Research & Policy
Indicators of Inclusive Housing
Inclusive housing and communities are at the heart of My Home My Community – and a central part of the National Housing Strategy’s vision for housing in Canada. The National Housing Strategy affirmed housing as “a cornerstone of inclusive communities” – recognizing that home is the point from which people make meaningful personal connections to friends, family and neighbours, access schools and jobs, and engage with the community around them.
Housing that is integrated into an inclusive social environment has an even bigger impact for Canadians with a disability, who face a distinct set of barriers when it comes to participating in community.
But what exactly does it take to remove these barriers? We’ve been fighting for inclusive housing for a long time. Now, we are developing the tools to assess and quantify housing inclusivity.
My Home My Community has engaged people with disabilities and other experts to identify what about housing contributes to inclusion, and make a checklist so developers can plan for inclusion from the start. We’ve created a tool that can evaluate how well a specific housing development – whether built or pre-built – achieves inclusion for its residents, and show where to target efforts to achieve inclusion.
The Housing Inclusivity Framework asks questions like:
How much choice and control does an individual have over their home environment?
Does an individual have tenure stability to make a home, and stay there?
Is an individual able to access the services they need from their home and/or neighbourhood?
Is the home, and building the home is in, accessible and visitable
Does an individual feel safe enough to participate in their community?
The answers to these questions can have a tremendous impact on quality of life for Canadians with and without a disability. We developed the Housing Inclusivity Framework to help plan more inclusive housing for all Canadians, by designing around the needs of people with disabilities. When we design for higher needs populations, we create environments that benefit everyone.
Portable Housing Benefit - Disability
The creation of the Canada Housing Benefit – a $4 billion commitment – is one of the most innovative and vital contributions to housing affordability in the National Housing Strategy. It will be up to the provinces, territories, and the federal government to determine exactly how the Canada Housing Benefit will work in each province or territory when it launches in 2020. But at its base, a housing benefit is an allowance that goes to the person, to help cover the difference between the cost of rent and what they can afford. We are working so the Canada Housing Benefit works for the unique needs of people with developmental disabilities.
Many people with developmental disabilities share the same affordability challenges faced by other Canadians. However, people with developmental disabilities also frequently have lower incomes and bear extra “hidden” costs related to their housing that are not experienced by people without disabilities.
In their search for housing that meets their needs – such as living close to transit or to family members who provide support – people with developmental disabilities have a smaller set of rental options to choose from. This means they have less control over what they pay in rent: Cheaper housing might be available, but is too far away from family and transit, while the apartment that allows them to live close to family and transit might be more than they can afford.
For the Canada Housing Benefit to achieve equitable outcomes for people with disabilities, it must take into account these additional “hidden” costs. My Home My Community has done the homework to figure out what this would actually look like: We’ve developed a policy proposal for a disability supplement to be included as part of the Canada Housing Benefit, and explored the different forms it could take. Our proposed options for a Portable Housing Benefit – Disability program would help the Canada Housing Benefit provide people with developmental disabilities with the same housing opportunity as other Canadians.
RDSP Solutions Lab
At the same time as so many people with developmental disabilities struggle with poverty and housing, more than $3 billion is locked in Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs), unusable for practical purposes such as securing housing stability for many of these same people. RDSPs are long-term savings plans designed to provide financial stability for individuals with developmental disabilities, yet the current rules for RDSP withdrawals make these savings untouchable for many people with a developmental disability.
My Home My Community is undertaking a Solutions Lab to explore how RDSPs can be leveraged into opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to attain homeownership. Homeownership offers a unique way to meet the housing needs of people with developmental disabilities. It provides greater autonomy and choice for the individual to find a home that suits their needs. It creates long-term financial security and housing stability. And it offers a meaningful place within society's economic framework, allowing individuals to contribute to the economy and hold the valued social role of homeowner.
Through our Solutions Lab, we are researching and developing mechanisms to repurpose an existing resource to meet the housing needs of people with disabilities. With more than $3 billion currently held in RDSPS, the potential to have lasting, national impact on the lives of people with disabilities is significant. Stable, affordable, secure housing made possible through RDSP funds will reduce the need for people with a disability to live in congregate living arrangements, or deal with episodic homelessness. With housing stability established, they can focus on employment goals, volunteerism, and community participation.