LGBTQ2 Vulnerability In Housing

How do we solve the issue of LGBTQ2 vulnerability in housing? In this episode, Cynthia Belaskie and Robbie Brydon’s guest is Kenna McDowell, a graduate student in the Human Geography program at the University of Alberta. Kenna explains that expanding the social and affordable housing sector could solve so many issues that queer people experience. Especially because queer people are more likely to experience violence and discrimination in emergency shelters. Join in the conversation to learn more about LGBTQ2 vulnerability in housing and what you can do to help in your little way. Tune in!

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LGBTQ2 Vulnerability In Housing With Kenna McDowell

What are we talking about? 

We are taking a deeper dive into some of the issues that Damian Collins introduced us to in the last episode. Specifically, we’re going to be looking at how we can foster social inclusion through community housing. We’re talking with one of Damian’s students who completed a significant review of literature about the experiences of people in the queer and trans community within the Canadian housing sector. I’m happy to welcome Kenna McDowell to the show. 

Kenna, welcome to the program. 

Thank you for having me. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

My name is Kenna McDowell. I’m a Master’s student in the Human Geography department at the University of Alberta. The University of Alberta is located in Edmonton, Alberta, which is my hometown. I was born and raised here. It’s also a Treaty 6 territory, and I’m a white settler living in Edmonton. I also did my undergrad at the University of Alberta. I did that in the Women’s and Gender Studies department here. I don’t have a housing background but I do have a gay background from those studies. This research was my introduction to housing issues as they relate to LGBTQ2 issues. 

Part of Czech’s mandate is to grow new housing researchers. You’re on the path. 

We’ll be recruiting you. Can you tell us a little bit about this research project? 

In 2017, to give a little context, the Canadian government released something called The National Housing Strategy. In their words, it’s designed to strengthen communities and cut chronic homelessness in half. As a part of this strategy, the government identified twelve different groups that are experiencing vulnerability within the Canadian housing sector. One of those groups is LGBTQ2 people. It also includes other groups that overlap with LGBTQ2 people like youth, seniors, women fleeing domestic violence and people with disabilities. 

The national housing strategy is designed to strengthen communities and cut chronic homelessness in half. Click To Tweet

The NHS didn’t have a lot to say about the vulnerability experienced by these groups. They identified who the vulnerable people were, but then didn’t talk about how or why this vulnerability manifests. The goal of the research project was to understand how LGBTQ2 people are made vulnerable within the Canadian housing sector and then how that vulnerability can be addressed in a meaningful way. 

Can you tell us about the methods that you used to approach this problem? It’s a big one. How did you start digging into this topic?

As part of this project, I wasn’t creating new knowledge. What I was doing was a survey of the field, which is also called a literature review, which means that I read lots of different things. Typically, a literature review encompasses academic literature on housing and homelessness, which I did read. We also wanted to go beyond that. I was reading things like government reports, reports from the United Nations, reports from housing organizations and providers. 

I was also reading Case Law that concerned discrimination against LGBTQ2 people in housing, particularly in rental housing. I was reading Provincial Human Rights Codes because that’s what legislates discrimination in housing in various provinces. I was looking at the codes from Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia. I also read relevant parts of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly Section 15. The goal of that was to develop a holistic understanding of the housing crisis and how it affects queer people extending beyond the academic research that exists. 

One of the things that came across several times in this report, and I found that resonated with me, is this idea that vulnerability is not something inherent in being part of the LGBTQ2 community. Talk to us about what policies and procedures are in place that take a group of people who are not naturally facing obstacles and make them vulnerable.

To answer that question, maybe I’ll focus on a specific policy and then extrapolate from there. What creates vulnerability a lot of the time particularly in the rental sector is policies aren’t designed to protect people who are vulnerable within rental relationships. A tenant is designed to protect a landlord within the landlord-tenant relationship. That’s something that can produce vulnerability.

LGBTQ2 Vulnerability In Housing

LGBTQ2 Vulnerability In Housing: The landlord has to be given 28 days’ notice before the lease can be broken, which poses many issues if you’re a person in a violent relationship.

Something that illustrates the way that policies aren’t designed specifically to protect people who are vulnerable to the housing crisis is Part 4.1 of the Residential Tenancies Act in Alberta. Part 4.1 is the Domestic Violence Provision. Queer women specifically experienced domestic violence disproportionately. It was designed so people experiencing domestic violence could break their lease early and not have to live with their partner any longer. It was designed probably with the intention to protect people who are experiencing intimate partner violence. 

Part 4.1 has a lot of stipulations before the lease can be broken. One of them is that the landlord has to be given 28 days notice before the lease can be broken, which poses a lot of issues if you’re a person in a violent relationship. Every day is a new day where you’re subject to violence within that relationship. Another stipulation was that you need to have a certificate from a designated authority that says that you are indeed experiencing violence within your relationship in order for the lease to be broken. 

It’s specifically an issue for queer people who experienced intimate partner violence because intimate partner violence in LGBTQ2 communities is invisible to the more general public. It’s not something that we are keen to speak about because we are already stereotyped as deviant in our relationships as bad. Also because we don’t fit into normative understandings of victimhood. It might be hard for the violence that’s inactive against us to be legible to authorities. 

Another issue with this policy, which is an issue with a lot of policies around housing, is it doesn’t provide an alternative to commodified housing. If the lease is broken, it doesn’t give queer people a place to go after leaving their housing. It’s particularly a problem because we’re more likely to experience violence and discrimination in emergency shelters. 

If this policy was more designed in a way where queer people and all people experiencing intimate partner violence could break their lease without a condition, that would make us safer. Instead, it’s designed so landlords don’t unexpectedly lose a tenant. They’re the ones who are being privileged in this relationship over the person experiencing housing vulnerability and other kinds of vulnerability. 

That’s a fascinating answer to that question. What I like is that it brings together the intersectionality of policies and practices. We not only have what’s happening in the housing market and legally with what landlords are able to do with tenants. Also, what’s experienced in other relationships for people in health and the under service or the invisibility of some of the barriers to receiving adequate service. That was excellent. Robbie, do you concur? 

Looking at it from the other angle, what would be an appropriate safeguard to protect against people claiming domestic violence without experiencing domestic violence? If this loophole is there, anyone can use it to get out of their lease with no stamp on it saying, “This person is in that situation.” What would be an appropriate regulation to balance those needs?

If you’re a landlord, you don’t want people arbitrarily breaking their lease to escape domestic violence.

You pointed to some of the things in your former answer. You said, “Here’s a policy that was supposed to be progressive but it didn’t go far enough.” Some of it involves some real blue-sky thinking. What would we do if we had all of the money, all of the space and all of the things? We could create this perfect environment, which we know we can’t. That’s one thing. Also, it sounded to me there were some real first next steps making sure that there are shelters that can service this community that are safe places. People breaking their leases will have access to those spaces, which isn’t that big of an ask. Does that answer the question, Robbie? Is that what you were getting at?

The principle of universal design is that they're universally accessible. Click To Tweet

Yes. There’s a bunch of pieces here and the one I keyed on was the question of, we have the safeguards in place to make sure that people are experiencing domestic violence and they aren’t looking for an out on their lease. What would that look like? Especially queer people, they don’t want to talk publicly about intimate partner violence.

There’s a question from the outset of whether this barrier is too high for people across the board to escape intimate partner violence. There’s a question of whether it’s too high for queer people. If the answer is yes for queer people and no for other people then what’s the accommodation required to enable queer people to access this service in a way?

If it’s too high for everyone then you need to revisit the regulation in the first place. That’s the fine-tuning where we’re getting specific. We’ll help policymakers implement regulations that address the problem. If you can fine-tune that recommendation, that’s the thing that government will look at and go, “We can make this specific change and this is what outcome it will have.” That would be my feedback.

In Ontario, we know that the case is that people have a hard time getting a consistent family doctor for instance. There are often not enough family doctors to go around. A family doctor would be somebody who you would probably talk to about these things and someone you ideally have a long-term relationship with who you would be able to talk about partner violence.

If you don’t have access to a regular family doctor if you are someone who visits walk-in clinics for instance, if you are somebody rural, all of the things that can be a barrier to accessing regular healthcare. How do you then get somebody to attest to the fact that we’ve talked about this issue and it’s a problem? If you aren’t somebody who calls the police for several reasons that we know queer folks aren’t going to call the police, how do you get somebody to attest? The family doctor, for instance, might be one that is more across the board for all populations but then the one may be around police and whatnot. I’m brainstorming here.

We’re going way down the rabbit hole.

To answer your original question about safeguards for landlords, I was thinking a bit more about a part of the policy I hadn’t mentioned. How it works is if you are found to indeed be experiencing intimate partner violence, what happens is the lease ends for every tenant. Let’s say I’m living with my girlfriend who’s abusive, and it’s proven that she’s abusive and then my lease ends early, it also ends early for my abuser, which effectively makes her homeless as well. That’s another failure of the policy. 

Also, that’s particularly problematic for landlords because if your tenant is being abused even though you originally had two tenants and now you have no tenants, potentially that’s also not being a factor. That’s quite punitive. It doesn’t necessarily ameliorate the chances that safety for someone leaving abuse to have your partner now become homeless. That gives them more reason to act vindictively towards you. That’s not a perfect solution. Another component of the problem is that it evicts everyone living in the space. 

If it’s under the system that we’re in, the rent could be covered for a period of time for the person who’s leaving and the other person was able to stay, and that would change that dynamic. The landlord would be more supportive because they’re not going to be out of pocket. The partner who stays doesn’t have as many reasons to be vindictive. If you are going into a shelter and you do find one that is queer-friendly, your previous partner is not going to end up in that same space with you. It’s something like that. A relatively small monetary output guaranteed by the government would smooth those waters, if not solve the problem entirely. 

LGBTQ2 Vulnerability In Housing

LGBTQ2 Vulnerability In Housing: We’re more likely to experience violence and discrimination in emergency shelters.

I love the way that you tackle that question. I’m going to come right back to it and let you go at another one. Talk to us about these policy failures. Your line in the report is, “LGBTQ2 people’s vulnerability is the result of policy failure, systemic oppression and interpersonal violence.” Where else has policy failed in this group of people and how could it be rectified? 

What I’m getting at in that quote is not necessarily so much that there’s one aspect of one policy that could be changed, and then queer people wouldn’t be vulnerable within housing anymore, which would be great if that were the case. What I seem to find is that policies that are bad for everyone are especially bad for queer people because we’re more likely to be low-income. We’re less likely to have supportive networks like families that we’re in touch with who can support us if we lose our housing. 

What I kept coming back to when I was doing this research originally and now as a grad student when I continue my research is it seems that there are few alternatives to commodified housing or market housing. If housing policy was more geared towards the expansion and defence of social and affordable housing, there would be a lot more places for queer people to turn or for them to fall back on if they aren’t able to support themselves in market housing. 

Some of the things that we want with making sure that everyone has a home is that it’s an actual home and that it’s a place where you can stay that it’s not short tenure. We’re not talking about temporary homes. We want people in them for a long time. One of the things we know about people who are around for a long time is that they get older, and they experience the issues of having an older body. 

You may be someone who moves into one of that 80% of units as a 40-year-old without any needs for accessibility but that can change in 10, 15 or 20 years. Hopefully, if everything goes well, you’re still there and enjoying a safe and affordable place to live. Is this an issue across the board? Yes. Is it more so an issue? Is it impacting the queer community more? Absolutely. 

That brings us into another area of your work, which is senior-focused housing for queer people. Most of what you had was in the United States, is that right? 

Yes, it was. It hasn’t been formally announced but there is going to be an LGBTQ2-specific housing development in Edmonton, which is exciting. I don’t know anything about that other than it is going to happen. A lot of what I could find was located in the US. There’s an advocacy organization in the US called SAGE, which stands for Seniors Advocacy for Gay and Lesbian Elders. They were the primary organization spearheading the development of LGBTQ2-specific seniors housing in the US. 

The desire for that housing emerged among seniors because they were feeling a heightened sense of discrimination from both people who worked within seniors housing and from other residents in seniors housing surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity. They also expressed that they weren’t interested in returning to the closet as seniors, particularly if they have partners they want to spend the rest of their lives with. 

SAGE began to develop housing in various cities across the country including Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The Twin Cities was focused specifically on LGBTQ2 seniors. I say senior-focused housing because they can’t make LGBTQ2-specific housing. A lot of that housing was primarily LGBTQ2 seniors. A lot of the units within that housing were reserved for low-income or previously homeless seniors, which was also excellent. 

It would be nice to have a solution where everyone remains housed. Click To Tweet

It’s because the housing wasn’t LGBTQ2 exclusive, there were still some issues of discrimination in those housing developments. How some of those housing providers responded to that was by introducing a harassment addendum into their lease, which stipulated that you couldn’t discriminate against other residents or you would be evicted. 

It’s positive to have a response to discrimination happening within your building and where seniors can have recourse to something besides the courts to raise discrimination complaints. It’s not a perfect solution because it does still result in someone losing housing, which is not something that housing providers want. That’s the gist of the seniors housing from SAGE anyway. 

That’s a fascinating point, the last one you made there. Having this at the building level in leases allows it to be addressed without having to go to the courts. In reviewing your work, I took a look at the Ontario Human Rights Code. In the Hamilton area and Ontario, individuals are protected from both landlords and other occupants of the building from harassment on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation. Those are written into the Human Rights Code. 

It’s different as you outline in the case where people are sharing space directly with kitchen or bathroom facilities. Other than that, that protection is there in the courts. Your point is the courts are a high bar to go through. Individual providers could be making their spaces more accessible by having this in their leases. Is that what I’m hearing correctly? 

Yes. In an ideal world, what adding a harassment addendum does to the lease is deter the behavior in the first place, which is the ideal circumstances for discrimination never to have happened. The worst-case scenario is that discrimination does happen. This is a policy that exists to protect someone vulnerable within a housing like LGBTQ2 seniors. Unfortunately, that results in someone else losing housing. 

It would be nice to have a solution where everyone can remain housed but where LGBTQ2 people are able to feel safe within those housing facilities. It is hard to imagine what that looks like. It would be nice if people could be relocated to a different housing facility but that does relocate the problem to a different housing facility where gay, trans and bisexual people might also live. 

Something that I considered because my partner lives in Edmonton’s gaybourhood is that if you’re building housing within neighborhoods that are understood to be places where gay people live, the expectation is that you will encounter gay people. If you’re intensely homophobic, you won’t live in those spaces. 

Part of the issue that SAGE was running into with their housing developments is because you don’t want to be discriminatory to people who aren’t a part of the LGBTQ2 community, you couldn’t create housing that was exclusively for them. It’s also sometimes difficult to advertise housing as being catered specifically to LGBTQ2 people. 

In one of the housing developments, I can’t remember what city, a lot of the non-LGBTQ2 residents weren’t even aware that it was designed to be an LGBTQ2-focused housing development. It’s hard to navigate that tension between homo and transphobia structuring influences in our society and the lives of queer people, but also not wanting to create policies that cause other people to lose their housing. It would be my position as a gay person that no one deserves to be homeless even if that person is being discriminatory towards me. It seems that a lot of the time, gay people win in these situations, other people have to lose, which is unfortunate. 

LGBTQ2 Vulnerability In Housing

LGBTQ2 Vulnerability In Housing: Policies that are bad for everyone are awful for queer people.

It raises the question, “Does eviction lead to homelessness?” If you have an appropriate support system behind you, it might not be the case. 

One of the things that I wanted to bring up is this idea of gaybourhoods. Talking a little bit about the space, even if it’s not necessarily explicit, a lot of the literature that you surveyed understandably so is quite urban. We know that gaybourhoods are on the decline in a lot of cities. This is a two-part question. Where are people living? What houses are they getting access to? What needs are not being satisfied? Also, what about the suburbs? What about people living in rural areas? 

“What about gay people living in rural areas?” is a perennial question that never gets answered. In terms of the LGBT movement work for a long time, a rallying cry has been like, “We are everywhere.” Even in spaces where you expect gay people not to be gay people, are and deserve to be. Unfortunately, a lot of research isn’t focused on spaces outside of cities. That would be a great thing to explore. I have no idea what the answer is, but it’s certainly an area that needs to be considered. 

The other question is that now gay neighbourhoods are starting to be dissolved or dismantled where gay people living. It was interesting. I read a dissertation about queer organizing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. What the author talks about a lot is how the former gaybourhood in Vancouver, which is in and around Davie Street, became extremely expensive. It was a place where queer people could no longer afford to live. 

A lot of queer people were moving to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. That’s where a lot of organizing was happening and that’s where a lot of people were living. As the cost of living becomes increasingly expensive in Vancouver, people can’t even afford to live in the Downtown Eastside anymore. They are being relocated to suburban areas around Vancouver. 

The function of that was the same function of the original dissolution of gaybourhoods, which is that it makes queer communities harder to maintain. It makes it harder for queer people to find people who are like them. It makes rallying and organizing around queer issues a lot more difficult. It’s a community that was fractured in an original dismantling of gaybourhood is being fractured again as it becomes harder and harder to live in certain cities. It’s a dissertation from Alexandra Lynn Toland from Simon Fraser University and it’s called Queer-What-You-Can: Queer community organizing in a gentrifying East Vancouver. 

It sounds like exciting reading if you are particularly interested in queer housing issues anywhere in the country, but especially in housing markets where people are being pushed out. 

I’m looping us back into some of the policy-related information that we talked about at the beginning only because we promised our readers that this show would be relevant for policymakers and make doing their jobs easier. They’ll have the relevant information at their fingertips, ear lobes or what have you. My question is if you had a policymaker sitting in front of you now who was able to make 3 or 5 changes, what would you pick that would make life better for the LGBTQ? 

It’s hard because this isn’t for housing policymakers. I don’t think it’s something that they would have the power to change. The fact that you can be discriminated against in a roommate relationship according to Provincial Human Rights Codes, to me, it’s understandable why if you’re cohabitating with someone you would want them to be able to end that relationship if they wanted to. 

The dissolution of neighbourhoods makes queer communities harder to maintain. Click To Tweet

Also, in my personal life, that’s when I’ve seen queer people lose housing. If they’re outed as trans or whatever, and then people decide that they don’t want to be living with someone who’s trans, they can be removed from the housing and have no recourse in the courts. That’s not necessarily something that housing policymakers have the power to change, but expanding a social safety net. If that were to happen to somebody, is there a housing program in your city within the units that they could be accommodated within that program? 

What I always returned to perhaps naively is that an expansion of the social and affordable housing sector could solve many issues that queer people experience. What would be wonderful about such an expansion is that many people would be served by that outside of the LGBTQ2 community as well, which also would be a great positive. 

Maybe to return to something that we spoke about earlier is instead of building or retrofitting 20% of units to comply with universal design principles to create buildings that are meaningfully accessible would be wonderful. As Cynthia pointed out, disability is a category that a lot of us will enter in our lifetimes. 

Hopefully, we will grow old and our bodies will change and our housing will be able to accommodate those changes. Also, all kinds of things can happen in your life that could be a cause of a new disability that was hard for you to predict. In an ideal world, housing would be able to meet those changes. Perhaps that would also be something that I would say. 

A component of housing that I wanted to research as a part of this report was the effectiveness of tenancy unions, and whether or not they were able to support people in maintaining housing in the rental market, and what it would look like for there to be robust tenancy organizing in Canada. It doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment. At least where I am in Edmonton, there is no tenancy union. There are cities like Vancouver that are bigger where the housing situation is a bit more fraught where they do have unions. 

If there was a way that as academics or as people interested and invested in making housing better, and if we could also support people to empower themselves within housing relationships such as a landlord-tenant relationship, that would also be excellent. That’s not necessarily something that relates to someone working in housing policy. 

Maybe or maybe not, but it was a well-articulated point. Anymore, Robbie? 

In the question about Human Rights Code protections for roommates, I was interested in the wording you cited from the BC code, a person looking for a roommate to share their own space. It struck me that there are two points at which you can have discrimination. One is entering into the relationship and the other is after the relationship is already established. 

You talked about it a little bit here. Your example is people losing their housing when they’re outed. They’re already in a space and then they’re kicked out for who they are. I’m wondering, in your perspective, does it make sense to allow discrimination at either point? Does it make sense if you’re a raging homophobe, you should be allowed to say, “I don’t want a queer person living in my house with me.” That’s one, the entry point. 

LGBTQ2 Vulnerability In Housing

LGBTQ2 Vulnerability In Housing: Queer people are better off not living with a roommate who is extremely homophobic.

Two is you’re that raging homophobe, “It turns out my roommate is queer. Do I have the right to kick them out?” There are two distincts to me that can be lumped and have been lumped together in Human Rights Codes thus far. It’s tricky. As a queer person, do you want to be living with a raging homophobe? No. If that’s your only option, do you want equal treatment under the law? I’ll throw it to you. What do you think? 

I would agree that queer people are probably better off not living with a roommate who is extremely homophobic. If you’re living in a city with limited options, you certainly don’t want to be denied housing based on gender identity or sexual orientation. What is frustrating to me about discrimination as a framework is it is reactive and it is difficult to prove if you’re being discriminated against. 

In my day-to-day life as a gay person, I might feel that I’m being discriminated against when someone is being homophobic towards me like when I’m in the supermarket or it could be in a higher-stakes situation when I’m seeking housing. I need to be able to prove that intent to prove discrimination. It’s reactive. 

If I’m being discriminated against either already within a roommate relationship or when I’m entering into that roommate relationship and the harm has already happened, I might already feel shame because of the ways that I’ve been discriminated against. I might already now feel unsafe in my city, which is a place that I previously thought I belonged because of the discrimination in the roommate relationship. If the question is, does it make sense for discrimination to happen at either instance? I don’t think it makes sense to discriminate against a gay person. The issue with discrimination is it’s hard to prove that it’s happening. What do we do after discrimination happens? 

There’s a case that we looked at that didn’t focus specifically on roommate relationships. That was called Robertson and Goertzen. It was from 2010 and it was in the Northwest Territories. It was a situation where the landlord was deeply religious. He felt that if he let gay tenants live in his home, that it would be a sin. He put forth that having to rent his home to gay people would be a violation of his religious freedom. 

The Justice, in that case, decided that gay people’s rights to have housing were overridden. I’m not sure. It was prioritized over his religious freedom. You’re in a hard situation. I don’t think that the gay couple in that situation decided to live in his home. They would never feel safe in that home. I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to force people to rent to gay people if they are homophobic. That creates a volatile situation that opens gay people up to a lot of violence, potentially.  

What ended up happening, in that case, is the landlord had to pay for the gay couple’s housing elsewhere. He was essentially responsible for a few months of their rent. They had their deposit returned. It’s hard. You don’t want to force homophobes or transphobes to accept queer tenants because that is ultimately not good for queer tenants. It also points the way that discrimination as a framework is inadequate and helping gay people find housing or in protecting gay people generally.  

It would be great to be able to move past this reactive system where it’s like, “I’m a victim of harm. I seek justice in the courts and potentially I get it or not.” That doesn’t do anything to rectify the harm in the first place. It’s hard to imagine a solution to that beyond completely eradicating homo and transphobia. 

I was excited about what you were going to say the solution was. The answer is completely eradicating hormone transphobia. We got our work cut out for us. 

Expansion of the social and affordable housing sector could solve so many issues that queer people experience. Click To Tweet

I can’t help but think about the way we treat other preferences, which is what I’m going to refer to trans and homophobic people. It’s a preference to not have a certain type of person in your home or a certain type of person as a roommate. If I go to someone’s home for dinner and I don’t prefer the food that they’re serving, it’s one bite to be polite. That’s on me. That’s not on the person who made the meal. The prejudice is on the person who holds it, and not on the other person in the relationship. It’s frustrating that the burden of proof falls to the person experiencing the Human Rights Violation. That burden falls to the person who isn’t the one making a choice. 

What is interesting and singular about the Robertson versus Goertzen case is William Goertzen, who was the landlord, went to court and said, “I am being discriminatory against this couple because renting to gay people is a violation of my religious freedom under the charter.” It’s virtually never the case. It was quite funny for the landlord to be like, “I am homophobic.” That is the issue. The solution is that I don’t rent to them rather than I’m forced to rent to them. 

LGBTQ2 Vulnerability In Housing

LGBTQ2 Vulnerability In Housing: Discrimination as a framework is inadequate in helping gay people find housing.

It’s quite a singular case. The gay couple won that case because the landlord was forthright. Usually, people would go to court and lie. In that situation, if it’s your word against the landlord’s, how do you prove that someone has hate in their heart or has a prejudice against you as a gay person, particularly if they’re explicitly denying it? It’s also an issue with discrimination. It’s like hazards presented in law. It doesn’t necessarily give queer people access to justice. It doesn’t necessarily propose solutions except in cases that are extremely cut and dry. 

Thank you. This has been a delight to have as our first conversation. I’m sorry I grilled you on a couple of things that pushed beyond the work you had done to ask what the implication of it might be. I was glad to engage in this conversation. 

Me, too. It was fun. 

This is such a great example of how housing intersects with many other parts of people’s lives. 

It’s also a great example of how policy struggles to effectively regulate a market. 

Especially when we’re talking about discrimination. We’re operating in a society that has system-wide biases written into the policies that disadvantage huge numbers of people in vulnerable situations. One individual instance isn’t necessarily, obviously or intentionally discriminatory. At the aggregate level, you can see discrimination is at play. 

That brings the policy question up to the macro level. Individuals need protection from discrimination but that’s mostly in the laws already. There is a question about enforcement, which Canada rightly raises. When you look at the aggregate, not all queer people, disabled people, racialized people or queer disabled racialized people need protective support but more so than in other groups. That leads us back to Damian’s call for more community housing. That’s not free of discrimination either but it can have a mandate to redress injustices. 

Changing that narrative will help change the policy. Changing the narrative will change the culture, and changing the culture will change the policy. 

That’s a fascinating way to come at it. Hopefully, what we’re trying to do is change that narrative a little bit. 

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About Kenna McDowell

Kenna McDowell is a graduate student in the Human Geography program at the University of Alberta, where she also completed a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies. She is working with the Community Housing Canada node of the Collaborative Housing Research Network, where her recent work includes the paper “LGBTQ2 Vulnerability in the Canadian Housing Sector”. She was born and raised in Edmonton, where she loves to walk the river valley with her dogs.

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