By Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – In a compelling conversation with Alberta Native News, Andrea Reimer, a prominent figure in Canadian public service, has illuminated the profound challenges facing Indigenous people, women, and gender-diverse individuals in Canada’s housing crisis. Her extensive experience as a former Vancouver city councillor and her role as a constant to Pan Canada’s Societal challenges have given her unique insights into these issues.
Andrea Reimer’s career is a reflection of her dedication to complex issues. As the Founder and Principal of Tawaw Strategies, she explained, “I am committed to empowering governments, organizations, and purpose-driven businesses to address some of the most significant challenges of our time.”
Reflecting on her decade-long service as a Vancouver city councillor, Andrea said, “I served for ten years and did a lot of work on housing and gender diverse and women’s issues, including gender diversity. I brought in a lot of initiatives while I was on the Council. Since I left in 2018, I’ve been teaching about power and public policy and working as a consultant. I continued this work through consulting, and it’s a continuation of my work that I did on Vancouver City Council.”
Andrea’s extensive experience provides invaluable insights into the struggles faced by individuals and communities dealing with housing issues in Vancouver and throughout the Canada. Notably, according to Statistics Canada, over one in six Indigenous people in Canada live in crowded housing.
Andrea emphasized that the housing crisis extends far beyond the boundaries of a single city or region. She pointed out, “One of the challenges for housing has become global because housing is tied to global financial interests. Vancouver’s housing issues date back several decades, but the financialization of housing, like treating it as a commodity in the stock market, has impacted cities worldwide. If your city is essential to the economy, she explained, “you’re likely to have a serious housing problem.”
The gravity of the global housing crisis cannot be overstated. Homelessness and housing unaffordability disproportionately affect marginalized communities, including Indigenous people, individuals of color, and those identifying as gender-diverse. Recent statistics highlight the growing need, revealing that while the share of Indigenous people living in crowded housing remained much higher than the non-Indigenous population (17.1% versus 9.4%), the gap between the two groups narrowed from 9.5 percentage points in 2016 to 7.8 percentage points in 2021.
Andrea emphasized the importance of addressing the intersection of housing and gender diversity. “That’s the big question. Owning land is central to Canada’s existence,” she stated. “We have yet to spend much time contemplating what happens to those who don’t own land. The Pan Canadian Voice is working to raise awareness. National and provincial governments have focused on the housing crisis but failed to recognize and respond to its impact on gender-diverse individuals. She added, “We must connect housing and gender. A guaranteed annual income is an example of a solution because the root cause of homelessness is a lack of income. When we focus on helping the most vulnerable, it benefits the wider public.”
Andrea’s insights are supported by statistics revealing that about one-third of Indigenous people in Canada encounter difficulties in meeting their financial needs, a proportion significantly higher than non-Indigenous people.
The conversation delved deeper into the practical steps required to address the housing crisis and its disproportionate impact on marginalized groups. Andrea explained, “We’re focusing on housing providers, offering training to help them understand the unique support needed for gender-diverse individuals. In addition, specific strategies for Indigenous and trans people are essential. A guaranteed annual income can help solve homelessness by providing the means to pay for housing. She said, “We must address these disparities and help those disproportionately affected by the housing crisis.
She explained, “It’s crucial to understand that these policies aren’t limited to serving specific groups; they have a far-reaching impact on society as a whole. Smart policies designed to assist marginalized communities ultimately benefit the broader population. For instance, consider healthcare, initially developed to provide assistance to those who could afford health services. Today, it benefits all of us, showcasing the wider societal advantages of inclusive and compassionate policies.”
Andrea firmly stated, “Policies must be all-encompassing, ensuring that everyone benefits. It’s vital to establish a structured approach, particularly when dealing with well-established systems. Our tax system should effectively handle the distribution of social support.”
Andrea’s insights serve as a resounding call to action for policymakers, housing providers, and the general public to reevaluate and reform the systems that sustain housing inequalities. They resonate with a powerful message: Achieving a more equitable and just future for everyone is possible, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable societal challenges.
Andrea Reimer continues her role as a consultant at The Pan-Canadian Voice for Women’s Housing, dedicated to fostering a community of activists, facilitating crucial conversations, providing support for skill development, resource generation, and opportunities sharing. She strives to connect women and gender-diverse individuals with lived expertise to decision-makers, allowing them to share their experiences of life without adequate housing.
Housing advocates focusing on women and gender diversity issues, such as those associated with the Pan-Canadian Voice for Women’s Housing, recognize the omission of discussions on housing justice and affordability concerning women experiencing homelessness and those escaping violence. Andrea’s efforts, alongside those of many others like her, leverage their positions of privilege and platforms to address Canada’s housing crisis.
If ANNews readers are interested in joining this group of activists, they can reach out to: [email protected].
For more information explore “She.They.Us.” – a podcast that addresses the challenges of making room in housing for women and gender-diverse individuals, presented by the Pan-Canadian Voice for Women’s Housing. Hosted by Andrea Reimer, the podcast delves into why Canada’s housing crisis disproportionately affects households led by women and gender-diverse people and provides insights on what you can do about it. Listen at https://pcvwh.ca/she-they-us/she-they-us-podcast/