The Pivot: Action Research For Housing Justice

Taking a Rights-Based Participatory Approach to Community-Based Action Research on Adequate Housing

Why we need to Pivot now

The right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right, yet in Edmonton, many live in housing that does not meet their needs and some have no housing at all:

  • At least 2681 people are experiencing homelessness – 58% of which identify as Indigenous
    (as of Sept. 17 2021)
  • Only 15% of rental stock is affordable to households earning less than 36K/year.
  • A minimum wage worker needs to work 228 hours/month – or 57 hours/week – to afford an average 1-bedroom apartment.
  • Individuals on social assistance cannot make rent payments without cutting spending on household essentials like food, transportation and clothing.

These indicators show that while an essential human right, through commodification and financialization, housing has also been a key factor of increasing inequity. “Housing systems have intensified social, economic, political and spatial inequalities (UN 2019, p3).”

To address this paradox and effectively realize the right to housing, we have to pivot by “changing the way housing is currently conceived, valued, produced and regulated (UN 2019, p3).”

What is the Pivot?

Inspired by our Access to Housing Choice Series and informed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing and the Shift, the Pivot takes a different approach to researching adequate housing.

The Pivot is grounded in community-based action research and takes a rights-based participatory approach. This framework centres the expertise of First Voice Advocates and individuals with Lived Experience.

Note: First Voice Advocates & persons with Lived Experience are community members with first-hand experience of housing inadequacy, housing insecurity, housing discrimination, houselessness, displacement and systemic housing exclusion.

The Pivot is a 7-step process we are piloting, designed to support the shift from “…the way housing is currently conceived, valued, produced and regulated (UN 2019, p3)” to a rights-based participatory approach.

One of our aims is to amplify and build on the rights-based capacity that has already exists in Edmonton. We see this process as another option for creating connections to move some of that work forward and take up some of the calls to action (i.e. Radical Inclusion).

First 3 Steps of the Pivot:

Part 1: Orientation

Thurs. Oct. 21
9am-12pm MST

  • This session will establish the core principles, key concepts and expectations for the rest of the process.
  • As a group we will co-create guidelines for our discussions centering on the concept of brave spaces.
  • Participants will reflect on how their own social positions and power influence and impact equity in accessing housing.

  • Part 2: Virtual Gathering

    Tues. Nov. 2
    9am-12pm MST

    *If you were unable to participate in the Oct. 21 event, please review the participant guide.*

  • This session will provide some background information on the current state of housing inequity rooted in the stories and experiences of First Voice advocates.
  • We will employ a triangle tool to understand how housing is part of a broader system of injustice and identify places for intervention.
  • We will explain and start the 5 week hike process.

  • Part 3:
    5-Week Hikes

    15 mins/week: for 5 weeks starting Nov. 15

    Participants will participate in 5 weekly activities where groups will reflect and refine:

  • (a) an understanding of some of the challenges and circumstances in realizing the right to housing in Edmonton
  • (b) action items/research questions to address those barriers
  • Participants will have the option of a 1-2 hour weekly discussion
  • These sessions will be consecutive and iterative.

  • The AHSL shared an interim report of the Pivot process and an invite to an additional event, the Final Pivot Gathering, on Friday March 25 from 9:00am – 12:00pm (more details here). Which included:

    • A short recap of the interim report including the 6 identified themes:
      • Expand Supply & Increase Accessibility of Non-Market Housing
      • Regulate the Private Rental Market
      • Empower Tenants
      • Engage and Educate Landlords
      • Continue to Organize, Advocate and Build Power
      • Monitor Progress (of the full and progressive realization of the human right to adequate housing)
    • Small group breakouts based on 2/6 of the themes identified
      1. Expand Supply and Increase Accessibility of Non-Market Housing (pg. 14)
      2. Pivoting Housing Data (Monitoring the progressive realization of the human right to adequate housing) (pg. 17 & pgs. 19-24)
    • Next steps: 2 working groups based on the 2 themes discussed during the breakout sessions (for more information please contact

    Update: The AHSL has created 2 working groups:

    1. Expand Supply and Increase Accessibility of Non-Market Housing
    Details linked here

    2. Pivoting Housing Data: Measuring Adequate Housing
    Adequate Housing Data Chart linked here

    Group #1 meets every 8 weeks over zoom, and Group #2 meets once a month over zoom. If you are interested in learning more about one or both of these working groups, please send an email to