University of Winnipeg researchers are seeking adults aged 59 and older who have faced or experienced eviction in the past five years.
Researchers Sarah Zell and Scott McCullough of the university’s Institute of Urban Studies are conducting a study called Beyond ‘Overhoused’: Seniors and Evictions in Canada, funded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
"The goal of the study is to develop a better understanding of seniors’ or older adults’ experiences of eviction in Canada, how senior tenants respond to evictions, and the causes and impacts of eviction on seniors," Zell explained.
"We are also interested in identifying services or supports that might be specifically tailored to older adult tenants."
Despite global attention paid to evictions since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the experience of seniors and the ways in which they could be better supported remain underexplored, Zell said. The project aims to fill that information gap for Canada.
The study is particularly interested in examining the lived experience of eviction as a way to inform policy and raise awareness.
"The project is also adopting a gender-based analysis," Zell said.
"We are aware that people are socialized to respond differently to conflict, meaning they may be more or less willing to fight an illegal eviction, and this can vary by age and gender. Also, people’s care networks often vary by gender, which can impact both the responsibilities people have to others and their access to social supports."
Interviews are underway in Manitoba, Ontario and B.C. with older adults who have experienced eviction and with people involved in providing eviction-related services and supports.
This study builds out of a larger three-phase project launched in 2019 in conjunction with CMHC called Understanding Evictions and Eviction Prevention in Canada.
Evictions can be costly for tenants, landlords and society as a whole, Zell said. In addition, evictions are both cause and consequence of financial insecurity, and they’re a common route leading to housing instability and homelessness.
In recent years, it appears that a wider group of people is being impacted by evictions, including seniors who might be on fixed or limited incomes, she noted.
"Seniors may be especially vulnerable to sudden changes in expenses related to rising housing costs or changes in benefits or allowances — or benefits not keeping pace with rising housing costs," Zell said.
"They are also vulnerable to emerging types of evictions, including development-led ‘renovictions,’ which often occur in older and often more affordable housing stock, where seniors may be long-term tenants.
"Seniors are a growing cohort of the population, and this population will require better and specific supports as they transition challenging housing situations."
During the pandemic, evictions are an even greater concern, Zell added.
"The pandemic has thrown into stark relief the sometimes disappointing way our society, including our health and housing systems, can treat our elders," she said.
"We hope this research will also highlight this growing problem affecting many older people in our communities."
Ideally, many seniors need supportive, purpose-built and purpose-managed housing, she said.
"Respondents in our research pointed to a huge gap between independent living and long-term care facilities, and a lack but increasing demand for home-care support," Zell said.
"Housing is a human right, and having an affordable and safe place to live helps people and families succeed and thrive. It is integral to supporting our community’s health and sustainability."
Anyone who is eligible and interested in participating in the project can contact Sarah Zell until April 15 at email@example.com. Participants will receive a $20 honorarium.
"We typically speak with people for about an hour," Zell said, "and the interviews are an opportunity for them to share their story and reflect on the causes and impacts of eviction."
The results will be finalized this spring, and CHMC will release a final report later this year.