Lakehead University researchers helping to make housing more affordable across Canada

June 14, 2021 – Thunder Bay, Ont.

A Lakehead University professor is co-leading two research teams receiving more than $1.3 million each from the Government of Canada, which will improve the availability of affordable housing in Canada.

Dr. Rebecca Schiff, Chair and Professor in the Department of Health Sciences, is co-leading At Home in the North: Partners in Housing and Home, as well as Community Housing Canada.

Photo of Dr. Rebecca Schiff

“For communities across the Canadian North, chronic housing insecurity is an undeniable public policy priority and human rights issue,” Dr. Schiff said.

“Current strategies to address chronic housing need and homelessness tend to comprise policies and programs developed outside the North, and are thus disconnected from northern needs, realities, priorities and strengths.”

By working in partnership with communities across the provincial and territorial Norths to advance a northern housing continuum, this partnership project informs the development and implementation of context-based, culturally safe programs, services and models for housing and homelessness, developed by and centred in northern communities, Dr. Schiff added.

“Our pan-northern, multi-scale and interdisciplinary approach is critical to effectively bridging the gaps between research outcomes and impact on northern housing by facilitating the translation and implementation of research into policy and practice,” she said.

Dr. Julia Christensen from Memorial University is the project director of At Home in the North: Partners in Housing and Home and she is also a co-lead. Lakehead participants in this project include Dr. Lori Chambers from Women’s Studies and students Ashley Wilkinson, Clifford Mushquash, and Christine May.

Bonnie Krysowaty, a social researcher and planner for the Lakehead Social Planning Council, and Alice Bellavance, Executive Director of Brain Injury Services of Northwestern Ontario, are also participating.

The Community Housing Canada research is focusing on households with low and modest incomes across Canada that struggle to access affordable, suitable, and adequate housing.

“Home ownership is often priced out of their reach and renting in the private market consumes a high proportion of their incomes,” Dr. Schiff said.

“For these households, community housing offers a pathway to home; indeed, it has been characterized as ‘the backbone of Canada's response to housing challenges.’"

The community housing sector in Canada includes more than 628,000 units, provided by over 3,000 public and non-profit organizations. It faces significant challenges – including expiring operating agreements, aging housing stock, insufficient access to capital and limited capacity to increase supply, Dr. Schiff said.

Dr. Damian Collins from the University of Alberta is the principal investigator of this project.

"Congratulations to Dr. Schiff and her partners on obtaining these grants for two extremely important projects,” said Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead University’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

“It is clear that access to suitable affordable housing has unique challenges for residents in the North and needs to have policies and actions that are developed in collaboration with the people who live and work in these regions. Addressing housing needs is an important component of addressing social inequities in Canada.

“Thank you to the Government of Canada, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and SSHRC for this funding,” Dr. Dean said.

In 2020/21, Lakehead University received nearly $2 million in assistance from the Research Support Fund to support the indirect costs of research, which includes costs for supporting the management of intellectual property, research and administration, ethics and regulatory compliance, research resources, and research facilities.

These grants are part of the nearly $14 million in funding that the federal government announced today for housing research under the National Housing Strategy’s Collaborative Housing Research Network, an independent, Canada-wide collaboration of academics and community partners.

The Collaborative Housing Research Network is a joint initiative between the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council that will generate new knowledge to support housing policy-making and inform future program development.


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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2020 World Universities Rankings for the second consecutive year, and 99th among 1,115 universities from around the world in THE's 2021 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit