Examining Housing as a Determinant of Health: Closing the ‘Poverty Gap’ to Improve Outcomes for Women in Affordable Housing

Milaney Katrina1, *, Bell Meaghan2, Ramage Kaylee3, Screpnechuk Christina4, Petruik Courtney5
1 Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary AB, T4N 4Z6, Canada
2 Calgary Housing Company, Calgary, ABT2G 2M1, Canada
3 Community Health Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynecology Cumming School of Medicine, Calgary, ABT2N 4Z6, Canada
4 DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, L8S 4L8, Canada
5 Department of Sociology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4, Canada

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© 2022 Katrina et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary AB, T4N 4Z6, Canada; Tel: (403) 220-5669; E-mail:



Access to housing is an important social determinant of health and has a positive influence on health outcomes. In one large municipal city in Western Canada, over 12,000 units of affordable housing are available to support low-income individuals.


However, little is known about resident experiences living in affordable housing, how affordable housing affects their movements through the housing continuum (i.e., from housing instability to stability), how affordable housing affects their lives and the lives of their families, and how gender factors into these questions.


The current study, part of the larger quantitative project, involved a survey with 160 residents of affordable housing units in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


The results show that few gender differences exist in demographic factors such as age, income, and ethnicity. However, important differences exist in the experiences of women versus men, including employment status, barriers to employment, parenting, trajectory of affordable housing residency, and reasons for accessing affordable housing in the first place.


We argue that gendered supports to reduce barriers to sustainable employment must be embedded in affordable housing programs and coupled with low or no cost childcare and supports to heal from trauma in order to break cycles of dependency for women and their children. This research builds on the scant Canadian literature that examines characteristics and experiences in affordable housing using a gender-lens.

Keywords: Affordable housing, Health, Gender, Poverty, Survey, Low-income.