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Public Health Action on Housing Needs

Public Health Action on Housing Needs

Housing has long been recognized as a key social determinant of health, explicitly mentioned in the Ministry of Health’s Health Equity Guideline, issued under the Ontario Public Health Standards (2018).  The Healthy Environments and Climate Change Guideline (2018) also identifies “housing conditions” as an area where boards of health are to work with municipalities to address the impacts of the social determinants of health.

Housing needs refer to the ability to obtain affordable, stable, and good quality housing. Issues of affordability and quality of housing faced by many communities in Ontario are increasingly important for public health. Examples of specific areas of housing that have been associated with health include:

  • Security, Stability and Homelessness (e.g., different forms of homelessness have been associated with infectious diseases; mental health issues, including substance use disorders; cognitive impairments; foot issues; chronic diseases and injuries).[i]
  • Housing and Neighbourhood Quality (e.g., good quality housing is conveniently located within walking distance to services, recreation and public transportation, and free of exposures to health hazards that can compromise health, such as poor air quality, lead, asbestos, radon, pests, volatile organic compounds, and extreme cold or heat). [ii][iii][iv]
  • Affordability (e.g., a lack of affordable housing can limit a household’s ability to maintain adequate shelter, live without overcrowding, and afford basic needs such as food). [v],[vi]

The Ontario Public Health Association is working to improve guidance, clarity and consistency across health units to ensure programs and interventions address health needs related to housing. It also continues to work towards promoting policies for healthy, safe and affordable housing within healthy and complete communities. This page contains links illustrating this work.


Briefing Notes

Related projects

  • RentSafe – Led by the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health & Environment (CPCHE), OPHA is a partner in this multi-sectoral initiative to address housing-related health risks for low income tenants and their families in Ontario



[i] Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario), Berenbaum E. Evidence Brief: homelessness and health outcomes: what are the associations? Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario; 2019.[ii] Housing, in BC Centre for Disease Control. Healthy Built Environment Linkages Toolkit: making
the links between design, planning and health, Version 2.0. Vancouver, B.C. Provincial Health Services
Authority, 2018 (pp. 49-56).[iii] Stephen Hwang, Esme Fuller-Thomson, David Hulchanski, Toba Bryant, Youssef Habib, & Wendy Regoeczi. (1999). Housing and Population Health: A Review of the Literature. prepared for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation by the Centre for Applied Social Research Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. Retrieved from[iv] Chapman, S. (2013, February 28). Improving housing to improve health – warmth and space are key [The Cochrane Collaboration]. Retrieved from[v] Canadian Paediatric Society. (2015, October 5). Housing need in Canada: Healthy lives start at home. Position statements and practice points. Canadian Paediatric Society. Retrieved July 27, 2016, from[vi] Kirkpatrick, S., & Tarasuk, V. (2011). Housing Circumstances are Associated with Household Food Access among Low-Income Urban Families. Journal of Urban Health, 88(2), 284–296.