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Ensuring effective municipal responses to housing needs and homelessness during Covid-19 in Canada

  • Amount funded: £30,000
  • Year: 2021
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Locations: Canada
  • Grant stream: Open grants call

Vulnerable communities in Canadian cities have been disproportionately affected by homelessness during the Covid-19 pandemic, despite significant efforts by government to engage with, and provide economic support for, a diverse population.

Project partners
Canadian Urban Institute (CUI)
The Shift
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How we are helping

This project will support local governments in improving housing policy and procedures to adequately respond to the needs of vulnerable communities who are living with homelessness, residing in informal settlements, or facing eviction.

About the project

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Canadian Government instituted rigorous restrictions in March 2020, set up an on-going multi-lingual public education programme, offered strong guidance and resourcing for health authorities, and engaged with diverse groups of people to meet a range of differing needs.  

The Canadian Economic Recovery Benefit scheme was accessed by nearly 9 million people (a quarter of the population), helping them to stay home and thus slow the spread of the virus. The unemployment benefits system was reformed, extending income protection to self-employed and gig workers.

Nevertheless, homelessness and tent encampments increased in Canadian cities during the pandemic, disproportionately affecting vulnerable communities including single mothers, women and children experiencing violence, indigenous communities, and racial minorities.

This project will work with local governments and civil society actors in four Canadian cities to improve policy responses to housing and implement the necessary structural changes, with a focus on particularly vulnerable groups. 

The project will achieve this by:

  • undertaking a policy scan and a mixed-methods study to examine how municipal governments’ policy responses to housing needs during Covid-19 have affected vulnerable groups
  • establishing a Community of Practice (COP) with ten members from each participating city: from the Mayor to people with lived experience of housing exclusion
  • analysing the findings from the policy scan; identifying and testing promising policy approaches, and supporting mutual learning
  • facilitating the involvement of people with expertise developed from lived experience in the review and design of housing policy responses during Covid-19
  • providing education, training, and evidence-based resources focused on ensuring better housing outcomes, including through the implementation of the National Housing Strategy Act
Project Partners
Canadian Urban Institute (CUI)

Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) provides a national platform where policymakers, urban professionals, civic and business leaders, activists and academics learn, share and collaborate with one another. They work through research, engagement and storytelling. CUI is currently leading a national research and advocacy program, Bring Back Main Street, to shape the urban response to Covid-19 by bringing together government, private sector, academics, and advocacy groups.

The Shift

The Shift is a global movement promoting actions towards securing the right to housing. It is an internationally recognized platform for transforming housing paradigms by uniting governments, private actors, real estate developers, architects, and grassroots movements. It offers capacity building and training in the area of housing and homelessness. The Shift has recently produced Guidance Notes for Governments on housing, homelessness, and Covid-19.

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Governance Areas
Local governance