Earlier this year, CMHC released a report on the evictions landscape in Canada. The report offers a new way of understanding evictions, with implications for prevention, housing policy, and tenant supports. The analysis also sets the stage for a new, multi-year program of research.
Supported through Part IX funding and delivered by a team at the Institute of Urban Studies, University of Winnipeg, the research explored the following key questions:
- What are the reasons for eviction?
- How have these been changing in recent years?
- What are the implications for prevention, considering these changes?
To answer these questions, researchers conducted a literature review, an eviction prevention program scan, and interviews with housing stakeholders and people with lived experience of eviction.
The research revealed many important findings about eviction in Canada.
Top 5 Findings:
1. The evictions landscape is changing in two main ways: by drivers (circumstances leading to an eviction), and by scale.
Evictions are typically thought to be caused by tenant-related factors or circumstances (eg: challenges paying rent, illegal or unsafe activity in a unit, damage to a unit). By nature, these types of evictions take place at the individual scale (single tenant or household receiving a notice at one time).
Yet, the research revealed that there are other drivers of eviction that have nothing to do with tenant-related factors. Instead, they centre on other drivers (incl. landlord and structural). In part, these are reflected in development-led evictions (some of which include mass evictions). These can take place at a larger scale and have the potential to affect more (and potentially different) tenants at a single point in time.
While evictions caused by tenant-related factors remain a primary cause (especially due to difficulty paying rent), interviews with professional housing stakeholders confirmed an observed increase in mass (specifically whole-building) evictions in numerous cities across Canada.
2. Prevention measures are not generally oriented to this changing landscape.
In the review of prevention measures, it was revealed that many initiatives are designed to tackle evictions driven by tenant-related circumstances at the individual or household scale. They are not generally focused on other drivers or (mass) scales. Those that do exist (eg: renovictions bylaws in BC) are less common and there is limited evidence available about their effectiveness as prevention measures.
Understanding the discrepancy between the changing landscape and prevention measures is important because it can affect the number and types of renters who are vulnerable to eviction, the need for more affordable housing, the overall effectiveness of prevention efforts, and the need for tenant supports pre-, during and post-eviction.
3. A relationship between eviction and homelessness was (re)confirmed.
Of the ten people with lived experience of eviction who participated in this research, four had been evicted into homelessness (three of whom experienced hidden homelessness). Participants also discussed the physical and mental health impacts associated with eviction (feelings of fear, depression and anxiety, loss, exhaustion), noting that these can last long after the eviction has taken place, and adversely affect their ability to find alternative housing. The term ‘trauma’ was often used by participants to describe their experience.
These findings confirm a long-understood relationship between eviction and homelessness: while not everyone who is evicted experiences homelessness, many who experience homelessness do so because they were evicted. These findings also point to the need for strong prevention measures and eviction tenant supports (both during and post-eviction). It is important to note that health impacts can be both drivers and outcomes of eviction.
4. Housing supply was cited as an important part of eviction prevention.
Interviews conducted with housing stakeholders for this research made clear that housing supply was an important strategy in eviction prevention. As emphasized in these interviews, however, a focus on housing not only means building new affordable rental, it also means retaining and preserving existing rental stock. This latter focus is especially important considering the changing drivers and types of eviction that can result (such as development-led evictions).
5. Data gaps were continually cited as a key barrier to more effective eviction prevention.
Interviews conducted with housing stakeholders as part of this research confirmed that data gaps remain a key barrier to more effective eviction prevention measures and tenant supports. This is complicated by the difference between formal evictions - which go through a tribunal process or court proceeding and have official records - and informal evictions – which do not. By nature, informal evictions are difficult to document, and are generally understood to outnumber the formal types. An example of an informal eviction is ‘cash for keys’.
Housing researchers have cited concerns about the lack of data on evictions available in Canada for the past few decades. In fact, some have issued calls for a national database on evictions. While some provincial and territorial governments make selected types of data available, these gaps have largely persisted.
Where Do We Go from Here?
To help close these data gaps, CMHC’s Research team is advancing in two main ways. Firstly, it is introducing additional questions in Cycles 2 and 3 of the Canadian Housing Survey (CHS) - a survey that goes out to a sample of Canadian households every couple of years - to enhance the section on forced moves.
Secondly, the team is advancing a mixed-methods data collection initiative, comprising two streams:
- A multi-year pilot project with Statistics Canada, in which tribunal data from up to three provinces (applications, decisions, enforcements, appeals) are collected and linked with social domain data in STC’s Record Linkage Environment; and
- A qualitative stream, in which interviews are conducted with tenants across three provinces to better understand their pre-, during, and post-eviction experiences.
Combined, these initiatives will help the research community to build a better social portrait of evictions and answer some of the questions about the circumstances leading to an eviction notice, the forced move itself, and what happens to people following eviction. This analysis can also help support professionals working in housing policy, eviction prevention and tenant support.
The mixed-methods data collection initiative will be guided by an Advisory Committee, with will be made up of a selected CMHC staff and members of federal government, provinces and territories, representatives of municipal government, and people with lived experience of eviction.
To learn more, please contact Julia Markovich, at: firstname.lastname@example.org