These tips for housing providers have been identified through the research of The Getting Home Project: Overcoming Barriers to Housing after Violence, which is a three-year, community-based project, focusing on reducing barriers to safe, secure and affordable housing for women and their children experiencing violence in BC.

The main objectives of the project are:

  • To improve access to affordable housing options for women and their children experiencing violence.
  • To identify and implement supports for immigrant, refugee and indigenous women and their children experiencing violence to access affordable housing.
  • To develop ongoing and sustainable financial supports that improve economic security, and access to long-term housing for women and their children experiencing violence.

This project is in partnership with BC Society of Transition Houses (BCSTH), BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA), Co-operative Housing Federation of BC (CHFBC), BC Housing (BCH), and the Vancity Community Foundation (VFC). It is funded by the Department of Women and Gender Equality (previously Status of Women Canada). It launched in 2018.

Educate Yourself on the Barriers

In 2019, BCSTH conducted a province-wide community needs assessment designed to gather research on the local, provincial and national level about the barriers to housing for women and their children experiencing violence. We believe that it is crucial to listen to the voices of women with lived experience and knowledgeable community organizations. These voices help to inform what strategies we undertake through this project, to reduce the real barriers women experiencing violence face and to assist in their economic security through long-term and sustainable housing. For this reason, we conducted focus groups and interviews as well as a province-wide survey.

This community needs assessment reveals the gaps in four key areas:

  • Affordability of housing,
  • Availability of appropriate housing and services,
  • Discrimination and lack of awareness,
  • Financial barriers and poverty.

Top Barriers to Affordable, Safe and Secure Housing for Women

Private Market

Social Housing

Financial

Affordability Waitlists/Availability Affordability
Discrimination Application process Poverty
Availability Family size/ NOS Moving/Start-up costs
Safety and Confidentiality Pets Energy Costs
Family size Transportation

*Bolded barriers appear in more than one of the categories

 

Help Provide Flexible Funding or Loans

We know that access to affordable housing is an important protective factor for women to gain independence after violence. The affordability crisis of housing and cost of living across our province has made it challenging for women to combat cycles of poverty and chronic homelessness. Flexible funding or low interest loans can help to fill the gaps and meet the needs of women searching for housing in BC.

We recommend Housing Providers work towards finding funding to create flexible grants and loans to prevent women’s homelessness. While there are some existing rental assistance programs, such as the Homelessness Prevention Program and the BC Rent Bank, there are not enough resources in those programs for the financial needs women face when starting a new home.

Did you know?

  • Only 4% of women are able to leave transition houses for an affordable home in BC. While approximately 25% find housing (mostly beyond their means), about 75% remain temporarily sheltered or return to their abuser.
  • However, only 5% – 10% of women experiencing violence access rental supplements.[1]
  • According to BCSTH members, the Homeless Prevention Program (HPP) is very valuable for preventing homelessness and additional funding could expand to reach more women and more communities.
  • Flexible homelessness prevention funding prevents long-term homelessness for women experiencing violence. A longitudinal research study conducted in Washington D.C. found that 94% of women experiencing violence were housed 6 months after receiving flexible funding for homelessness prevention.[2]

[1] BC Housing. (2018). BC Housing’s Women Transition House and Supports Program Administrative Data, 2017-18.
[2] Sullivan, C. et al. (2016). Flexible Funding as a Promising Strategy to Prevent Homelessness for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence.Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Pp. 1-17.

 

Review Guidelines to Prioritize Safety

Understanding the need for safety and confidentiality are key to providing safe, long-term housing for women. In order to understand what housing providers can do to prioritize safety in the design and operations of buildings, you can review BC Housing’s Design Guidelines for Women’s Safe Homes, Transition Houses, Second Stage Housing and Long-term Rental Housing.

 

Reduce Discrimination

Research clearly shows that there is pervasive stigma against women who have experienced violence. Access to housing is no exception and many women report challenges trying to obtain affordable, long-term housing due to discrimination against them. We see this through NIMBY campaigns against transition houses as well as landlords assuming that there will be damage to the property or that violence will be brought into the neighborhood. Understanding and combatting these stigmas help to overcome one of the key barriers preventing many women who have experienced violence from finding housing that meets their needs.

With such low vacancy rates around the province and such competition, we heard that women often can’t compete with other rental applicants who may be more “acceptable” for landlords. In the survey data we heard that for private rentals, discrimination was reported as a barrier by 80% of respondents; still a third of respondents claimed it was a barrier to accessing social housing. Aligned with this finding is the fact that stigma against “bringing violence into the community” was identified as a barrier to getting into co-ops, which was discussed at our focus group with co-op members, many of whom were women with lived experience of violence.

One of the ways that housing providers can reduce discrimination as a barrier is by establishing a priority placement program that prioritizes housing applications from women experiencing violence. You can partner with BCSTH or local transition houses to develop an application process that facilitates this.

 

Support Developments that House Women

Anti-violence organizations face many barriers when they are trying to build housing or partner on housing projects. Even once capital funding to build new homes is secured, it can be difficult to get approval from municipal or district governments and get the community to support the project. It is vital that housing providers offer their expertise and knowledge to support these organizations as they are navigating this process. Housing providers can check out BCSTH’s membership directory to identify safe homes, transition houses, and second stage houses in your region to reach out to.

As well, we encourage meaningful partnerships between existing housing providers and anti-violence organizations to build homes, not barriers. BCNPHA has a team working on these initiatives and you can find out more at: https://bcnpha.ca/research/bhnb/