Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

A Place to Stand on Your Own Two Feet: The Role of Community Housing in Immigrant Integration in Montreal, Quebec

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

A Place to Stand on Your Own Two Feet: The Role of Community Housing in Immigrant Integration in Montreal, Quebec

Article excerpt

Introduction and Overview

The relationship between housing and integration has been the object of attention in the urban-studies literature at varying geographical scales. At the neighbourhood scale, scholars have studied the access of immigrant households to services (e.g., Alba, Logan & Stults 2000; Ray 1999; Rosenbaum & Friedman 2007) and their exposure to substandard housing and discrimination (e.g., Haan 2007; Mattu 2002; Murdie 2002). At the city level, they have investigated the spatial distribution of immigrant communities in order to evaluate their degree of isolation in 'enclaves' and their relative participation in housing markets (e.g., Hiebert and Mendez 2008; Leloup 2007; Leloup and Apparicio 2010; Qadeer 2003). At the metropolitan level, they have paid attention to immigrants' access to homeownership as a means to, and a symbol of, integration (Haan 2005a, 2005b; 2007). All authors note the importance of spatial factors in the living conditions and opportunities available to immigrants and, hence, in their integration in the country where they relocated. Carter and Polevychok present a compelling argument on the general link between housing and immigrant integration:

Adequate, affordable housing with security of tenure becomes an
important facilitator of integration into a new society [...]. It
provides an environment that enables refugees and newly arrived
immigrants to rebuild their personal and cultural identity and
facilitates the building of a new "home" and community. It also enables
them to build new informal social support networks. (Carter and
Polevychok 2004: 18)

All in all, Carter and Polevychok conclude, "housing profoundly influences adaptation and life chances in the new society" (ibid.)

Despite this general attention paid to the housing conditions of immigrants, little work has been done on the direct relationship between housing models--that is, the tenure, organisational structure and programming of housing--and integration. The first factor has been the object of attention with respect to homeownership (see above and further below), but the last two have, to our knowledge, received hardly any attention. One piece of research did anticipate our study of the impact that residency in community housing may have on the well-being of people who are facing difficulties (Doyle et al. 1996). The population that was surveyed in that study was made up of single parents (mostly women) who, like immigrants, were experiencing challenges of poverty and/or marginalisation. Given that many immigrants are poor and socially marginalised, there is much overlap between urban research on immigration and urban research on poverty and exclusion.

As local organisations work to expand the supply of affordable housing in the community sector and as immigrants represent a sizable share of the population where such housing is being built, it is worthwhile to investigate the relationship between the community housing sector and the lived trajectories of immigrants. By examining the impact of a specific community-housing model on immigrant experiences in a Montreal neighbourhood, this paper begins to fill a gap in the literature.

The research presented here was conducted under the umbrella of Metropolis, a joint initiative of Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. From 2000 to 2012, Metropolis brought together scholars, policy-makers and service providers to engage in "comparative research and public policy development on migration, diversity, and immigrant integration in cities in Canada" (Metropolis 2012a).

The research was also developed in partnership with Hapopex (Habitations populaires de Parc-Extension), an organisation that develops community housing in the Montreal neighbourhood of Parc-Extension, one of the key destination neighbourhoods for new immigrants in the city. …

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