UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Hanging on the edge of the house: African refugees, housing, and identity in Metro Vancouver Francis, Jenny


For African refugees arriving in Metro Vancouver, housing is a crucial component of settlement and integration. Given Metro Vancouver’s expensive housing market, high levels of homelessness, and consistently low vacancy rate, how are they coping in Vancouver’s housing market? What barriers do they face and what are some possible solutions? By providing an overview of the housing challenges African refugees face and identifying gaps in available services, this study expands the knowledge base upon which improved settlement policy and service provision may be built. The results show that, due to a complex combination of factors, including lack of affordable housing, discrimination, low incomes, and long application processing times, African refugees are facing a housing availability and affordability crisis in Metro Vancouver that forces them to accept substandard housing which is unsuitable, inadequate, and unaffordable. These unstable conditions are both symptomatic and generative of other problems, including poverty, debt, hunger, and a high risk of homelessness. Importantly, the study also reveals how these material conditions, which are the effect of policies grounded in theoretical perspectives around multiculturalism and notions of Canadian identity, are reflective of those underlying ideological frameworks. The author also argues that an enhanced understanding of the historical roots of current discriminatory practices is required in order to effect positive social change for the future.

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