Cape Breton University (CBU) will lead a national research initiative on the importance of affordable rental housing for those in greatest need, with significant investments from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Dr. Catherine-Leviten Reid, Associate Professor in the MBA in Community Economic Development program, was recently awarded $1.3 million to lead the five-year project.
Dr. Leviten-Reid has been researching affordable rental housing in partnership with organizations in Cape Breton since 2015. With a team of scholars from CBU and across Canada joining her efforts, and working in partnership with local and national non-profit organizations, the work is now aimed at informing affordable housing policies and programs nationwide.
“We want to understand how different kinds of affordable rental housing impacts the lives of marginalized individuals and families,” explains Dr. Leviten-Reid. Under current practices, Dr. Leviten-Reid says that governments use distinct forms of affordable housing interchangeably. An individual or family on a wait list for housing might be offered a public unit, a rent supplement for a specific unit in non-profit or market-based housing, or be given a cash benefit they can use for a rental of their choice.
“Without evidence on which, if any, of these approaches generate the best outcomes for tenants, policy decisions about housing provision are based on best guesses,” says Dr. Leviten-Reid.
CBU Associate Professor of Sociology, Dr. Margaret Dechman, is a co-investigator in the research. Dr. Dechman is recognized for her work on social exclusion. Stephen Augustine, CBU Associate Vice-President of Indigenous Affairs and Unama’ki College, is also a collaborator. Cape Breton Community Housing Association, Dr. Daniela Kempkens and Public Health – Nova Scotia Health Authority, New Dawn Enterprises, and the Community Entity on Homelessness are local partners in the Cape Breton region, while other organizations involved across Canada include Carleton University, the University of Saskatchewan, UBC, BC Housing, the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Association on Rural and Remote Housing and Homelessness, and the cities of Ottawa and Saskatoon.
“The partnered research we have conducted with CBU over the past few years has been highly relevant and impactful,” notes Fred Deveaux, Executive Director of Cape Breton Community Housing Association (CBCHA) and a leader in affordable housing in the province. “This is an incredible opportunity to continue that work, to partner with others across the country, and to inform affordable housing policy and practice here and across Canada.”