The Problem of Homelessness in Canada
Write a paper that discusses the relationship between private property, homelessness, and human rights. Specifically, what is the relationship between market forces, government regulation, and the courts when it comes to the right to adequate housing?
The global economy and social patterns have experienced huge dynamics with time and have changed significantly with respect to economic growth, development, and social welfare parameters. Over the years, few countries have emerged as prominent players in the global economy and have shown significantly impressive traits in terms of progress in economic, social, political as well as human welfare domains. Canada has been one such country (Schneider pp. 5-7).
In the recent few decades, Canada has shown significant progress in the overall framework and currently ranks tenth in the world in terms of nominal GDP. The real estate industry being the most dominant sector, the country also is one of the largest exporters of natural gas and petroleum on one hand and also has a flourishing manufacturing sector on the other hand (Gilpin).
However, the country, in the last few decades has been experiencing a critical issue of lack of affordable housing facilities and a resulting problem of homelessness. Much of this can be attributed to the economic prosperity of the country and a consequent increase in the population as well as standard of living of the residents of the country in general, which in turn has lead to increase in the demand for housing (Gaetz, Gulliver and Richter). The essay tries to shed light on this issue of immense concern in the scenario of Canada, emphasizing on the aspects of government regulation, market forces and the legal framework in the domain of adequate housing.
One of the primary social issues faced by the governing authorities of Canada is the consistently increasing problem of homelessness in the country. According to the empirical evidences, in the current periods, more than 200,000 residents in the country have to face homelessness and at least 150,000 of the residents are compelled to use homeless shelters at any given point of time (Patrick). There is also another complicated phenomenon occurring in this country, which can be termed as “Hidden Homelessness”. This, by the definition of the term, refers to those Canadians who cannot afford to have their own homes and have to stay with their relatives or friends. In this aspect it is important to emphasize on the statistics regarding the homelessness in the country which is elaborated in the following section (Crawley et al. pp. 674-680).
Causes of Homelessness in Canada
Homelessness being one of the most chronic problems in the country as a whole, the problem is however, more acute in case of certain sectors of the population, specifically in case of single adults lying in the age group of 25 to 55 years, who account for nearly 47.5% of the total homelessness in the country. 20% of all the homeless people in the country comprises of youth, with the problem being more acute in the cases of transgender and different sexually oriented people. The aboriginals of the country are also highly vulnerable to this issue of homelessness, with their problem expanding even more with time (Evenson and Carolann).
Homelessness in the country, however, is of different types, depending upon the nature, tenure and extent of homelessness, which, with respect to the scenario in Canada, can be elaborated as follows:
Chronic Homelessness- This type of homelessness refers to the problem of long term lack of shelter, which accounts for homelessness of nearly 4000 to 8000 people in the country.
Episodic Homelessness- The residents in the country who move in and out of the shelters in the country multiple times in a year, which comprises of nearly 6000 to 22000 people in the country (Gaetz et al.).
Transitional Homelessness- In general, transitional homelessness is a type of short-term homelessness in which the people stay homeless for less than a month. This type of homelessness comprises of the biggest share of the homeless population in the country (176,000 to 188,000).
As can be seen from the above discussion, homelessness is one of the most acute crises of concern in the country. Canada being one of the most prospering nations in the world, the problem of homelessness comes as a huge concern for the governing authorities of the country (Sylvestre and Bellot). There may be various causes for the continuous and persistent problem of homelessness in Canada, the significant ones being discussed in the following sections:
- a) Poverty- One of the main contributing factors, which result in the increase in the homelessness in the country, is the presence of poverty in the country, which in turn results in lack of affordability of housing in the country. The magnitude of this problem has increased even more, in the recent years, with the country progressing hugely in terms of economic growth, which in contributed in making the country a lucrative place for staying in terms of employment opportunities, higher standard of living and others (Saddichha et al.). This has resulted in even higher demand for housing, thereby making housing even less affordable.
- b) Lack of supply- Along with the presence of a higher demand in the housing market of the country already, the lack of supply of affordable housing in Canada has aggravated the crisis even more. Due to the presence of excess demand in the market, the supplies of housing, especially the private sector profit-maximizing ones have increased the price of their housing facilities, which in turn has contributed significantly to the already existing problems of homelessness in the country.
- c) Increase in inflow of new immigrants- One of the primary reasons behind the increase in the problem of homelessness in the country can be the recent trend of increased immigration in the country from other parts of the world. Canada, in the last few years, have developed immensely in terms of economic and industrial aspects and the country currently boasts of its robust industrial, service and export sectors, which in turn attracts a lot of potential workers from all over the world, for a better standard of living. Apart from the employment sector, the education sector of the country is also one of the primary attractions in the country. Canada has some of the finest universities in the world, which attracts huge number of students from across the country, which in turn increases the demand for housing in the country, thereby increasing their prices.
- d) Drug and alcohol abuse- One of the contributing reasons behind homelessness in the country, which is very subjective to Canada itself is the presence of the problem of drug, substance and alcohol abuse, which is typically high in the country and is itself separately a cause of concern for the governing authorities of Canada. The problem of drug and alcohol abuse, brings the problem of domestic violence and separation from family which in turn increases the problem of acuteness in the country.
- e) System failure- The problems of homelessness is not restricted to the demand side only. There is also presence of system failure in the country, which increase the vulnerability of homelessness in the country. The system failures in the residential sector of the country includes lack of supports for the immigrants and the refugees, inappropriate planning for those with mental health issues and addiction to substances and drugs and others. The government of the country, apart from this, has also failed to prevent the illegal activities of tax evasion and political lobbying by the influential classes, which in turn has made the magnitude of the crisis even high (Embleton et al. pp. 435-444).
- f) Housing investments- In the recent periods, housing facilities are also seen as an alternative and fruitful investment opportunity for the investors as well as households in the country. This in turn has led to the practice of the upper income Canadians to invest in this sector, thereby decreasing the availability and affordability of the middle and lower class even more (Spinello pp. 12-22).
Apart from the above-mentioned factors, there also remain other contributing reasons, which cumulatively cause the current problem of homelessness in Canada, in the recent years.
In Canada, with overall high progress in the economy, the government of the country works effectively as a whole in the domain of social welfare of the residents of the country and has a robust framework of public policies, in order to increase the overall welfare of the people living in the country. In this aspect, “adequate housing”, in terms of international law, can be defined as the right of the citizens of the country, especially the women, men, children and youth to receive a peaceful residential facility in the community (Norman and Pauly pp. 136-151).
The Legal Framework for Adequate Housing in Canada
In this context, the “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”, along with the protection of other economic and social privileges of the citizens, is also bestowed with the responsibility of ensuring the right of adequate housing of the citizens in the country. The Article 11, especially focuses on this aspect and on the continuous improvement of the living conditions of the people. The Human Rights Declaration also focuses on the same rights in their Article 25(1) (Hovenkamp).
However, in the domain of adequate housing, apart from just providing the facility of housing to the residents, there also are certain facilities, which are included:
Tenure Security- The residents need protection from forced eviction, intimidations and harassments (Gold pp. 185-198)
Availability of infrastructure- The presence of only a physical structure is not sufficient. Under adequate housing, the provisions of safe drinking water, sanitation, electricity and other emergency services should also be made available
Affordability- The housing should be available at affordable prices for all strata in the society
Location- Adequate housing should be provided to the citizens at convenient locations so as to make working and doing other regular daily activities.
However, in spite of the presence of legal framework for facilitating adequate housing in the country, for the residents of the concerned country, irrespective of their income level, affordability and social status, there exists huge lack of housing facilities in the country. This is especially true in case of the middle and lowers income classes as well as the immigrants as well as the refugees in the country, for whom finding a housing matching their requirement as well as their purchasing power (Taylor pp. 255-273).
As can be asserted from the above discussion, homelessness is one of the primary issues of concern in Canada and the problem has been continuously increasing with time and increase in the population in the country. The government of Canada has taken considerable steps in this regard to facilitate affordable housings for the residents of the country. However, in spite of these policies, there remains sufficient lack in this aspect, for which the following steps can be taken by the concerned governing authorities:
- a) Limiting foreign ownership of local lands- One of the main way of increasing housing facilities for the residents of the country is to restrict the buying of land in the country by the foreign individuals for non-residential purpose and restricting this facility to only those who live in the country and are tax payers in Canada only (Daly).
- b) Restricting tax evasion- The problem of tax evasion is one of the chronic issues in this sector of the country, which in turn illegally helps a sector of the population to acquire residential facilities, depriving a large section of the population. This problem can be mitigated to a considerable extent by implementation of stricter tax policies in this aspect (Waldbrook).
- c) Housing first strategy- Housing sector has to be prioritized by the governing authorities. Provision of homes should be kept even before drug addiction and mental health problems (Gaetz, Scott and Gulliver).
- d) Increasing supply of affordable housing- The shortages of affordable housing can be decreased to a considerable extent by the municipality and the governing authorities by increasing the supply of the same and making them more affordable to the residents.
From the above discussion, it can be concluded that though Canada has emerged as one of the influential economies in the world, however, the economy is still struggling in several aspects, one f which is the increasing issue of homelessness of the residents of the country. Though the government of the country has taken impressive steps to combat the situation, there remain scopes of improvement in this aspect, which if properly implemented and planned can reduce the problem of homelessness in Canada to a considerable extent.
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