Settlement and Housing Experiences of Recent Immigrants in Small- and Mid-sized Cities in the Interior of British Columbia
Research team: Carlos Teixeira, University of British Columbia; Julie Drolet, University of Calgary
In Canada, we know relatively little about immigrants’ settlement experiences, including their access to local services and their housing experiences/outcomes – both of which are key factors in successful integration in small and mid-sized cities or in rural regions. This study considered immigrants’ settlement experiences, including their access to local services and their housing experiences and outcomes in the cities of Kelowna and Kamloops. This study also assessed the state of community services and the role of the latter in attracting and retaining immigrants to these areas. The results of the study include recommendations for improving immigrants’ settlement and integration in the interior of British Columbia.
Data for this mixed methods study was gathered between April and August 2015 with the collection of questionnaires administered to 80 recent immigrant renters in the cities of Kelowna (40) and Kamloops (40), and semi-structured interviews with 19 key informants.
Findings suggest that immigrants who participated in this study worked to improve their housing conditions, usually from temporary housing on arrival to permanent residence in the private rental market. However, affordability (“high rents”) is a major issue for this group of immigrants and many will not be able to move out of their present place quickly and thus improve their housing conditions. Few immigrants in both cities relied on local community organizations (NGOs) or government-sponsored ones to find a place to live and/or a job upon arrival in Kelowna or Kamloops, but those who relied on their assistance and services on arrival found them very helpful. Immigrants strongly recommended that more information be available (before their arrival or just after their arrival in Canada) concentrating on settlement and housing services that are appropriate to new immigrants’ housing needs and preferences. Making such specialized (culturally oriented) information available before new immigrants’ departure and/or arrival in Canada could play a determining role in improving settlement experiences, including better access to local services, as well as help finding a place to live and/or a job. It is evident that both Kelowna and Kamloops can benefit from immigration. However, for policies to succeed in attracting and retaining immigrants to these cities in British Columbia’s interior depends on the presence of (a) more subsidized/affordable housing; (b) job opportunities that match
immigrants’ qualifications and that offer an adequate income; and (c) quality services and programs to integrate new immigrants into the community.