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Study says eviction prevention requires system-level changes

IUS report examines solutions to address housing insecurity and end homelessness

Scott McCullough and Sarah Zell. ©UWinnipeg

Researchers at the University of Winnipeg’s Institute of Urban Studies (IUS) have published a research report, Evictions and Eviction Prevention in Canada, that examines changes to the housing market and drivers of eviction that are causing increased evictions across the nation. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how interconnected we are, and how we need system-wide responses to challenges, including eviction.

Scott McCullough

The report is authored by Dr. Sarah Zell and Scott McCullough, with assistance from Ryan Shirtliffe and Anya Ingram, as part of a study conducted for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Evictions and their impact are an increasing concern, across Canada and worldwide. This research, conducted in 2019 and early 2020, examines evictions in Canada through a literature review and interviews with housing service providers and people with lived experience of eviction. The research team also examined, and compiled an inventory of, various eviction prevention measures implemented across Canada.

Their findings suggest the drivers, types, frequency, and scale of evictions across Canada have changed over the past 15 years, with a marked rise in development-related evictions in the context of tight housing markets and lack of affordable housing.

This increase includes more landlord-driven evictions, such as renovictions, own-use evictions, property conversions, and demovictions in response to market conditions.

“This makes it difficult for renters to secure affordable housing,” said Zell. “Ongoing housing and financial challenges continue to impact housing stability and represent a broader set of societal challenges.”

Zell and McCullough’s research shows that the shifting evictions environment is impacting a wider range of people and prevention initiatives need greater capacity to prevent evictions. 

There is growing evidence that development-led evictions are altering the profile of those impacted by eviction, putting broader cohorts of people at risk. More comprehensive data on evictions are required to confirm the full picture of these shifts and of those affected.

These shifts also suggest a need for new responses to evictions, particularly related to specific populations, and responses at a system level to address these emerging drivers of evictions. There must be efforts made to address wider issues related to global shifts in housing markets, housing affordability, and the other contributing factors that continue to impact housing stability.

“We need to address the underlying causes that contribute to evictions,” said McCullough. “While the majority of evictions are economic in nature, the system-level factors that cause them needs to be addressed by government leaders who can adopt policies and engage in efforts to decrease employment and economic uncertainty, while promoting housing affordability for all.”

Eviction prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Canadian economy exacerbates the problem.

“It is important that we examine and understand the social and spatial impacts of the pandemic on tenants’ housing and financial security, as well as the extent to which preventative and responsive measures are effective at addressing gaps,” said Zell.

In response to widespread fears over pandemic-related evictions and increased overall housing instability, the federal government, and most provinces, implemented measures to support tenants and landlords, such as banning late fees on rent and asking courts to ban the enforcement of rental evictions during the pandemic.

In many provinces, moratoria on evictions were in place for the pandemic, and tenants and landlords were encouraged to work together to come up with solutions. Some provinces have responded to pandemic-related financial distress by providing financial assistance to landlords and rent relief to tenants through temporary rental supplements or utility payment deferral programs. 

“The extent to which things will return to the status quo following the crisis remains to be seen,” said McCullough. “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how interconnected we are, and how we need system-wide responses to challenges, including eviction,” he said.


The Institute of Urban Studies (IUS) acts as an innovative, independent research and educational unit of the University of Winnipeg, with an action-research orientation. Since 1969, the IUS has been both an academic and an applied research centre, committed to examining urban development issues in a broad, non-partisan manner. Originally dedicated to addressing the problems and concerns of the inner city, the Institute’s research mandate has evolved to encompass the social, demographic, physical, economic, and environmental well-being of Canadian cities and communities.

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