Windsor's low-cost housing attracts refugees to Windsor

Syrian refugees are leaving more expensive communities like Toronto in search of cheaper housing and warmer weather.
Omar Farzat has helped two Syrian families move to Windsor from other parts of the country as new arrivals look for less expensive places to live. (Aadel Haleem/CBC)

Windsor has become an attractive destination for Syrian refugees living in more expensive regions of Canada because of its affordable housing and its multicultural community

Omar Farzat recently arranged for his cousin's family to move from Toronto, largely because of inexpensive housing.

"They can get settled easier," he told CBC News. "They can get a cheaper house, cheaper stuff, so it's better for many aspects."

Other cities are experiencing similar migration. In addition to the 988 Syrian refugees that arrived in Hamilton over the past several months, an estimated 150 more have moved to that city from Toronto.

Secondary migration

Officials in Windsor do not have the number of refugees who have moved to the city from other regions in the country, but it happens regularly, according to the New Canadian Centre of Excellence.

This secondary migration can be a challenge because organizations that support refugees are only funded for the number of people originally sent to those communities, explained Kathleen Thomas, executive director of the Multicultural Council of Windsor-Essex County.

"The settlement dollars allocated to the community to support newcomers is based on the number of immigrants destined to a community and does not currently account for secondary migration," she wrote in an email.

Thomas also confirmed that Windsor receives a high number of secondary migration.

Windsor refuge

Windsor is attractive because it has warmer weather, affordable housing and a large Middle Eastern population, said staff at the centre of excellence.

Farzat has already helped two families transplant to Windsor.

"A lot of families want to come to Windsor because of the weather and because of the cost," he said. "But it's not easy to find houses and arrange everything for families."

Finding housing for the refugees has been a challenge, but the vast majority of new arrivals has been moved into homes, according to the latest figures from the city. Of the 650 Syrians to arrive in Windsor over the past few months, about 580 of them have housing.

The city expects to receive up to 600 more refugees by the end of the year, based on estimations provided by the federal government.