Rising rents and the decline in rental accommodation is contributing to a rising trend of “hidden homelessness’ among Vancouver’s refugees and new immigrants. According to a UBC study examining the housing situation of newcomers to Greater Vancouver, many new immigrants and refugees in the city continue live in shared, overcrowded housing.
Listen to our investigation into the state of refugee housing in Canada, including a conversation with the lead author of this study, professor Daniel Hiebert:
“The various parts of this project converge on the point that the housing situation of newcomers to Greater Vancouver is heavily influenced by the social capital of existing ethno-cultural communities. As a result, the extent of relative and absolute homelessness among immigrants, refugees, and refugee claimants is less than would be expected given the income levels of these groups. This is not to say that the delineated groups are well housed. Indeed, many individuals and families are living in crowded, sub-standard conditions.”
Affordability a main concern:
Being able to afford housing is the main issue for newcomers, most spending at least 50% of their income on housing. In an even more difficult situation, some are forced to spend 75% of more of their income just to keep a roof over their heads. Many newcomers, especially refugees, struggle in the housing market because of very low incomes and structural barriers that prevents them from accessing affordable housing.
Growth of “hidden homelessness.”
“Hidden homelessness” refers to people staying with friends or in places not obvious to the public ( also known as “couch surfing”) due to not having a permanent residence. There’s a large representation of “hidden homelessness” among Vancouver’s immigrant and refugee population. For most, their initial housing experience is typically in the cheapest accommodation available, in poor residential areas. Many cope with this situation by sharing rents and crowding – nearly all continue to be in situations of housing stress. They are, however, not “on the streets”, in large part due to their coping strategies and – in a number of cases – help extended from social organizations or other members of their ethno-cultural community.