In 2007, the OHRC conducted a consultation on discrimination in rental housing. We heard about the concerns that many people with mental health and addiction issues face in renting and keeping housing. We reported on these concerns in Right at home: Report on the consultation on human rights and rental housing in Ontario, and developed our Policy on human rights and rental housing.
For people with mental health and addiction disabilities, access to affordable housing is a major human rights concern. People may face challenges in the rental housing market due to negative attitudes and stereotypes. In a Canadian survey of people with mental illness, half the respondents said the area of their life most affected by discrimination was housing. They said that their experience as a psychiatric patient meant they were less likely to get an apartment lease. People with mental health disabilities are overrepresented in Ontario’s homeless population and many people are at serious risk of becoming homeless.
People with mental health disabilities and addictions often lack access to adequate, affordable supportive housing. Housing problems may intersect with experiences with poverty and with other Code grounds, such as receipt of social assistance, sex, race, age and family status.
There may be a need for private and social housing providers for more information on how the Code applies when selecting tenants, during tenancy and during evictions. They may need to know how they can accommodate a person’s mental health disability in housing, particularly while balancing this with the needs and rights of other tenants. Housing providers may also need guidance on how to meet their duty to accommodate while respecting a person’s privacy rights.
Stereotypes around mental illness have also influenced the phenomenon of “Not in My Back Yard” or NIMBY opposition to affordable and supportive housing. Opposition to affordable housing for people protected by the Code has led to municipal by-laws and practices that may bar people with mental disabilities from living in certain neighbourhoods.
What barriers exist for people with mental health issues and addictions when accessing adequate, affordable and suitable housing?
The Policy on Human Rights and Rental Housing includes information on the right to be free from discrimination and the duty to accommodate. What other information do private and social housing providers need to protect the rights of people with mental health disabilities and addictions in tenant selection, during tenancy, and during evictions?
What are best practices in the duty to accommodate people with mental health disabilities and addictions in rental housing?
Discrimination Against People with Mental Illness and their Families: Changing Attitudes, Opening Minds, (A Report of the BC Minister of Health’s Advisory Council on Mental Health, April 2002), as cited in The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Interim Report, Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction: Overview of Policies and Programs in Canada, Report 1 (Ottawa: The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, 2004) at 49.