Housing plays an immense and complex role in shaping our physical, mental and social well-being.  Access, condition, proximity to environmental hazards, and connectedness with the rest of the community are all factors that determine whether housing contributes to or detracts from human health.

Substandard housing conditions (e.g. dampness, mould, inadequate heating/cooling, pest infestations) are a subset of these factors that has been well established as contributing to adverse health effects, especially among the poor, the elderly and those living with mental illness and addiction.

Recognizing this absence, the Grey Bruce Health Unit and the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force initiated the Above Standard Housing Project (ASH) in 2014.  ASH seeks in the short term to better understand the local factors that contribute to the persistence of the substandard housing conditions. In the long term, it is hoped this understanding will inform the development of strategies/initiatives that will improve and sustain housing conditions; moving from ‘substandard’ to ‘above standard’.  The project is linked to the larger Provincial Rensafe Project in partnership with RentSafe Project Team.

Local communities are struggling with persistent health inequities driven by income disparity, housing inadequacy, and other intersecting factors that constrain individual and community well-being. Increasingly, intersectoral approaches are recognized as essential to tackle such challenges, given their intersecting nature.

Lessons for a rural housing crisis (Jan 2021) describes Equity-focused Intersectoral Practice (EquIP), a novel methodology that merges participatory research principles with the purposeful positioning of grounded expertise (lived experience) to shift the gaze of intersectoral actors towards the contextual factors that contribute to health inequities.

The EquIP methodology creates uncommon spaces for intersectoral encounter that support critical reflexivity and relationship-building among institutional and community-based intersectoral actors. This case example of the EquIP methodology, implemented in  Owen Sound in the context of a regional housing crisis, illustrates how investment in reflexivity and relational praxis among diverse intersectoral actors supports the identification of existing structures, beliefs, and practices within institutional settings that constrain effective intersectoral response to health inequities.

We Are All Neighbours, October 2019, is the Final Report of the RentSafe Research on Equity-focused Intersectoral Practice (EquIP) for Housing and Health Equity in Owen Sound. The housing crisis in Owen Sound is characterized by inadequate supply of low-income housing, rising costs that are out of step with household incomes, and aging housing stock that is deteriorating. The RentSafe research documents the collective action being taken by partners to address the crisis and makes strong recommendations for housing habitability and health equity.

Towards Healthy Homes for All: RentSafe Summary and Recommendations April 2018, summarizes the research over the past 3 years and offers recommendations for action to improve intersectoral action and capacity to ensure healthy housing conditions.

RentSafe_Update_June 2017  highlights activities with a focus on the results from baseline research including focus groups with tenants, surveys of Ontario’s public health units and legal aid clinics, a survey of frontline workers, a survey of small-scale landlords, focus groups with landlords and a public health – municipal inspection pilot.

The Rentsafe Roundtable, held in Hamilton, Ontario on November 23, 2016, was convened by Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE) and the RentSafe Project Team as an opportunity to: 1) present the findings of RentSafe research on tenants’ experiences of unhealthy housing conditions and the capacity across Ontario’s public health, legal aid clinic and social services sectors to adequately respond, 2) facilitate discussion about specific recommendations for action to improve the situation, and 3) foster relationship-building among people with different views and promote collaboration toward shared goals.  Read: RentSafe Roundtable_Summary Report_Nov 2016