Across Canada, there is a severe shortage of decent quality housing that is affordable to those with low incomes, and much of the housing that is available is inadequate, even appalling. The poor condition of housing for those below the poverty line adds to the weight of the complex poverty they already endure, which includes worsening health, adversely affected education and neighbourhoods that are more prone to crime and violence. Using Winnipeg, Manitoba, as an example, Poor Housing examines the real-life circumstances of low-income people who are forced to live in these conditions. Contributing authors examine some of the challenges faced by low-income people in poor housing, including difficulties with landlords who abuse their power, bedbugs, racism and discrimination and a wide range of other social and psychological effects. Other selections consider the particular housing problems faced by Aboriginal people and by newcomers to Winnipeg as well as the challenges faced by individuals living in rooming houses.
A central theme in the collection is that the private, for-profit housing market cannot meet the housing needs of low-income Canadians, and, therefore, governments must intervene and provide subsidies. But all levels of government have shown a consistent unwillingness to invest in decent housing for low-income people. The irony is that the social costs of poor housing and the complex poverty of which it is a part are almost certainly greater than the costs of investing in subsidized social housing and related anti-poverty measures.
Finally, the authors describe a number of creative and successful housing strategies for low-income people in Winnipeg, including Aboriginal housing co-ops, a revitalized 1960s-style public housing complex and a highly creative repurposing of an inner-city church into supported social housing. In these successful cases, communities and governments have worked cooperatively to good effect.
Winnipeg’s social housing is not just indicative of what is wrong with housing across Canada, but also a model for what is going right. There is outstanding housing advocacy work going on at the community level, and goodwill and investment on the part of the provincial government.
— Briarpatch, April 2016 (full review)