Following the devolution of affordable housing to lower levels of government, municipalities have been partnering with private developers to address the growing problem of hidden homelessness, through the inclusionary housing (IH) policy. Very little has been written about this policy in Ontario, hence the purpose of this qualitative case study was (i) to uncover how women experience hidden homelessness in Toronto and Barrie, (ii) to analyze, understand, and evaluate the implementation of IH policy in Ontario, and (iii) to examine the effect of IH policy as it relates to women experiencing hidden homelessness in Toronto and Barrie. In-depth interviews were conducted with eleven women who were currently experiencing hidden homelessness or had a history of hidden homelessness, five policy experts, two private developers, and five frontline workers from community organizations working to end homelessness in Toronto and Barrie. An intersectional gender-based analysis was used to uncover the prevalence of hidden homelessness among women, and the effect of the IH policy in addressing this problem. Data analysis was done using thematic analysis and particular attention
was given to women’s experiences with hidden homelessness and the perspectives of policy-makers and stakeholders. The findings suggests that, women experiencing hidden homelessness were situated within a hostile housing market where some were compelled to live in unsafe, substandard, overcrowded conditions, and were exposed to violence, while others lived in houses they could not afford, often working two jobs to cover rent. Although the introduction of Bill 7of the Affordable Housing Act, 2016, gave municipalities authority to implement IH strategies to boost affordable housing stock, yet slow implementation processes, challenges in negotiating a happy medium, red tape and the high cost of land, minimizes the effect of the IH strategy in Ontario. As such, the IH policy has not yielded any significant effect in Toronto or Barrie, and is only targeted at middle to upper middle income earners, at the exclusion of low-income women experiencing hidden homelessness. In addition, poor conceptualization of gendered homelessness, coupled with the absence of gendered statistics, and gender neutrality in the formulation and implementation of the IH policy, exacerbates
women’s experiences with hidden homelessness. Moreover, a lack of political will to end homelessness further dampens the effects of IH strategies. Participants suggested a more integrative, multidimensional approach to ending homelessness.