Redefining the Canadian housing paradigm - Part II

December 14, 2023

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The intersection of climate change and housing crisis in Canada forms a pressing challenge, as extreme weather events become more frequent. 

Recent wildfires and events like the Saint-John River flood not only jeopardize housing structures but also contribute to displacement and homelessness. 

For this Big Thinking Podcast episode, Gabriel Miller is joined by Julia Woodhall-Melnik, Assistant Professor at the University of New Brunswick, to discuss the importance of resilient housing solutions.


About the guest 

Headshot of Julia Woodhall-Melnik


Julia Woodhall-Melnik is an Associate Professor with the Department of Social Science, in the Faculty of Arts at the University of New Brunswick. She is also the Canada Research Chair in Resilient Communities.

She received her Ph.D. in sociology and her Certification in University Teaching from the University of Waterloo where her research focused on investigating employment in low-waged service sector work as a social determinant of health. 

Her work investigates the effectiveness of publicly funded rehousing and housing loss prevention on health and housing outcomes, employment and income.

Julia is the Principle Investigator of the Housing, Mobilization and Engagement Research Laboratory (HOME-RL) that engages community members, academics, and students in research and experiential education opportunities that are designed to ultimately promote community resilience and wellbeing. 


Julia Woodhall-Melnik in the news 

  • 8,600 affordable housing units gone since 2016, report finds - CBC
  • Tenant advocates push for policy solutions to housing crisis, not just more development - NB Media co-op
  • False housing data helped terminate N.B. rent cap - CBC 

[00:00:05] Gabriel Miller: Welcome to the Big Thinking Podcast, where we talk to leading researchers about their work on some of the most important and interesting questions of our time. I’m Gabriel Miller and I’m the President and CEO of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

[00:00:18] Two of the most important issues we face today are housing and climate change, and today we explore the relationship between the two. What can we learn from the aftermath of recent wildfires and events such as the St. John River flood? In the face of more frequent extreme weather events, we’ll talk about the importance of resilient housing solutions.

[00:00:44] Today I am joined by Julia Woodhall-Melnik, Associate Professor at the University of New Brunswick. We’ll talk about how to define the concept of home and dive into how climate change is forcing us to rethink housing in Canada.

[00:00:59] Gabriel Miller: You're the principal investigator of the Housing Mobilization and Engagement Research Laboratory, or HOME-RL. Have I got that right?  

[00:01:09] Julia Woodhall-Melnik: Got it right!

[00:01:10] Gabriel Miller: Can you tell us what kind of questions you are researching at HOME-RL?

[00:01:16] Julia Woodhall-Melnik: HOME-RL is a bit of a unique housing lab in that I started it a few years ago.  

[00:01:21] And we actually have four pillars of work that we do within the lab. So, the first pillar focuses on housing affordability in general and its intersection with physical health, mental health, disability, and well-being. So that's our first one.

[00:01:38] Our second pillar looks at the intersections between climate change and health, and housing. And how, you know, that's going to shape a lot of what we know about housing realities going forward. Our third pillar looks at housing for youth, and particularly we've been interested in youth who have histories of significant trauma.

[00:01:58] As well as we look a little bit at community engagement for youth. So how to engage youth within their communities to, you know, participate in movements towards uh, some outcomes that they'd like to see. Then our last pillar looks at community engagement. So, all of our work is community engaged and also experiential education.

[00:02:18] So in that we make sure that the folks who are at UNB have an opportunity or the students have an opportunity to come work with us if they want to. We like to do experiential education through our courses to engage them in actually getting hands on in researching and advocacy for the housing crisis.

[00:02:37] So in general, we kind of, our tagline for the lab, if you may, what we kind of say is unique about us is we are housing research and evidence-based advocacy.  

[00:02:49] Gabriel Miller: I think people have been hearing this term resilience a lot more in the last few years, but we're hearing it in a lot of different contexts. So, I'm really interested to know in this context, what does a resilient community look like to you? And what distinguishes it from a community that's not resilient?

[00:03:07] Julia Woodhall-Melnik: Well, I think and, you know, I get asked this question a lot, too. You know, it's a very challenging term in the sense that if you use it in one way it has no place outside of you know, your therapist's office but when you use it in another it can describe a whole set of systems and structures.

[00:03:24] So I think just to start off with what resiliency is not, in my opinion. So, I'm a sociologist by training, I'm not a psychologist. And resiliency when people use it is often used to sort of frame the strengths of the individual. So, the strengths to overcome adversity, right? So, when we experience these adverse trauma-related events or challenges, stressors in our lives you know, a certain resilient person will have the wherewithal to stand up and, you know, support themselves through it and overcome it.

[00:03:57] You know, I don't believe that resilient people exist outside of resilient contexts. And resilient context to me speak to these resilient communities. So, when I use resilient, I'm never using it at the individual level, I'm always using it at the community level to talk about the larger structures and supports that lead to the ability to adapt when we're faced with, high stress, high trauma situations, right?

[00:04:24] So an example would be of some of the fires that we’ve seen across the country. They were atrocious and awful. A community that's resilient would be able to adapt to get resources in place quickly to bring people out of those fire zones if needed. They'd be able to wrap supports around the individuals within the community to promote their health and well-being. They would be able to enact approaches to get people re-sheltered so really, in my opinion, a resilient community has the structures and supports to be equitable.

[00:05:00] To support the individuals who are struggling the most within a community, so it has vibrancy in the fact that the structures are, you know, anti-racist, anti-oppressive, anti-class dependent, so when I talk about the resilient community context, I talk about, you know, when we experience adversity and crisis as you know, either it could be individual communities, it could be larger societies.  

[00:05:26] So, how do we overcome some of these stressors and traumas that are knocking on our doors? You know, we're kind of in this era of crisis in a sense. How do we overcome those things as a community? And do we have the strategies, the supports, the equity-based lenses, the resources in place to do those things as a community?

[00:05:49] And it removes the onus from the individual because, you know, if you are experiencing, let's say, housing challenges. In a community that does not have appropriate supports for shelter, that's not looking at things like subsidized housing for folks to get everyone into housing that needs it, regardless of how hard you try to house yourself.

[00:06:11] If you don't have those things, or those resources available to you, individual resiliency in that sense might not even really matter.

[00:06:19] Gabriel Miller: When do you remember first thinking that looking at the issue of housing and climate and the resiliency of communities would be a fruitful place for you to, to pursue your research?

[00:06:35] Julia Woodhall-Melnik: So, it's a bit of a funny story. Involves that intersection of the personal and professional, which I mean, largely categorizes, I think a lot of academics' works. So, I was actually, it was 2017 and I was home on maternity leave with my middle child, Alex. And in the middle of the night, you get you know, you're up, you're feeding the kid, they're, they won't go to sleep and you're so tired.

[00:07:02] You're sitting there rocking them, you're so tired, but picking up a book is not something that your eyes can physically do. So, I remember I would pull up basically documentaries and watch them because I really, like, my mind was kind of craving something that wasn't just rocking and, you know, singing Hush Little Baby.  

[00:07:21] So, I started watching documentaries on, um, displacement, specifically um, related to climate. And there was some great documentaries out at the time surrounding um, displacement in the Pacific Isles. So, there were examples of basically rising sea levels and erosion, coastal erosion in some nations in the Pacific Ocean, where they’ve actually had to consider moving or evacuating entire societies, entire groups of people from islands that have been very much their homes for generations.

[00:07:56] Like these form ethnic groups cultural groups. And, you know, these are very tight knit, small communities. So, I started to look at this and I said, like, I've always studied, in the past I've studied, and I still do study what we call the experience of home.

[00:08:12] So, home is different than housing. Housing is like a, like brick and mortar, you know, your physical house, right? Home refers to the emotions and the attachments, the identity that you form through your connection with place. So, you know, you could be very much housed, however, if you're experiencing intimate partner violence within a household, you're experiencing a negative form of place, right? And your identity is impacted by that.  

[00:08:42] So I thought to myself, like, okay, these folks are being relocated somewhere.

[00:08:47] They're losing their communities, but how are their identities impacted by this? Are they truly, like, experiencing home when they're being moved? And then I started thinking to myself, well, this kind of does seem like homelessness, in a sense. And I started to think, how does this insecurity, or even potential threat of insecurity in the future, start to impact people's mental health and well-being, because we know that ontological security and home are connected to place.

[00:09:21] And connected to mental health very deeply. So anyway, maternity leave progressed onward. And when my son was about three months old, I got a call from the University of New Brunswick and they said, "Well can you come out and interview?” And I was like, okay, we'll do this. So I, you know, prepped my talk with my little crying baby at home and flew across the country.

[00:09:42] And I, you know, heard I got a job here afterwards and I came out with my partner to look for housing and this was the weekend of the 2018 flood here in New Brunswick, the flood of the Wolastoq also known as the St. John River. So, I came out to do this and then when I got home, so I got to see it a little bit firsthand, and then when I got home and went back to my, my postdoc for a couple weeks before I started my position here, a call came out for a bit of research funding based in Ontario, actually, to study the St. John flood.

[00:10:19] And I thought, you know what? Let's look at mental health and property damage and housing loss. And I want to see, you know, I want to start looking at some of these impacts in the community and what a great way to get to know my local community and some of the challenges that they're currently facing.

[00:10:34] Gabriel Miller: Let's talk a bit more about that, that flood and that experience. And it's sad to say, but it feels like so many climate related disasters in the last few years. I think there's a degree to which for observers in Canada around the world, they start to blur together what happened in St. John?

[00:10:55] And what was that experience like?

[00:10:57] Julia Woodhall-Melnik: So, the experience actually, so the flooding of the St. John River was really it kind of extends throughout the province of New Brunswick. So, we had some severe flooding around Fredericton, there's a lot of little towns along the river as well too you know, some cottages, et cetera. But basically, what happened that year was the river rose by over eight meters in some places.

[00:11:21] So it's actually, this is something that's expected by residents who live along the river or who have camps or cottages along the river.  

[00:11:29] Every single year, there seems to be one week to weekend where the thaw always happens. So this is the spring thaw of the river. The locals call it the freshet, which is actually really beautiful. And, you know, like, quite a nice way of describing it, but they're ready for it each year. They talk about it kind of favorably, like they said, you know, there's some years when it's a chance to get out and see your neighbors because you're all trying to navigate the impacts of the river rising.

[00:11:59] So if you look back through historical records, there are examples of years where catastrophe has happened. So in 2008, there was also a big flood in 2018, there was the flood that I first started studying and then in 2019, we had a big flood again as well, too.

[00:12:15] And then I studied that one as well. So really what happened in 2018 that made things so catastrophic was with that river rise, they had extremely high winds and a lot of rain that weekend. So, really, you know, you were having massive waves crashing into homes basement flooding. And then again in 2019, so there were some people who tried to mitigate the responses out or mitigate their housing after using berms, things like that, blockades to try to keep the water out.

[00:12:49] And there were some folks that just lost their housing altogether. But it was one of the larger floods and a lot of it was exacerbated by these like storm type conditions that happened around the same time.

[00:12:59] Gabriel Miller: And what were you specifically trying to learn from the flood? What questions were you asking through, through the research you did?

[00:13:09] Julia Woodhall-Melnik: So, the first year we started out with focus groups with folks who were, who had experienced any form of housing damage or displacement or complete destruction of their housing because of the flood and we really talked to them about what their experiences were in a group format. So, you know, “what did you do?”

[00:13:28] “How did this impact you?” “How is it still impacting you?” “What is your mental health like now?” “What do you think the future is going to bring?” “Do you think that this is going to happen again?” “Are you feeling anxiety about the next year?” So, we were able to talk about that and then we did about 10 key informant interviews with uh, folks from disaster management and disaster response agencies that were local.

[00:13:56] So people who had really good inside knowledge about, you know, what happened on the ground, what the government's response was, et cetera, and we were able to ask them a little bit about, like, what happens as a system, like, when flooding is announced or suspected, like, you know, tell us basically from the get go, what starts to support people in their communities and what actions do you start to put into play.

[00:14:21] So that was neat. And then in 2019, when it flooded again, we did one on one interviews with about 20 - don't quote me exactly, the manuscript will tell you eventually the paper I read out of it - but about 20 folks right before the COVID lockdowns, actually uh, we finished our interviews and those 20 folks, we were asking them to talk to us a little bit more about what went into their decision to stay in a flood zone.

[00:14:48] Or to leave because we found in the focus groups that the results were so varied, like some people thought, like, this is the worst thing ever. And I need to get out of here, but nobody will buy my house. Other folks said, like, no, it's fine, we'll do a little bit of mitigation and it will be okay. So we talked to them a little bit about that.

[00:15:06] And actually, this attachment to place and attachment to home was something that really. Stood out as being, you know, an impact on whether or not they chose to try to get rid of their homes or sell their homes, or if they took government buyouts for houses and things like that. So that was 1 key thing we looked at, and then we wanted to look again at mental health.

[00:15:30] But we knew from our first study that there were mental health impacts. Like it was kind of like uh, in the first study, we wanted to see if we had anything there. It was a bit of an exploration. Like, do we have anything here when we're talking about flooding and climate change and mental health? The second study was really, okay, what does that experience look like for you?

[00:15:50] And we also asked a bit about their thoughts on climate change and how those have changed with their experiences to disasters.  

[00:15:58] Gabriel Miller: Let's drill into this idea around attachment to place because it feels to me like a concept that relates to so many circumstances. I would think there's so many pressures on people at different times to move, whether it's economic, whether it's because of, you know, conflict whether it's because of disaster.

[00:16:20] And so it feels important to have a deeper understanding of why place means so much to people and how they express that. Two questions I want to ask you about this first. When we talk about people's attachment to place, are we talking about a region, a community, a specific, you know, lot?

[00:16:40] And secondly, for you, what stands out in terms of what that attachment consists of?

[00:16:47] Is it primarily about an attachment to the other people in that community? Is it an attachment to the past? what, what for you stands out as, as being the, the key components of an attachment to place.

[00:17:02] Julia Woodhall-Melnik: So, the answer to both of your questions is kind of yes, all of the above. But I can get a little bit more specific with that, of course. Um, So yeah, it can be a region, it can be a community, it can be a specific piece of land, it can be a specific house, right? And if you think about, you know, fondly or unfondly for some people, some people have trauma in place.

[00:17:26] But you know, you can think about your like your family home that you were raised in.  

[00:17:30] Like I remember listening to ghost stories in some weird old basement room in my parents' house on this audio tape recorder, you know, and I remember the room, what the room looked like. It was creepy. It was scary. It was dark. I remember how it smelled, right? And then I remember the relationships like formed with my siblings and my cousins at the time as well too. So, like that encompasses, and I'm just using this as an example, that encompasses like both the space, the aspect of the physical built environment, but also the relationships that were tied within it.

[00:18:02] And I'm sure we all have some kind of identity that describes who we are and where we're from, right?

[00:18:09] So when we look at it within the sense of housing studies, we can look at it within communities of housing or not housing, right? So, you know, place identity is a piece of this. So, like, how is our identity represented in place?

[00:18:24] So, we can say that, you know, for some folks, there is actually a street identity when they're lacking housing, right? Um, so that becomes a part of who you are and a part of your imaginary. Home and housing doesn't always need to be a positive experience.  

[00:18:39] So, I’m remembering an interview that I had with one of my postdoc research participants who was, in a housing first program for adults, adult men who had experienced chronic homelessness. And I asked him about his experiences of home growing up and he said, well, it could be binging, or it could be bacon. And I asked him, what does that mean? And he's like, “well, depending on how much my parents had been drinking, they could either be really violent, or, you know, some mornings I can remember waking up to the smell of bacon and having like a big family breakfast”, and that was very meaningful for him.

[00:19:15] So like, it's not always a dichotomy either of, you know, this good or bad, there's mixed feelings within place. But really like, what does the attachment consist of? It consists of the people, the spaces, the environments, and we can look at this at multiple different levels again, like regional, national, community level, the household level, the individual level, right?

[00:19:40] So, yeah, there's we can even experience place attachment within nature, right? So, it's not just necessarily limited to physical structures or buildings as well.

[00:19:51] Gabriel Miller: The relationship between attachment to place, and your mental health, your well-being certainly the sense is that's a pretty fundamental relationship. And it, of course, begs the question for a lot of us, what does a circumstance where housing is beyond the reach of people an increasing number of people to afford: what, what are the implications of that for, for their wellbeing and for their mental health?

[00:20:20] Tell us a little bit about how you see the effects of, of a shortage of affordable housing on the mental health of the people who are affected by it.

[00:20:31] Julia Woodhall-Melnik: So we see the effects quite vividly, actually in our work. So there is, kind of thinking back to, like, Gidden's concept of ontological security again. And, you know, this idea that if we do not feel secure, we can't envision the future for ourselves, right? So that's one of the large impacts is, you know, when you are experiencing instability in housing, which includes unaffordability, right, when you're worried about how you're going to pay your rent, pay your mortgage most often rent though, because we know renters make about half as much the median income for renters in Canada is about half as much as that of homeowners. So really, like, what we see is we see this, you know, there's a constant source of stress and an inability to plan beyond the immediate need.

[00:21:21] So, you know, it's about how I'm going to find the rent for this month, rather than, you know, am I planning to go back to school? Am I planning, you know, a move? Am I saving for purchasing a home? Let's say so that has a big effect that we've seen when it comes to being like unhoused or losing housing, there's all that effect of like the instability that exists before.

[00:21:48] But what we often see is trauma associated with place. Um, So I'm thinking about youth in particular and this kind of applies to youth and individuals who have left domestic violence. We often see a lot of trauma associated with the home because they're not always coming from happy environments.

[00:22:07] So what we've seen for folks is when they leave traumatic households and they enter onto, you know, onto the streets, let's say, into homelessness, that trauma is exacerbated, and it's made worse. So, you know, there's grieving associated with the loss of a home, if it was a good home or if positive experiences were had or grieving of those positive experiences in a traumatic home that may have existed.

[00:22:34] So the big question for us that kind of remains is how do you create place attachment for folks who may have never had a positive experience of home.

[00:22:43] And we've seen folks in some of our research studies you know, do things like drink washer fluid and light themselves on fire by accident when lighting a cigarette. Because, you know, like chaos has always been their go to or issues a little less extreme, but issues with guest management.

[00:23:00] So bringing a lot of folks into a house and having a really large party in a new rented apartment, because you're just used to that noise, you're used to that chaos and the quiet feels unfamiliar and uncomfortable. So, our big thing that we've kind of been wondering is how do we rebuild or recreate these attachments to place.

[00:23:20] And, the lab has been playing a little bit with the concept of trauma informed design which takes the principles of trauma informed care which would basically be an approach that social service workers and service providers take to providing supports for clients with histories of trauma, where they try to not re-traumatize them - always a good thing - and uh, they try not to trigger anything that might bring up trauma.

[00:23:48] And when they do, they provide space for that and they take more of a harm reduction approach in their work.  

[00:23:55] So, one, just a few obvious things you know, if you lived in a home where you were likely to get attacked you might not want a sharp corner that you can't see around in a public hallway, you know, like, might not be a good thing. If you've been victimized in a laundry room, you might not want a dark laundry room that you have to sit in and wait for your clothes to dry.

[00:24:15] But generally speaking, like a lot of environments of housing that aren't affordable are very punitive to people with low incomes, right? They have mold, they have pests, they're not in great repair. If they're in the private market, usually like, you know, some landlords are great. Other landlords really aren't and just don't care.

[00:24:34] So space can, and place even for like low income folks can be a place that's just, you know, representative of stigma [...] and it represents that identity that they feel like, you know, the rest of the world doesn't feel like they're worth a place that's healthy and clean and, and suitable. So yeah, it's a, it's a very complex thing.  

[00:24:58] Gabriel Miller: It's interesting hearing you talk about different dimensions of circumstances that can affect people's sense of attachment to place because, you know, what comes through to me is this, the thread that runs from people who grew up in traumatic home environments or right through to people who experienced traumas as a result of climate disaster.

[00:25:25] There's a, there's an awareness of what people are going through and a need to respond that's going to be critical for, for how well they're able to adjust and to carry on with their lives.

[00:25:38] When you think about the future, obviously our concerns about climate disasters continue to grow, but there are also many other sources of trauma in displacement in our communities. What are some of the things governments need to do more of or less of or do differently so that we're learning the lessons of the kind of work that you've been doing?

[00:26:08] Julia Woodhall-Melnik: It varies so much across the country, but the number one thing that I would say is kind of my big approach right now to housing is really and this speaks to more of the affordability, housing affordability side of my work that we haven't touched on as much, but is very much a passion of mine.

[00:26:27] Really, I strongly believe that housing needs to be decommodified. Housing cannot exist as a commodity that we use to make money off of and a basic human right without any form of acknowledgement of the tensions between the two. So, you know, right now, the government of Canada says housing is a human right.

[00:26:48] I have signed on to the UN Charter of Human Rights that says that affordable and adequate housing is a human right for all. However, at the same time recent pushes for affordable housing, and I'm just gonna, I'm gonna pick on the Feds here, but, you know, we're, all, all level of governments are, are really to blame.

[00:27:10] At the same time, they're removing GST from, from builders. Um, who will take those new housing units and, you know, rent them out for as much as they can get from them because it's a commodity they've invested in it. And now they're, they're offering it to people for a profit. And, you know, their profits are something that they protect in our housing system is something that does that currently.

[00:27:35] And it's, you know, based in this ideology that if we build enough units, we'll have more units, there'll be more competition in the market and, magically, we have like trickle down housing affordability, which is not really a thing.

[00:27:46] So, you know, there's that. And then we talk about the large amounts of just global capital that are, are tied up within housing. The largest amount of wealth that we have globally rests within housing.

[00:27:58] So it become a hyper financialized thing where our governments are stepping in, they're kind of taking an approach to housing like, everybody is a mom and pop landlord that has, you know, a couple of units that they're just renting out and they need to break even and there's, you know a certain amount of profit needs to be made by them, or a certain amount needs to be charged for housing in order to break even.

[00:28:25] This is not actually the case in a lot of situations. So, I truly do believe that there needs to be a much bigger role of the government to step in and either build housing themselves and own and run it or empower nonprofit and cooperative groups to step in and do that on their behalf.

[00:28:45] But the desire of the government to try to get the private sector to help fix the problem. In my opinion is a fool's errand. It's never going to happen. We've been trying to use these neoliberal approaches to invest in private market solutions for, you know, since the 90s. And it hasn't worked yet. So why are we still doing it?  

[00:29:07] Gabriel Miller: Let me play uh, I don't know if it's devil's advocate, but let me try and present what I think someone who's sympathetic to your point of view, but has a different perspective might say, because I'm very interested in, in understanding a bit more about what you've been saying.  

[00:29:23] I can imagine someone saying “absolutely, the market is not meeting the needs, especially if people at the lowest end of the income spectrum and perhaps the market can't and the, you know, the withdrawal of governments from new affordable housing investments and also the retreat on things like rent control have creating a situation that needs to be reversed.”  

[00:29:51] “At the same time, there's a broader supply problem, which demands more housing, which will really only the private sector is in a position to provide because of the way our economy and our housing market works.” Is that crazy or is that consistent or compatible with, with the perspective that you're, you're laying out?  

[00:30:19] Julia Woodhall-Melnik: It's compatible. I think you know, I do you think that in certain, like, you know, the single-family home, for example, like, should it from a climate perspective and, you know, from a community perspective, should it continue to be the ideal, that's a whole other conversation, right? But, you know, I would argue probably no, but that's a different conversation.

[00:30:40] But, you know, like, for folks who can afford to participate in housing in the private market. Sure. Right? Like, and, you know, like I've said to developers, like, yeah, great, go and build me a home. I live in a privately owned home. So, you know, no big deal there.

[00:30:57] But really it is, and this is where our lab is focusing on more is really that low to mid-range. Like low to middle income folks, because it's becoming like, we look at, you know, in the past, it was really, we would focus on folks who were experiencing deep poverty. So, often those who were on social assistance or disability supports.

[00:31:18] And, like affording anything off of that in New Brunswick, It's like 639$ a month for social assistance for a single adult. Find me an apartment that you can rent for that. You can't. Right? So where do you live? I don't know. Right. Like this is becoming a huge issue that you can maybe get a room in a house, maybe.

[00:31:40] So the low to mid-range and I say to mid now, because now we see folks who are making minimum wage who can't afford anything out there in the market or even slightly better than minimum wage. And that's where we see these government solutions coming in. And that's where we see the biggest push for decommodification needed.  

[00:31:58] Gabriel Miller: I understand you're working on a new national survey. Can you tell us about it?

[00:32:04] Julia Woodhall-Melnik: Sure, that one's an interesting one. It should be hopefully launching in the new year. The new national survey we're working on is actually funded through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation through their 2022 President's Medal for Outstanding Housing Research which my work on the flooding received and, the work itself for the survey itself actually was supposed to be focus groups originally. We were going to do focus groups with folks who had experienced housing displacement or loss or damage because of climate or climate disasters. And then all of a sudden Canada went on fire this summer and there were fires absolutely everywhere.

[00:32:40] So then I decided to turn it into a survey just to kind of get it some of those realities without being as invasive to folks who were living through when I was starting writing the survey draft who were living actively through climate disasters.

[00:32:56] So basically what we're doing is that we are doing a large survey to look at people's experiences of either displacement, so if they were asked to leave their housing during a fire evacuation, damage or destruction of their homes. So, they have to fit into 1 of those 3 categories and they have to relate this to some kind of severe weather event.

[00:33:17] So, whether it be a fire, a flood, et cetera and basically what we're looking for is we're looking to see how their needs were met or not met, um, how different aspects of vulnerability. So for example gender, age, health status how those impacted their experiences of the disaster.

[00:33:39] And then we're going to be asking them a little bit about policy as well, too. So, what do they think governments should do to respond to the very real threat of losing housing because of climate disasters that seems to be, you know, and is increasing and I believe will continue to increase as we sort of move along in time.

[00:34:00] Gabriel Miller: Well, it sounds like a really exciting and certainly a timely project and one that is only going to get more relevant, I think, as we go forward. Thank you so much for this, Julia. It's been a really interesting and informative conversation.

[00:34:16] Julia Woodhall-Melnik: Thank you.  

[00:34:22] Gabriel Miller: Thank you for listening to the Big Thinking Podcast and to my guest, Julia Woodhall-Melnik, Associate Professor at the University of New Brunswick. I also want to thank our friends and partners at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and at CitedMedia, whose support helps make this podcast possible. Let us know what you thought of this episode and share your feedback with us on social media.

[00:34:46] If you enjoy the Big Thinking Podcast, check out Social Science Bites. It’s a podcast series appearing on Sage's Social Science Space website. The monthly episodes offer 20-minute interviews with leading social and behavioural scientists who share their perspectives on topics ranging from crowd psychology and behavioural economics to inequality and even the fear of death.  

[00:35:11] Follow us for more episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcast and Google Podcast. À la prochaine!


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