Discriminatory Practices in the Housing Market: Rental Applications and their unique impact on Refugee Claimants

Authors: Heidi Schneider*, McMaster University
Topics: Qualitative Research, Migration
Keywords: Refugee Claimants, Housing, Discrimination, Qualitative
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 13
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Between 2015-2016 roughly 43% of all refugees who came to Canada settled in Ontario, and of these, roughly 40% settled in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area (Oda, et al., 2018). As with many Canadian cities, the housing market in the city of Hamilton has become increasingly competitive, with vacancy rates hovering between 3.1 – 3.19% between 2018-2019 for private apartments (CMHC, 2019). Considering this increase in competition, this study sought to better understand the experiences of refugee claimants when searching for housing in Hamilton and identify any factors that influence this process. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with refugee claimants currently living in Hamilton, who were asked to reflect on their experiences searching for housing. Individuals involved with refugee resettlement or housing organizations in the city were also interviewed to provide background and contextual information for the study. Content analysis and thematic coding were used to pull themes from the data. Strict housing applications were reported to be the key mechanism used by some landlords to exclude certain populations from accessing housing. This paper discusses these findings and argues that refugee claimants are uniquely susceptible to, and disadvantaged by, this practice because they often occupy multiple identities that are commonly discriminated against in the housing market. For the analysis, these identities were divided into two groups: personal attributes (e.g. ethnicity, refugee status, etc.) that are unchanging, and circumstances which are often beyond the person’s control (e.g. income, lack of previous landlord references) but which can change overtime.

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