RentSafe EquIP – Equity-focused Intersectional Practice

RentSafe EquIP: Equity-focused Intersectoral Practice for housing habitability and health equity in Owen Sound

This research project aims to catalyze and support meaningful interaction among people from diverse sectors to (1) better understand the causes and consequences of housing inadequacy as seen from multiple viewpoints, and (2) foster new ways of conceiving of issues and potential solutions. RentSafe EquIP is a participatory action research project, which means that academic and community-based researchers are working together to support positive change in the community.

Unfit housing conditions such as mould, pests, inadequate heating, deteriorating leaded paint, and structural disrepair, can negatively affect tenants’ physical and mental health. People living on low incomes and in other marginalizing circumstances are particularly affected. Ensuring healthy homes for all is an essential step towards health equity and social justice in the community.

Phase 1: Learning Exchanges

The first phase of RentSafe EquIP is a series of Learning exchanges between the research team and people with relevant institutional, professional and/or leadership roles in the community. The Learning Exchanges are an opportunity for staff from various agencies and organizations, housing providers, tenant advocates, and community leaders to sit down with the research team and share their observations and perspectives, including the barriers and opportunities they see for ensuring healthy housing for tenants in Owen Sound. The Learning Exchanges are also an opportunity for participants to hear the perspectives of the co-researchers, who include people with experience of low-income and housing inadequacy.

Phase 2: Intersectoral Retreat

Building on the perspectives and experiences that people have shared during the Learning Exchanges, the second phase of the research is the RentSafe EquIP Intersectoral Retreat to be held in mid-November 2018. The retreat will bring together many of the Learning Exchange participants for 3+ days of discussion, knowledge co-creation, and relationship-building. The retreat is designed to encourage participants to explore new ways of understanding the challenges of unfit rental housing conditions as they relate to other issues in the community, including poverty, stigma, the enduring effects of colonialism, and the lack of affordable housing.

RentSafe EquIP is led by the Centre for Environmental Health Equity (CEHE) at Queen’s University, with funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

For more information, please contact Erica Phipps (PhD Candidate, CEHE) at or Dr. Jeff Masuda (Director, CEHE, Associate Professor, Queen’s University) at

Research Team:

Tanya Butt, Nadine Desjardins, Paige Mackie, Jeff Masuda, Allison Murray (on leave), Erica Phipps, Carlos Sanchez-Pimienta, Misty Schonauer

Research Advisory Committee:

Renee Abram, Lynda Bumstead, Eric Crighton, Bob Hart, Angela Newman, Stephanie Nickels, Dianne Oickle, Jill Umbach

RentSafe EquIP is linked to the Ontario-wide RentSafe Initiative led by the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health Environment.

Click here for more information about CPCHE’s Rentsafe Initiative

Completed Phases of the RentSafe EquIP Project (formerly RentSafe Knowledge-to-Action [KTA]: Mobilizing intersectoral action to address housing related risks affecting low-income tenants):

The aim of the proposed KTA initiative, and the Ontario-wide RentSafe initiative in which it is embedded, is to move scientific knowledge about indoor environmental health risks into action to reduce health inequities among low-income tenants. Utilizing RentSafe research findings that reveal significant KTA gaps and confirm that lack of knowledge is but one impediment to tenants’ ability to secure healthier housing conditions, we will pilot 2 interrelated interventions designed to (1) create the conditions necessary for tenants to act upon knowledge of housing-related health risks and (2) optimize the health/social services system’s responsiveness to such concerns. Drawing upon diverse expertise in RentSafe, we will explore whether and how investment in human interaction via (1) tenant-led peer outreach and (2) increased interpersonal connection among service providers can improve tenant self-advocacy and system responsiveness.

Environmental health risks in housing can have a profound impact on residents’ health. Robust scientific evidence links housing-related exposures with multiple health risks: mould and asthma, radon and lung cancer, lead and IQ decrements in children, inadequate cooling and heat stress, among others. These links underscore the important role of housing quality as a determinant of health, particularly for children and other vulnerable groups. Despite concerteds to promote public knowledge (see Appendix x) and the preventable nature of the risks, housing-related exposures continue to contribute to health inequities and perpetuate disadvantage. Multiple health and social services agencies have roles in mitigating housing-related health risks. Baseline research conducted through our Trillium-funded RentSafe initiative, led by the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health & Environment (CPCHE), points to two key gaps in knowledge-to-action on housing-related health risks. First is a lack of empowerment among tenants, stemming from factors such as fear of eviction, cultural and linguistic barriers and lack of knowledge of their rights. Second is the inadequate flow of information and collaborative links among health/social service providers.

We will conduct two interventions to assess the value of investing in human relationships as an actionable means of fostering tenant self-advocacy and improving system responsiveness:

(1) Design and conduct tenant-led peer outreach on housing-related health risks in Owen Sound (a RentSafe site);

(2) Convene local stakeholders to critically examine the current flow of information/assistance in response to housing-related health concerns and identify ways to optimize coordination and impact, via a curriculum informed by our novel equity-focused KT (EqKT) framework and 2011 CIHR-funded Knowledge Leaders training pilot which target barriers to intersectoral action through human relations and experiential learning.

We will evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions through pre-/post- surveys, focus groups and social network mapping.

Anticipated results
The proposed pilot-scale initiative will:
– Assess the value of investing in human relations between tenants (peer-to-peer) and among service professionals (human connections within institutional networks) as a strategy for improving local/regional systems for addressing housing-related health risks; and
– Inform RentSafe next steps and replicable action across Ontario and elsewhere.