Joint news release – New project confirms people with disabilities are overrepresented in all aspects of inadequate housing and homelessness

June 19, 2024 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission and Office of the Federal Housing Advocate

A new monitoring project confirms that people with disabilities are overrepresented in nearly all aspects of inadequate housing and homelessness.

It provides clear evidence of what people with disabilities in Canada have been saying for many years: their fundamental human right to housing is being violated.

The situation is so serious that some people are turning to medical assistance in dying, because they cannot access the basic supports and services they need to live with dignity.

The data shows that people with disabilities are:

  • four times more likely to experience homelessness
  • more likely to become homeless due to violence
  • more likely to live in unaffordable housing
  • almost twice as likely to live in core housing need (housing that is unaffordable, not in good repair, and with not enough space for the occupants)
  • often living in homes that do not have the physical aids they need.

The findings also reinforce that the temporary income supports during the COVID-19 pandemic made a noticeable difference in helping make housing more affordable. In 2022, the rate of renters with disabilities who lived in unaffordable housing was 35%, down from 45% in 2016. With these supports no longer available, affordability is again becoming an issue for more people. While the recent introduction of the Canada Disability Benefit is a step forward, it is not enough to significantly support people with disabilities living in unaffordable housing.

This monitoring project is a joint effort between the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate, and was developed with the input of people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers, including those who have experienced homelessness and inadequate housing.

The first of its kind, this project uses publicly available data, including figures from Statistics Canada, to monitor human rights-based housing outcomes for people with disabilities. It tracks the housing experiences of people with disabilities in eleven key areas, such as homelessness, institutionalization, affordability, and accessibility. The initial findings are a starting point that help to illustrate the current housing situations of people with disabilities in Canada, and identify where improvements are urgently needed.

The monitoring framework is an important accountability mechanism to help monitor whether Canada is making progress on its human rights obligations. Canada has recognized housing as a human right for all in the National Housing Strategy Act, and committed to upholding the rights of people with disabilities in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

These troubling findings make it clear that more work is needed to support solutions and advocacy efforts so that these pressing issues can be addressed. This includes expanding data collection so that all people with disabilities are included, and disaggregating data so that intersectional barriers can be identified, like those based on disability type, age, race and Indigeneity, sex, geography, and other identities.

The Commission and the Federal Housing Advocate will continue to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities in Canada and their fundamental right to adequate housing.

Canada must do more to ensure that every person with a disability has an accessible, affordable, and safe place to live.

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Quick facts

  • Homelessness: People with disabilities were four times more likely to experience homelessness, and more than two times more likely to experience hidden homelessness. They were also more likely to become homeless because of violence – more than half (53%) of people with disabilities who had experienced homelessness reported that it was because of violence, compared with 36% of people without disabilities.
  • Affordability: People with disabilities were more likely to live in unaffordable housing than people without disabilities. The latest figures show that 35% of renters with disabilities lived in unaffordable housing, while the rate for renters without disabilities was 25%. People reported that they did not have enough money left over for basic necessities, like food and medications.
  • Core housing need: People with disabilities were almost two times more likely to live in core housing need, and renters with disabilities were particularly over-represented. In 2022, 27% of the population had a disability, but 42% of renters in core housing need had a disability. Renters reported pest problems, overcrowding, and the negative impact this was having on their health and wellbeing.
  • Accessibility: In 2022, 16% of people with physical disabilities said their homes did not have the physical aids they needed. The real numbers are probably much higher, since many people with disabilities were not asked about their accessible housing needs. People reported that housing is built to exclude people with disabilities.
  • Data gaps: A lot of key information is missing about the housing situations of people with disabilities. For example, information is not collected in national surveys about people living in institutions like group homes, hospitals and prisons; about people living in Northern and rural areas; about Indigenous people living on reserves; and about children with disabilities. Surveys frequently do not include some types of disabilities, do not ask consistent questions about disabilities, or do not disaggregate data. These data gaps make it hard to know how well people with disabilities are doing, compare information and track changes over time, or know which groups face the most barriers.
  • Solutions: The federal government should lead the way to build a barrier-free Canada.
    • All housing built with government funding should be free of barriers.
    • Canada must update its building codes. These codes must respect Canadian and international human rights laws. They should cover all types of housing. This would make sure all new housing is free of barriers.
    • Governments should report on how many accessible and adaptable housing units are available, and how many are needed.
  • About 8 million Canadians, or 27% of the population, have a disability. This number is growing – it increased from 22%, or 6.2 million people, in 2017.

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