Community Classroom

Engaged Citizens Speaker Series Discusses the Housing Crisis

Leilani Farha portrait photo
Author: Jenn McGarrigle

During the COVID-19 pandemic, housing has quickly become the frontline of defense against the spread of the virus. But for precariously housed or homeless people, the request to “stay home” is an impossibility.

Leilani Farha, Global Director of The Shift, an international movement to secure the right to housing, and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, says the housing crisis, alongside the climate crisis, are the most pressing issues facing society today.

At the virtual Engaged Citizens Speaker Series on Thursday, October 14, she outlined the nature of the crisis, including in the context of COVID-19, and expanded on appropriate government responses, particularly city governments.

“COVID-19 has laid bare the cracks in Canada’s social and economic systems,” says Farha. “It has amplified the housing crisis and exposed it as a human rights crisis. Now, more than ever, access to adequate, secure and affordable housing is a matter of life and death.”

Her presentation was followed by a live Q&A session featuring special guests:

  • Dr. Pam Shaw, Director of VIU’s Master of Community Planning and the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute, as emcee;
  • Erin Hemmens, Nanaimo City Councillor and past co-chair of the Health and Housing Task Force; and
  • Dr. Michael Lait, VIU Post-Doctoral Researcher and Instructor, who is investigating how people’s quality of life and housing situations have been affected by the pandemic.

The Engaged Citizens Speaker Series launched in Fall 2019 with the goal of encouraging “intellectual, engaging and meaningful dialogue about social challenges, opportunities and the community around us while advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.”


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