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Inclusive Housing Solutions Lab

At Home in a Neighbourhood Where I Belong

This Housing Lab was convened by L’Arche Canada and funded by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Work took place in New Brunswick, with a national Community of Practice, from January 2021 to September 2022.

We started by asking

How can we work together to ensure that everyone – including persons with intellectual disabilities, has an affordable and accessible home that supports a sense of belonging and connection to the community?

Our Focus

Housing options for persons with intellectual disabilities are often limited by factors such as poverty, lack of support, and lack of options, and that housing options often fall under “care services,” meaning people are not protected like renters or homeowners. This leaves persons with intellectual disabilities facing housing precarity at a higher rate than people without disabilities.

The group, Disability Without Poverty, notes that: “In 2021, 16.5% of people with disabilities lived in poverty, representing more than 1.5 million people. This is compared to compared to 8.6% of people without disabilities… All provincial disability payments are below the poverty line. Most are far below the poverty line.” (www.disabilitywithoutpoverty.ca) Without an adequate income, housing costs are beyond what some persons with disabilities can afford.

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), “In Canada, an estimated 13,200 adults with developmental disabilities live with parents or other family members because of a lack of resources or community supports… More than 75% of adult Canadians with intellectual disabilities who do not live with their families are living in poverty and are at a very high risk of homelessness.” And, “Almost 25,000 Canadians with significant developmental disabilities are in core housing need.” (CMHC Research Insight, April 2021)

From a Housing First perspective, this lack of housing security underpins other gaps in peoples’ lives including access to support, services and social connection. Knowing this, the work of the Lab focused on inclusive housing solutions that support and nurture belonging for everyone – including people with intellectual disabilities.

Guiding Principles

4 hands together
Inclusive Housing Benefits Everyone
Outline of 3 people
Centering People with Living Experience
puzzle pieces fitting together
Cross-Sectoral Collaboration



The Lab had 5 phases:

  1. Definition
  2. Discovery
  3. Development
  4. Test and Prototype
  5. Roadmap
A young white woman with orange hair and glasses listening to a middle aged white woman with light hair and glasses at the Inclusive Housing Solutions Lab Forum in New Brunswick.

Learning together

Engaging people with disabilities as co-leaders and co-learners was essential to the work of this Lab.

Persons with intellectual disabilities were co-leaders and co-learners throughout the Lab as members of:

  • New Brunswick Stewardship Partners Team
  • Lived Experience Advisory Committee
  • Peer Researchers
  • Focus Groups

Guided by the New Brunswick Stewardship Partners Team. Profiles

Resource sharing by the National Community of Practice Team. CoP Profiles

“It’s a very important project. I like sharing experiences and learning from other people as well.”

Black and white photograph a white woman with dark hair and glasses smiling.
Stacey Howe
Stewardship Team member from Saint John, NB
Learning Together
Inclusive Housing Solutions Lab Partners
A diverse crowd of people sitting and listening to a woman standing with a microphone in the middle of the room at the Inclusive Housing Solutions Lab forum in New Brunswick.

Lab Learnings

As part of the Lab process, we looked into the barriers and opportunities to creating inclusive housing. We conducted research through interviews, focus groups, peer research, and secondary research.

There are barriers to creating inclusive housing

The barriers we uncovered fell into four categories depicted by the four levels of the iceberg:

  • The tip – shows us what is happening, the EVENTS we are seeing
  • Second level – lays out the PATTERNS or trends
  • Third level – what influences the patterns, the SYSTEMS or contributing structures
  • Fourth level – the thinking or MINDSETS that influence our systems and patterns
Click image to enlarge Iceberg Barrier

There are also many opportunities

The Lab also found a number of “levers” we can pull to make positive change and move forward on inclusive housing initiatives. Click image to enlarge

Key Leverage Points

Different people have different housing wants and needs

Click image to enlarge Drawing of a woman named Edna to was getting used to living alone after her husband passed away and she lost a good friend to cancer. They did everything together including weekly visits to the Community Centre for crafts. Her son is worried about her but he has his own life in Toronto. Edna is comfortable in her apartment but she hasn't met anyone there yet. She doesn't drive and is not totally comfortable on the stairs at the entrance of the building. She thinks she might try the bus but the schedule is not convenient and she worries about getting their alone. She feels sad about all her craft supplies not being used but she doesn't feel like working on them by herself. She is starting to feel trapped and lonely. Drawing of a woman named Cindy. Cindy's income is Extended Benefits of $280 per month. Cindy likes having her own place but what she really wants is to share a place with her girlfriend. Her worker has advised her that she will lose her benefits if she moves in with someone else. Cindy would like to take the bus to meet her girlfriend at the Community Centre Craft program they do together but she worries about being unsteady on the stairs leading down from the front door. If she lived with her girlfriend she would have help. She misses doing her crafts and her girlfriend, but she has lots of ideas for decorating the apartment building for Christmas. Cindy doesn't know who to talk to or how to do this on her own. Drawing of a a woman named Carol and her son Matthew. Carol wants to support Matthew to live independently, and COVID made her realize just how much her son lacks social networks and how dependent he is on family. This worries her because she is getting older and knows she won't be able to take care of him forever. Matthew graduated from high school three years ago and has become more and more isolated since. He loves sporting events, going to the gym, and gaming, and would love to work at a gaming or computer store. He loves the idea of having his own place but also knows that if he doesn't have anything else to do, he'll end up staying home all day. They were offered a group home, but it wasn't what she or Matthew wants. Carol has resources for him to rent something else, but she doesn't want him to be alone in an empty house, with only paid professional supports as his only relationships.
Are you involved in an inclusive housing initiative? Want to connect with one of the groups working on the action plan?

Our Housing Coordinator is here to help!

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