy, homelessness, social housing, supportive housing strategies


After years of cutbacks to housing programs in Canada, there has emerged a consensus that a progressive housing policy requires significant construction of new social housing units to address both the problems of housing affordability and homelessness. This paper argues that large scale social housing should not be the focus of progressive housing policy in the 21st century. We should use the progressive goals of the original welfare state, but we should modify the programs designed to meet these goals. The paper examines the income and personal insecurities faced by low-income households today, contrasting them with the insecurities faced in the early postwar period, and concludes that social housing is poorly suited to the problems of today. To deal with housing affordability problems, the focus should be upon employment programs, education and training, and income support, not upon new social housing. Furthermore, expansion of social housing would do little to help the homeless. The focus of progressive housing policy should be on programs to directly help the homeless. This requires a coordinated combining of housing first with social support programs: a supportive housing strategy.

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