Landlords are essential partners in Housing First programs, providing safe, stable housing for people experiencing homelessness, which is vital for their journey toward independence and well-being. Conflict with landlords can quickly undermine the success of even established Housing First programs, leading to community backlash and a loss of housing units.

While there have been some reports in the media lately suggesting that Housing First programs can lead to big problems for landlords (vandalism, for instance), this likely reflects an implementation of Housing First that does not demonstrate fidelity to the program model.

In fact, maintaining positive relationships with landlords is not only essential but also expected of case managers to ensure the success of any Housing First program. This blog will highlight five strategies for fostering strong partnerships with landlords in Housing First programs, drawing on insights from Employment and Social Development Canada’s "The Landlord Engagement Toolkit: A Guide to Working with Landlords in Housing First Programs."

1. Understanding Landlord Perspectives

Before exploring strategies for engaging landlords, it's important to understand where they’re coming from. Landlords may be hesitant to rent to individuals experiencing homelessness due to perceived risks, such as property damage or unpaid rent. Nevertheless, addressing landlord concerns requires empathy, communication, and a collaborative approach. Landlord concerns can typically include:

  • Will there be increased turnover?
    Response: Housing First programs see low turnover – Housing First is a long-term support service for tenants looking for a permanent home.
  • Where will the rent come from? 
    Response: Landlords receive guaranteed rent payments, in full and on time, directly from the Housing First program provider. Payments are made directly to the landlord, including the first and last month’s rent, plus a damage deposit (where legal). 
  • Who will be held accountable if issues arise? 
    Response: While tenants are ultimately responsible for the condition of their unit and maintaining a successful tenancy, they will have ongoing support from the program provider to do this. Housing First programs have a designated point of contact to call if problems arise. Tenants are carefully screened to ensure they’re a good fit. Housing First programs also have a “mitigation fund” to cover property damage or vacancy loss.

Ultimately, for landlords, the benefits of having Housing First participants as tenants far outweigh the risks. 

2. Communication and Transparency

Open and honest communication is the cornerstone of successful landlord relationships. This begins during your first contact with a prospective landlord. Openly communicate the goals and principles of Housing First programs, emphasizing the benefits of stable housing for both tenants and landlords. Once they have agreed to participate in the Housing First program, work together to establish clear lines of communication so that questions and concerns are addressed promptly. This can entail:

  • Establishing regular monthly check-ins with landlords
  • Responding to landlord’s calls in a timely manner
  • Providing landlords with after-hours phone line and 24/7 support

3. Tenant Screening, Support and Case Management

Participant choice is a key principle of Housing First. This means that individuals have the right to choose the unit, the building and the landlord that best meets their needs. When done correctly, screening potential tenants and matching them with a suitable unit and landlord can enhance the likelihood of a successful tenancy and foster a stronger relationship with the landlord.

Providing comprehensive tenant support and case management services is crucial for maintaining successful tenancies. Assure landlords that tenants will receive ongoing support from a skilled and responsive team to address any challenges they may face, such as financial management, mental health issues, or accessing community resources. When done well, Housing First is about setting clients up for success, and proper screening and case management are key ingredients in that.

4. Mediation and Conflict Resolution

Despite proactive measures, conflicts may arise between landlords and tenants. Be prepared to mediate disputes and facilitate conflict resolution in a timely and impartial manner. Act as a neutral intermediary, listening to both parties' concerns and working towards mutually beneficial solutions. Resolving conflicts swiftly and effectively can help preserve tenancies, prevent evictions and strengthen landlord relationships.

For instance, suppose a landlord complains about damage to a unit. Rather than leaving the landlord and tenant to sort it out, which could easily end in eviction, arrange a meeting with the tenant to assess the unit and talk with them about the causes of the damage. Have a clear plan to present to the landlord about how damages will be paid for and be ready to explain the steps being taken with the tenant to ensure it does not happen again.

5. Educational Resources and Training

Provide landlords with educational resources and training opportunities to enhance their understanding of Housing First principles and best practices. Offer workshops, webinars, or informational materials on topics such as fair housing laws, tenant rights, and effective property management strategies. By investing in landlord education, you foster a community of informed and engaged partners in addressing and preventing homelessness. 

It is important to note that accepting tenants from a Housing First program can be a good option for a landlord. Many of them currently have high-needs clients with characteristics similar to those of a Housing First client—the difference is that Housing First clients come with supports that contribute to stabilizing their housing and mitigating problems. 


Nurturing relationships with landlords is fundamental to the success of Housing First programs. By prioritizing communication, flexibility, and support, program staff can cultivate strong partnerships built on trust, mutual respect, and shared goals. 

Download The Landlord Engagement Toolkit: A Guide to Working with Landlords in Housing First Programs and visit the Homeless Hub's Housing First topic page to learn more.