NIMBY opposition to affordable housing development was a major human rights issue raised by consultees, including both tenant advocates and housing providers. People should not have to ask permission from anyone, including prospective neighbours, before moving in just because of stereotypes relating to grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code). Concerns about affordable housing projects should be legitimately anchored in planning issues rather than stereotypical assumptions about the people who will be housed.
The Commission heard that discriminatory NIMBY opposition delays or discourages affordable housing development, increases its costs and diverts public funds to costly appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board, when these funds could instead be used to create more affordable and supportive housing. It may cause housing providers to feel they need to make compromises to get affordable housing built, even when these compromises undermine the dignity or well-being of their residents. For example, the Commission heard that housing providers may be asked to install windows that cannot be opened by tenants, or that are frosted so that tenants cannot look at their neighbours. In some cases, people are exposed to harassment throughout the planning process, and end up feeling unwelcome once they move into their new neighbourhood for reasons relating to grounds listed in the Code.
NIMBY opposition to affordable housing projects can violate the Code when it results in changes to existing planning processes, barriers to access to housing or exposes proposed residents to discriminatory comment or conduct. For example, claims of discrimination could arise if a municipality requires additional public meetings or amendments to the planning process solely because the intended residents of a proposed housing project are people with addictions, youth or older people, lone parents, in receipt of social assistance, or people with disabilities including mental illnesses. When planning policies or practices are directed towards, or disproportionately affect, people because of Code grounds, they may be seen to violate the Code.
The barriers created by NIMBY opposition cannot be overcome by any one stakeholder in isolation. The committed involvement of housing providers, municipalities and other levels of government is necessary to eliminate these kinds of barriers to creating new and affordable housing. The Commission is calling for development of a provincial strategy to address and prevent discriminatory NIMBY opposition to affordable housing development.