At Home Here?: LGBTQ refugees' housing experiences in Alberta, Canada

  • Author / Creator
    McDowell, Kenna
  • Canada’s National Housing Strategy (2017) identifies LGBTQ2 people and newcomers (including refugees) as vulnerable groups within Canada’s housing system. Members of each group are known to experience significant barriers to housing in Canada. However, the unique experiences of LGBTQ refugees—who fall into both groups—have yet to be investigated. As such, this thesis asks: To what extent are LGBTQ refugees able to access safe, stable and affordable housing in Alberta, Canada? To answer this question, this thesis addresses three primary objectives: 1) to develop a thorough understanding of the legal and policy settings surrounding refugee status and housing in Alberta and Canada; 2) to examine the unique experiences and needs of LGBTQ refugees within the housing system using an Intersectional framework; and 3) to develop policy recommendations that can account for and remedy the barriers experienced by LGBTQ refugees in the housing system.
    To fulfill these objectives, two methods were employed. First, a policy analysis was conducted, examining a set of documents that shape the context for immigration and housing provision. These documents included housing policies at the municipal, provincial and federal levels; select human rights codes, charters and covenants, and federal immigration law. Second, interviews were conducted with key-informants working in the housing system, as well as in the LGBTQ2- and refugee-serving sectors, to understand the housing experiences of LGBTQ refugees in Alberta. Taken together, the policy analysis and key-informant interviews provide a broad-based account of the barriers to housing encountered by LGBTQ refugees in Alberta.
    The policies and interviews were interpreted through two theoretical frameworks: Intersectionality and Homonationalism. Intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989) was employed to
    understand how interconnected systems of power and oppression—including, but not limited to, homophobia, racism and capitalism—can compound to produce unique barriers to housing for LGBTQ refugees. Homonationalism (Puar, 2017) was employed to shed light on the ways in which Canada’s image as a ‘safe haven’ for LGBTQ refugees may be undermined by policies that fail to lift them out of a state of housing vulnerability.
    Ultimately, this research found that LGBTQ refugees do not have adequate access to safe, stable and affordable housing in Alberta, Canada. They continue to experience significant barriers related to affordability, social housing supply, and discrimination, among other factors. Indeed, income support programs in Alberta fall significantly short of rendering market-rate housing affordable, as rates fall significantly below the poverty line, leaving recipients in deep poverty. This problem is made worse by the lack of social housing in Alberta, which is accompanied by long-waitlists and strict eligibility requirements. Further, LGBTQ refugees can experience significant discrimination in housing in Alberta, as they are forced to contend with racist, homophobic and xenophobic stigma.
    This research also found that many LGBTQ refugees experience barriers that are not directly related to housing, but which nonetheless affect the ways in which they navigate housing and other systems in Alberta. For example, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) adjudication process can have negative emotional impacts on applicants. Further, LGBTQ refugee claimants cannot access legal aid or income support in Alberta until their claim is submitted.
    In light of the barriers to housing LGBTQ refugees continue to experience in Alberta, this research issues eight policy recommendations, targeting housing policy, income support programs, and the production of vulnerability through policy. First, it recommends that the

    experience of IRB adjudication be improved for LGBTQ refugees, so they do not experience this process as traumatic. Next, it proposes that policy engage with Intersectionality more deeply in order to identify and target systemic issues. With regards to housing policy, this research recommends that landlords give LGBTQ refugees more resources to navigate the housing system; that governments establish temporary housing for LGBTQ refugee claimants, so they have somewhere to stay until their claim is submitted; and that wait times are reduced for social housing through expansion of supply. Finally, with regards to income support and other programming, this thesis recommends that legal aid be extended to refugee claimants; that access to English language courses be expanded to include refugee claimants; and, that income support and shelter benefits be raised to reflect the true cost of living in Alberta.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Library with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.