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A Qualitative Study of Refugees’ Experiences Accessing Housing in Hamilton, Ontario

Authors: Heidi Schneider*, McMaster University
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism, Qualitative Research, Social Geography
Keywords: Refugees, Housing, Sustainability, Affordability, Immigration, Qualitative Research
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


It is estimated that 43% of all refugees that arrived in Canada in 2015-2016 settled in Ontario, with Toronto and the surrounding area accepting nearly 40% of these newcomers (Oda, et al., 2018). Upon arrival, refugees are faced with many challenges, with many citing housing as one of the more difficult barriers to overcome, particularly in competitive housing markets.

The purpose of this study is to better understand refugees’ experiences in accessing housing in Hamilton, Ontario and, to identify the services they most commonly use and the strategies they employ to access housing. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with recently arrived (<5 years) refugees to ascertain their own experiences in accessing housing in Hamilton. In addition, individuals involved with refugee resettlement or housing organizations in the city were asked to share their experiences and observations finding housing for refugees to provide additional perspectives and background about the issue. Content analysis and thematic coding was used to pull descriptive codes and themes from the data, with a focus on strategies used to access housing.

Preliminary results suggest that an increasingly competitive housing market has meant that many refugees must rely on low quality and unsafe housing, which is often much less desirable than the condition of the housing they had before relocating to Hamilton. However, the interviews also indicated that a recent grassroots initiative, that aims to connect refugees to local housing partnerships and church-groups, might offer a promising new strategy for maximizing the existing housing stock in Hamilton.

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