Most landlords and housing providers try to comply with the Ontario Human Rights Code and work hard to meet the needs of their tenants. However, for some tenants, discrimination in housing is not an unusual occurrence. The lack of affordable and adequate housing, when combined with overt and subtle discrimination in housing, means that many people protected by the Code are excluded from the housing market, forced to pay higher rents than they can actually afford, or relegated to poor quality housing options.
In its consultation, the Commission heard about discrimination based on the wide range of Code grounds and the combined effect of Code grounds. For example, the Commission heard that Aboriginal women who are victims of violence may be excluded from housing because of discrimination, stereotypes and the lack of affordable housing. Many consultees spoke about the power imbalance between women with low incomes and landlords, and identified sexual exploitation as a major issue.
Key concerns relating to family status included the prevalence of “adult only” buildings and related advertisements and occupancy policies that restrict families from the units of their choosing. Transgendered tenants spoke of stereotypes, harassment or demeaning comments when applying for and occupying rental housing. Young tenants and young families may be denied housing because they are viewed as being irresponsible, and they face a number of barriers arising from discrimination, inexperience and the lack of resources. Immigrants and newcomers raised concerns about being asked to provide guarantors or pay rent deposits of up to 12 months rent.
Accommodation needs may arise in relation to any Code ground. However, many consultees spoke about challenges in accommodating the needs of families, older tenants and tenants with disabilities, including mental illness. Consultees spoke of the need for accommodation during applicant screening, occupancy and decision-making processes. For example, a major concern to many was the need to ensure the duty to accommodate was applied when the Landlord and Tenant Board considers eviction proceedings under the Residential Tenancies Act, or when service managers make decisions about whether to extend reporting deadlines under the Social Housing Reform Act.