Brock, YWCA to present research on affordable housing for women in Niagara

Having to share close living space with strangers in unsafe neighbourhoods. Being told, as a racialized new tenant, that an apartment is taken when visiting in person to give a deposit. Balancing the choice between paying rent and putting food on the table.

These are some of the experiences a variety of women in Niagara shared during recent consultations with Brock University’s Niagara Community Observatory (NCO) and the YWCA Niagara Region.

New research informed by these discussions that seeks to improve safe and affordable housing locally will be presented Wednesday, June 22 during an event at Brock University’s main campus.

“There continues to be an urgent need to increase awareness of the housing crisis in Niagara and the growing disparity in accessing affordable housing for women facing intersectional barriers based on their identities, such as Indigeneity, race, sexuality, ability and age,” says Assistant Professor of Political Science Joanne Heritz, the NCO’s lead researcher on the project.

To address these and other challenges, the NCO and YWCA Niagara Region formed a research partnership last year to study affordable housing in the region.

“We knew that women were experiencing homelessness different than their male counterparts, but how is not always understood,” says YWCA Niagara Region Executive Director Elisabeth Zimmermann. “This research project was a great opportunity to hear from women about what their experience is and also to understand how different intersectionalities made it more complex.”

The federal government’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is funding the research.

YWCA Niagara Region is actively involved in the affordable housing movement. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization sheltered 607 women, 55 men and 51 children, bringing another 120 women, 10 men and 78 children into transitional housing.

However, many more needed affordable housing assistance but were reluctant to come forward out of a fear of catching COVID, according to the YWCA.

As a result, countless women coped by staying in abusive relationships, living on the streets and sleeping on friends’ couches, among other measures, say the researchers.

Zimmermann and Heritz will be among speakers discussing the team’s research at Brock University this week.

What: Presentation and panel discussion of the NCO-YWCA Niagara Region research, “Improving Safe and Affordable Housing for Women and Gender-Diverse People During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
When: Wednesday, June 22 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Where: Pond Inlet, Brock University. Free parking will be provided.
Who: Assistant Professor of Political Science Joanne Heritz; YWCA Niagara Region Executive Director Elisabeth Zimmermann.
To register: Limited spaces remain for this free event. Registration is required through Eventbrite.

Please note that COVID-19 protocols are in place and must be followed, including a mask and vaccine mandate. Updated protocols can be found on the University’s COVID-19 web page.

For questions about Wednesday’s event, contact NCO Research Co-ordinator Carol Phillips at

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