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Systemic and societal human rights issues in housing

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5.1. Inclusive design in the housing sector

People protected under all grounds in the Code should be able to access housing and face the same duties and requirements as everyone else with dignity and without impediment. Housing providers, and other responsible parties including government, are required to make sure that the housing they supply and programs they administer are designed inclusively. They are also required to remove existing barriers to housing, subject to the standard of undue hardship. In this consultation, the Commission heard about problems associated with the lack of inclusive design in both physical features and in applicable policies and programs.

Built design and physical features

As was noted in the background paper, principles of universal design must be incorporated into the development and construction of housing, and new barriers should never be created when building or renovating facilities.[91] Inclusive design elements relating to physical features of buildings may benefit people protected under a few different Code grounds, along with other tenants. For example, a fully sound-proofed apartment would meet the needs of a tenant who uses a walker or a tenant with multiple children while also yielding benefits for the neighbouring units.

While the principles of inclusive design apply to all Code grounds, most consultees told the Commission about situations in which the principles of inclusive design relating to disability are not being met. For example, the CMHA, Ontario commented that inclusive design to meet the needs of people with mental illnesses (who often prefer to live alone rather than with a roommate) would require the creation of more affordable bachelor and one-bedroom apartments. The Canadian Hearing Society noted that most rental housing units do not supply fire safety equipment to ensure that all tenants, including people with hearing impairments, are alerted in a timely way in the event of a fire. Hamilton Mountain Legal and Community Services noted that they receive many calls from tenants regarding buildings without entrance ramps or the existence of other barriers to mobility. Concerns about the lack of visual alerting systems and buzzer systems to allow tenants with disabilities to identify visitors and open the doors for them were commonly raised. The Commission was also told that people with chemical sensitivities face a lack of rental housing that meets their needs because of features like carpeting.

Housing providers raised concerns about being required to redesign and retrofit older buildings to meet accommodation requirements. FRPO suggested that accommodation and inclusive design requirements should only be applied to new buildings. The Commission agrees that an emphasis on inclusive design in all new buildings would benefit housing providers, tenants and society at large. However, housing providers would still be obligated to remove existing barriers, subject to the undue hardship standard.

Concerns were raised about the failure of the existing Building Code to set standards for inclusive design. MMAH submitted that several accessibility requirements are included in the “Barrier-Free Design” section of the Building Code and that the Building Code was most recently amended in 2006. However, many of the Commission’s concerns, noted in its 2002 submission on the Building Code, have not yet been addressed.[92] Tenant advocates noted that the Building Code still does not ensure access for many people with disabilities, including people with large mobility devices and persons with environmental sensitivities (Hamilton Mountain Community and Legal Services). Reliance on relevant building codes has been clearly rejected as a defence to a claim of discrimination under the Code.[93]

Similarly, consultees including ARCH raised concerns about flaws in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) standards that have been developed to date.[94] They also expressed concern that future standards, such as such as the Accessible Built Environment Standard may also fall short. MMAH indicated that it is the lead Ministry for the Committee developing this standard. The Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) is responsible for administering the AODA.[95]

Programs, policies and practices

The principles of inclusive design are not just applicable to buildings, physical structures or other elements of built design. They are equally applicable to programs, policies and practices that could pose barriers to access for people protected under the Code.[96] The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing has said that the design of policies and programs “should be based on a human rights framework and should fully recognize the right to adequate housing.” [97]

The Commission heard that there is a need for Ontario’s housing programs to be designed to include Code-protected groups with specific needs. For example, ACE stated that there is a need for increased access to sufficient, adequate and affordable housing options for older people with mental illnesses who have ongoing complex physical or chronic health care needs. The OFIFC said that although Aboriginal youth are overrepresented in the child welfare and youth justice systems and are at risk of homelessness upon discharge, there are no specific affordable housing programs for urban Aboriginal youth.

The OASW said that the housing system is not “tenure neutral.” Rather, higher-income people who are best able to help themselves in the market system and buy a house are disproportionately assisted by government programs and subsidies. It further indicated that lower-income people, whose housing rights have not been achieved, receive very little assistance, if any, and are forced to live in some of the worst quality housing.

Consultees including CERA/SRAC provided examples of government programs, policies and practices that may infringe the requirement to design inclusively:

  • chronological based allocation of social housing (affecting youth, newcomers and people in immediate need)
  • the failure to provide shelter allowances or emergency assistance to people at high risk of homelessness
  • the failure to provide shelter allowances or emergency assistance or alternative accommodation to people at risk of eviction because of unforeseen circumstances
  • lack of clear policies regarding interpretation (ASL, LSQ and languages other than English and French) and other services to ensure equal access to housing
  • attitudinal barriers that underlie program design features (for example, imposing strict reporting requirements because of underlying views that social assistance recipients are fraudulent, or excluding people with disabilities from certain forms of housing because of ableist views that they would be unfit for such housing).

Other consultees indicated that there are circumstances in which housing providers may be seen to have failed in their own duties to design inclusively. Examples are when there are rules prohibiting pets in rental unit apartments that may act as barriers to homeless youth, people with mental illnesses, vision loss and other disabilities.

5.2. Adequate and affordable housing

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Mr. Miloon Kothari described what he saw during his fact-finding mission to Canada as “very stark and very disturbing.”[98] In his Preliminary Observations on his Mission to Canada in October 2007, Mr. Kothari spoke of the deep and devastating impact of this national crisis on the lives of women, youth, children and men and that, disappointingly, this crisis exists despite multi-billion dollar federal surpluses every year since 1998.[99]

In his March 12, 2008 Statement on adequate housing, Mr. Kothari proposed the following measures to ensure the protection of the right to adequate housing:[100]

  • combination of a humanitarian and a human rights approach to confront inadequate housing conditions and homelessness
  • recognition of the right to adequate housing through legislation and policy and through budgetary commitment
  • concrete measures to implement this right.

Bill 47, An Act to establish the right to adequate housing as a universal human right, passed first reading on March 27, 2008. This Private Member’s bill recognizes that every person has a right to adequate housing, in accordance with the rights recognized in Article 11(1) of the ICESCR.[101] Passage of legislation such as this would be a tremendous step towards realizing the rights recognized in the ICESCR in Ontario.

Some organizations such as ONPHA and the Co-op Housing Federation of Canada noted that there are already policy tools to promote housing development for protected groups, such as the Provincial Policy Statement.[102] While the Provincial Policy Statement requires planning authorities to set minimum targets for housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income households, and to permit and facilitate special needs housing, it was noted that that municipalities set their own housing strategies and often do not carry out the policies because they are not seen as budget priorities. Other submissions and discussions at roundtables indicated that many difficulties in developing a comprehensive and cohesive housing strategy can be attributed to the overlapping jurisdictions of federal, provincial and municipal governments.

While Canada has a unique federal system in which housing is shared across jurisdictions,[103] Mr. Kothari clearly expressed the expectation that levels of government would work together: “Nevertheless, whether federal or provincial, municipality or other authorities, the state should devise strategies to ensure the implementation of the right to adequate housing.”[104]

On April 29, 2005, the provincial and federal governments signed a four-year Affordable Housing Program (AHP) Agreement that is set to expire in 2009. Federal, provincial and municipal governments are investing $734 million over the life of the program to increase the supply of affordable housing by 20,000 units and provide housing allowances for lower-income families in Ontario (MMAH). MMAH indicated that priority under the AHP is given, but not limited to, Aboriginal people, recent immigrants, persons with disabilities, low-income seniors, persons with mental illness, victims of domestic violence and the working poor.

Consultees acknowledged that new affordable homes have been built under the AHP, and others are in various stages of construction and development,[105] however, some were concerned about the definition of affordability used. MMAH indicated that rental units under the AHP must charge rents at or below the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Average Market Rent (AMR), and that rental projects must have an average rent that is 20% below the AMR. Views were expressed that these units would still be unaffordable to many people and groups identified by Code grounds.

Consultees were also concerned that even with the Affordable Housing Program, the enormous need for affordable housing is still not being met.

This program will not address the huge need for subsidized housing in Ontario. The rents will not be affordable to households on the social housing waiting lists (125,000 in 2004) as they will be set at rates just below average rents in the private sector (Kensington-Bellwoods Community Legal Services).

There were areas in which the current Ontario government’s progress on housing for low-income households was applauded. For example, some consultees commented positively on progress made under programs such as the Strong Communities Rent Supplement Program (SCRSP)[106] and the Provincial Rent Bank Program which provides assistance to cover up to two months’ rent arrears.[107] Households assisted under the SCRSP are provided with a rent supplement that reduces the amount of rent paid to 30% of their household income (MMAH). MMAH also indicated that currently, more than 6,600 households are receiving rent supplements, of which 1,321 are living in supportive housing units.

On the other hand, concerns were raised about the availability of these programs compared to the number of people in need. In addition, the Commission heard that the eligibility criteria for some of these programs make them inaccessible to people on disability pensions or social assistance. MMAH noted that some service managers allow or disallow social assistance recipients and social housing tenants from accessing rent bank assistance because they already benefit from other programs. The Commission was told that similar eligibility criteria exist for other programs that could otherwise alleviate disadvantage for Code-protected groups and individuals.

A case in point is the Rental Opportunity for Ontario Families, or ROOF. Consultees noted that the Ministry of Housing has come up with a catchy acronym, but the eligibility criteria screen out many low-income tenants. The Commission heard that the $100-a-month benefit is not available to social assistance recipients or pensioners and that only families with a dependent child under 18 will qualify. Single individuals, childless couples and parents of grown children also need not apply (PACE).

Social housing

There are over 250,000 units of social housing in Ontario, including public, non-profit and co-operative housing, modified and supportive units. Most of these are funded and administered by municipalities (MMAH). MMAH indicated that it is the responsibility of the province to meet the needs of low-income and vulnerable households, for example by giving priority access for victims of domestic violence, safeguarding the number of modified units for people with physical disabilities, and applying special social housing application rules for homeless persons. The Service Managers Housing Network (SMHN) said that there is a diverse range of social housing and it should not be assumed that social housing is administered the same way province-wide as there are local capacities and priorities. For example, not all social housing is regulated under the SHRA.[108]

Consultees indicated that people in social housing are more likely than tenants in the private rental market to be people with disabilities, seniors, sole support parents, new immigrants and racialized people. Tenants in social housing have the “double burden” of low income along with special needs and the associated barriers in society (North Peel and Dufferin Community Legal Services).[109]

Social housing providers spoke about the important role they play in providing access to affordable housing to groups protected by the Code and people with low incomes. Social housing fills the gap for low-income people by providing supportive housing, government-funded subsidies and rent-geared-to-income (RGI) housing that would not necessarily be available to tenants in the private sector. However, housing providers indicated that the scarcity of social housing poses a challenge for them in managing eligibility requirements prescribed by the SHRA and the administration of the waiting lists (see below).

CERA/SRAC said that social housing must be seen as one among a number of positive measures required of governments to address the unique needs of disadvantaged groups in housing:

From this perspective, additional considerations apply to social housing, such as whether resources allocated by governments for subsidized housing are reasonable and adequate to remedy growing homelessness among Code-protected groups, and whether program design is consistent with the obligation to take reasonable measures to prevent the denial of adequate housing to disadvantaged groups.

Many consultees discussed supportive housing. This housing bridges the gap between housing, support services and health care, by providing various programs, including assisted living, long-term care, and/or other services to tenants. The province directly funds and administers dedicated supportive housing (MMAH). Support services are essential to the full integration into and participation in society, or a housing complex, of people who have been marginalized because of Code grounds, and in particular people with mental illness. When available, such services assist tenants in dealing with landlords and other tenants and maintaining housing. The impact of appropriate supportive housing on a person’s quality of life can be tremendous:

I spent over 30 years in chronic care simply because there wasn’t the proper type of housing for myself as a person with a disability. When the opportunity finally came, I had become so dependent psychologically on that type of model of care; I wasn’t prepared to move out. I am now receiving 24-hour attendant care in the support service living unit, and it has changed my life. I feel better in terms of my physical health, my mental health. I am working part-time. I am now able to volunteer in terms of peer support, [at a] rehabilitation hospital. I participate on various boards of directors, things that I had no desire or opportunity to do before (Supportive Housing Tenant).

However, the Commission heard that criteria to access support may be so stringent that people have to be homeless before they are even eligible for service. For people with mental illnesses, the lack of supportive housing may result in continued detention in institutions, even when there is no longer medical justification for such detention.[110] The Commission heard that the people with the most severe disabilities, for whom supportive housing is an absolute necessity, are often turned away because their needs are viewed as being too great. This may lead to institutionalization or homelessness.

The shortage of social housing placements and the operation of waiting lists means that some people may be unnecessarily placed in supportive housing while other people who need specific kinds of supportive housing can’t get it. For example, the Commission was told about women being placed into supportive housing when they need housing to escape domestic violence, and people with mental and physical disabilities being placed in housing for seniors where they did not receive the care they needed. In some cases, the Commission heard that landlords, superintendents and other housing providers are put in the position of acting as support workers to tenants with mental health issues because of a lack of appropriate support services. The Commission also heard that lack of support services may be a factor leading to eviction, when a tenant is unable to live independently in his or her unit because such services are unavailable.

A few social housing providers stressed the importance of maintaining and funding housing specialized to meet the needs of particular groups protected by the Code. For example, Mainstay Housing indicated that they have staff and tools to help tenants with mental illnesses on their journey to recovery that other landlords and social housing providers do not. These views were echoed by other housing providers, including the Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors:

Seniors’ social housing providers are committed to development and management of housing communities that meet the unique needs of seniors, including social isolation and age-related mobility issues, either in independent housing or in housing with related supports needed to enable seniors to maintain their independence.

Other housing providers noted the importance of ensuring that people with an intersection of grounds receive appropriate services. One participant stated that after devolution from the province to municipalities, many ethnic homes for seniors lost their mandate. This meant that seniors of ethnic backgrounds had to resort to the central housing waiting list to get a unit in any facility, even if those facilities were not equipped to provide what they needed in terms of a suitable cultural living environment.

The Commission heard about problems arising from the consolidation of community support services by several health care providers funded by the province through the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). In specific, the Commission was told that services for persons with physical disabilities, including feeding, bathing and toileting and the administration of medication, are being withdrawn from people who live in public housing. As a result, people who have lived independently for decades have been told to move or to simply do without the essential services that they need to live independently.

Consultees also described practical problems experienced by tenants in supportive housing arising from rules about visitors or the use of motorized mobility aids in the building. When tenants with disabilities receive housing and attendant care through the same service, complaints in one area could jeopardize the other, so tenants are unlikely to complain about, and are increasingly vulnerable to, abuse (Hamilton Mountain Community and Legal Services).

Concerns were also raised about rent-geared-to-income (RGI) assistance, which is provided to a social housing provider and administered by a service manager under the SHRA. This kind of assistance makes it possible for an eligible family or individual to pay a lower rent that is proportionate to their income. This is an important element in current strategies for making housing more affordable for low-income persons and families. However, the Commission was told that RGI housing requirements disproportionately affect people with mental illnesses.

Many people with mental illness do not have bank accounts, have not filed tax returns, or have had their ID lost or stolen and the application process cannot be completed until all the paperwork is in place. Once a person’s name is on the list, the wait time for a one-bedroom apartment can be 18 months or more, and the [housing provider] often sets mid-month entry dates when clients have no money for the extra rent or utility deposits. (PACE).

Another concern that arose with respect to RGI housing programs is that when low-income tenants earn extra income, this is met with a corresponding decrease in the housing subsidy from the social housing provider. In a 2007 report studying systemic poverty released by the Metcalf Foundation, the author indicates that for each dollar earned by an immigrant in Toronto receiving multiple social services, public housing rents go up 30 cents on the same dollar.[111] The author commented that “removing subsidies from poor Ontarians in an uncoordinated way makes it impossible for recipients to achieve a greater self-reliance,” or to escape the poverty trap.[112]

The length of waiting lists for subsidized housing was noted as a concern in the CESCR’s recent observations[113] and was raised by both tenant advocates and housing providers in this consultation. Municipalities are accountable to the province and their municipal councils for maintaining the waiting list for social housing (MMAH). The Commission heard that excessive wait times associated with access to affordable housing in both social housing and co-ops means that subsidized housing is not a viable option for a large majority of low-income tenants in Ontario, many of whom are protected under the Code. Numerous examples were provided of wait times in the range of 5 – 10 years and drastic changes in the tenant’s circumstances in the intervening years.

During the long wait for an affordable home, few people receive the housing they need when they need it: youth become adults, families grow up, people with serious illnesses or disabilities suffer, newcomers scramble to house themselves and their families, and the elderly and the homeless die (CHFC).

The end result is that many people end up paying more than 50% of their income on rent while waiting. For example, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto described a client with two children who has been on a social housing list for nine years and in the meantime is paying more than 70% of her income on rent. Other people do not even bother applying because of these wait times.[114]

The high need for subsidized and affordable housing means that certain individuals will be screened out or wait listed because of the scarcity of the resource (ONPHA). For example, the Commission heard that Aboriginal people seeking housing are often referred to Aboriginal agencies rather than being given priority on social housing waiting lists. However, the disproportionately high core housing need among the urban Aboriginal population means that the demand for Aboriginal-specific social housing significantly exceeds the supply/availability of affordable housing units designated for this population (OFIFC).

Waiting lists are based on date of application, and victims of domestic violence have priority across the province (MMAH). However, the Commission heard that the lengthy waiting lists make such priority status meaningless, as women experiencing violence still may not be in a position to leave when they need to. Women in this situation are forced to make decisions between two bad alternatives with serious consequences for themselves and their children:

These women engage in a complex decision-making process:

Should I try to survive with little economic supports and expose my children to hunger, malnourishment, homelessness, violence, and potentially apprehension by welfare authorities, or should I return to the abusive relationship where my children will have food and a roof over their heads, but where I expose all of us to violence and possibly death? (CERA/SRAC/NWWG).

Other submissions, including that of MMAH, pointed out that service managers have discretion to identify local priorities to meet the needs of “disadvantaged groups.” For example, SMHN noted that local priorities could include youth who are 16-17 years old, people who are terminally ill and newcomers to Canada. However, due to scarcity of housing, the Commission heard that there are difficulties in setting these priorities and they may be perceived to create inequities.

Balancing the needs of current residents with people on the waiting list is also
an issue. The Commission was told that although the goal is to maximize the number of people who can access affordable housing, this can affect people with changing family sizes.

Empty nesters can often move into a smaller unit within their co-op and most co-ops make these transfers a priority. But if the co-op has no smaller units, there is a conflict between the interest of the older adult – who could be forced to leave their home, their friends and perhaps medical supports – and those of the family on the waiting list who needs a larger unit. Clearly these are choices that should not have to be made. The solution is more affordable housing in a wide range of unit sizes (CHFC).

A major theme for social housing providers, including the City of Ottawa, was the extent to which the current level of government funding poses a barrier to their ability to offer spots to people on their waiting lists, and to maintain and repair their units and buildings for existing tenants. OFCMAP noted that the lack of funding results in discriminatory practices, inadequate services, homelessness for clients, and a far greater burden on the health care system and on social services. Even where effective programs exist, the transitory or short-term nature of funding was raised as a concern with implications for housing providers, professionals providing services and people in need of housing.

People in need of housing are angered by long waiting lists and lack of help, while mental health outreach workers are frustrated by the lack of financial and human resources to assist those in need. This frustration is exacerbated by government funding of very short-term housing projects. Workers speak of receiving many more referrals than they can realistically handle, and housing outreach projects build up waiting lists and people’s hopes, which are then dashed by discontinuation of funding (PACE).

Many consultees spoke in favour of modifying the chronological approach to waiting lists. Both tenant advocates and housing providers advocated for providing portable shelter allowances or subsidies as an alternative. This is discussed in more detail in section 5.3 “Poverty and inadequate income levels.” However, some consultees including the CHFC argued to maintain the first-come, first-served system, with special priority status for victims of domestic violence. The St. Joseph’s Care Group described the dilemma housing providers would face if social housing were allocated based on perceived need rather than chronologically:

In our seniors housing project, how would it be determined who had a higher need – a dialysis patient versus someone in a wheelchair, a person with heart problems versus one with dementia? How would it be decided whose need is more urgent? Who would create a chart with a point system to determine who has a higher “score” and thus would get housing more quickly?...A judgment call would have to be made by the provider, leaving them open to accusations of misinterpretation, bias or discrimination based on illness.

Co-operative housing

The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada (CHFC) said that “the co-op housing model has proven to be an effective and durable means of providing Canadians with affordable housing.” All housing co-operatives in Ontario are governed by the Co-operative Corporations Act[115] and many are part of the network of non-profit social housing. For example, about half of the CHFC’s Ontario non-profit members are funded under federal operating agreements, while the others are regulated by the SHRA and administered by municipal service managers. Co-operatives often combine mixed income housing, in which a portion of units are subsidized. Issues relating to RGI housing programs also arise in co-ops.

The Commission heard that the future of rent subsidy programs provided to co-operatives is uncertain, that many lack the capital reserves needed to maintain their buildings, and that some may no longer be able to offer housing to low-income tenants.

The private rental market

With an insufficient supply of social housing available, most renters find housing in the private rental market. Tenant advocates expressed concern that discrimination in rental housing in the private market worsens when there is not enough adequate and affordable rental housing. Landlords can afford to be more selective when demand and need far outstrips supply, without fearing high vacancy rates (OASW). Human rights impacts of commonly used screening tools are described in section 4.2 “Tenant screening practices.”

There are no controls on rent increases when a new tenant moves in – the landlord and tenant can agree on any amount (MMAH).[116] Tenant advocates, including ACTO, were concerned about this and expressed the view that vacancy decontrol has led to a rapid decrease in the number of affordable housing units in Ontario. Parkdale Community Legal Services submitted that:

... people moving into the rental market – disproportionately immigrant newcomers, families seeking larger accommodation, youth or students – must pay a significantly higher rent than the previous tenant. This creates a financial hardship for those tenants who generally are least able to afford high rents.

Tenant advocates also noted that, as a consequence, landlords may have a financial incentive to evict tenants from affordable apartments or to be less willing to work out payment plans for arrears when they know they can charge a new tenant higher rent. Impacts on older tenants and newcomers are described in section 4.1. “Highlighting discrimination based on specific Code grounds.”

On the other hand, FRPO, EOLO and other housing provider associations argued that the supply of rental housing is negatively affected by rent controls because property quality declines when landlords are unable to increase rents to keep pace with wages, capital, taxes, interest rates and utility costs. They also submitted that rent controls artificially lower prices and that the most affordable units are kept by households that could afford market rents, thereby shutting lower-income tenants out of a tightened rental market. EOLO told the Commission that factors associated with rent controls result in less access to housing by disadvantaged groups, rather than more.[117]

Much of the discussion about housing in the private rental market focussed on rooming houses and basement apartments. Rooming houses play an important and viable role in meeting affordable housing needs of people protected under the Code who are unable to afford conventional housing.[118] The Commission heard that across Ontario, many marginalized groups such as low-income individuals, seniors, students, newly arrived refugees and immigrants, and people with disabilities, including mental health concerns, rely on rooming houses for accommodation (Rupert Coalition).

The Rupert Coalition defines a rooming house as “any building in which renters occupy single rooms and share kitchens, bathrooms and common areas. Rent in licensed rooming houses ranges from $400 to close to $600 a month, making rooming houses the most affordable form of permanent accommodation available for low-income single people.” The submissions received confirm that the trends noted in The Report of the Mayor’s Homelessness Action Task Force: Taking Responsibility for Homelessness (Golden Report) almost 10 years ago still hold true today:

Rooming houses and accessory apartments play a critical role in the housing market, one which is taking on added significance as other options continue to disappear. With cutbacks in social assistance, the termination of new social housing programs, and low vacancy rates in the rental apartment sector, rooming houses and second suites have become a permanent way of life for many individuals and families. They are no longer a temporary form of housing.[119]

Consultees, such as Project Connect, emphasized that when housing placement workers are looking for housing under $500 per month for clients with low incomes or on social assistance, rooming houses may be the only option. For many, a rooming house may be the last permanent housing option before homelessness (Rupert Coalition).

While rooming houses may be the most viable option for individuals and families with low incomes, far too often, they do not provide a safe, comfortable home. As a result of restrictions on legally registered rooming houses, the Commission heard widespread concerns about the growth of un-regulated and un-inspected rooming houses to fill this void in the housing market and the substandard rental conditions their occupants may be subjected to. For example, PACE noted common problems that make rooming house tenants feel desperate and helpless such as mice and other rodents, thefts by other tenants, poor wiring, heating and insulation and disrepair.

Landlords and tenant advocates were concerned about NIMBY opposition to developing affordable housing in the private market, such as rooming houses, basement apartments and high-density housing. These kinds of issues are discussed in section 5.5 “Discriminatory NIMBY opposition to affordable housing.”

Many consultees suggested that basement apartments and secondary suites, when appropriately regulated, provide a safe and affordable housing option in the private rental market. MMAH pointed out that municipalities may establish second unit policies without appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board. However, other consultees indicated that in the past, there has been legislative support for creating good quality basement apartments and second suites.[120] The Commission heard that some tenants with low incomes rent “illegal” basement apartments that do not comply with municipal zoning by-laws and do not meet health and safety standards. These tenants are at heightened risk of homelessness if this comes to the attention of the local authorities.

[O]nce the local bylaw departments discover the rental units, the departments order the tenants to vacate the units on very short notice. Tenants in this predicament find that they are powerless to challenge these orders and are at immediate risk of homelessness. Given these dire consequences, tenants in these illegal units are reluctant to assert their rights under the RTA, nor do they complain to bylaw, health and fire departments even when there are serious concerns about these units (Community Legal Clinic of York Region).

Private landlord associations submitted that conversion policies, which prevent the demolition, redevelopment and intensification of old rental buildings, have a detrimental effect on increasing the supply of rental housing. FRPO stated that these policies create a barrier to the supply of affordable housing by reducing the number of available affordable home ownership opportunities for tenants, discouraging capital investment in older buildings and deterring investment in new rental housing. Conversely, some consultees argued that conversions result in a decrease of available rental housing supply, because it is more profitable to convert rental properties into homes for ownership.

In Cabbagetown, which has experienced gentrification like perhaps no other area in the city, the number of rooming houses has decreased dramatically. The former rooming houses have been re-converted into single family homes. This is fine as it goes. However, our experience is that the new homeowners have become, at times, simply anti-rooming houses, not wanting “those people” in their neighbourhood and being concerned primarily with property values (Project Connect).

Several landlords and associations said that the tax rate on multi-residential units creates barriers to affordable housing for low-income people. According to the London Property Management Association, multi-residential housing units are taxed 2.5 times higher than owner-occupied dwellings. As a result tenants, many of whom are lower income and protected under the Code, end up paying proportionately more tax through rent payments than do homeowners. FRPO advocated for equalizing the tax rate for homes and multi-residential properties (over six units) with costs distributed across all property classes to encourage more rental housing development.[121]

Inadequate housing and the admission of children into care

The Commission was extremely troubled to hear that children in Ontario continue to be relinquished or apprehended by children’s aid societies because of inadequate housing – concerns that were previously noted by the CESCR.[122] Consultees connected this issue to Code grounds such as family status, receipt of social assistance and race. Recommendations have already been made that government collect statistical data relating to the relinquishment to foster care of children belonging to low-income families, single mother-led families, and Aboriginal and African-Canadian families, to accurately assess the extent of the problem. It was also recommended that the federal, provincial and territorial governments undertake all necessary measures, including financial support, where necessary, to avoid such relinquishment.[123] The Commission heard that despite these recommendations, this is very much still an issue in communities across our province.

Although inadequate housing or housing problems are not sufficient grounds to consider a child in need of protection under the Child and Family Services Act,[124] in practical terms housing increasingly plays a role in outcomes for families. CAST pointed out that their economically disadvantaged clients face substantial obstacles to obtaining adequate and appropriate housing and that, for some of them, this affects their ability to care for their children. As one children’s aid society noted:

Although our agency has been reluctant to admit children into our care solely because of inadequate housing, we have had to do so and cannot discharge these children until we are satisfied that they will be in safe environments.

Participants in the roundtables commented that a major factor contributing to the separation of parents from their children is the combination of legislation and policies applied by children’s aid societies and housing providers. For example, the Commission was told multiple times about situations where a parent cannot get children back from care until they are suitably housed, but are ineligible for suitable housing until they have their children back. The Commission also heard that because of the shortage of appropriate housing and the availability of services, families live in shelters – thereby delaying the return of their children.

A research study conducted in 2000 showed that in 20% of cases, a family’s housing situation was a factor resulting in the temporary placement of a child into care. That same year, in 11.5 % of cases, the return of the child was delayed due to housing-related problems. Housing was a factor in 26% of the cases where parents voluntarily agreed to have their children placed in care and in 74% of apprehensions. Since 1992, there has been an increase in the percentage of cases in which housing was a factor in decisions to place a child in care or delay the child’s return to the family.[125]

5.3. Poverty and inadequate income levels

Human rights violations in housing are often connected to poverty and income. Although social condition is not a ground under the Code, discrimination relating to poverty has been addressed through Code grounds where there was a demonstrable link between poverty and those grounds. For example, the link between poverty and Code grounds such as race, sex and family status, was noted in Kearney v. Bramalea Ltd.[126] In general terms, the Code may be brought into play when the low income is connected to grounds such as race, family status, age, disability or being in receipt of public assistance, such as Ontario Works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support Program benefits (ODSP).

Consultees were concerned that people identified by Code grounds such as age, sex, disability (including mental illness), family status, receipt of public assistance and race, place of origin and citizenship (including refugees and immigrants) are disproportionately counted among persons living in poverty. Some consultees referred to international criticisms that poverty rates in Canada remain very high among disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups such as Aboriginal people, African-Canadians, immigrants, persons with disabilities, youth, low-income women and women who are lone parents.[127]

Lower-income tenants have fewer choices in the rental market because many of the housing options are out of their price range. On top of this, it was noted that 31% of low-income households move per year compared with 27% of higher-income households (CERA/SRAC). Research studies have shown that a large proportion of landlords prefer not to rent to people with low incomes,[128] which further reduces the choices of units available to them. The Commission heard that the tenants with the lowest incomes are often forced to rent apartments that are inadequate and poorly maintained, yet more expensive than others.

A newcomer with children, with no credit or references, who would be disqualified by income criteria and is vulnerable to hidden racism, will find that only a few apartments in Toronto do not disqualify her. She will find that she will have to pay far more for an inadequate apartment than other tenants (CERA/SRAC).

Concerns were also raised about the interpretation of the provisions of the RTA within the framework of the ICESCR, particularly in relation to evictions for minimal arrears and the impact of this on low-income tenants.[129]

Strategy to address poverty needs human rights focus

The provincial government’s most recent throne speech, delivered by the Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario on November 29, 2007, referred to the commencement of work on a strategy to reduce child poverty.[130] A cabinet committee has been established to develop poverty indicators and targets and a strategy for making clear-cut progress on reducing child poverty and lifting more families out of poverty.[131]

The Commission is pleased to see that the scope of the Poverty Reduction Strategy has been expanded to include both children and their families. However, the Commission is concerned that a large number of other persons, many of whom are protected under Code grounds, are also living in poverty.[132] It is also of concern that the announced strategy is not explicitly aimed at addressing the concerns noted by the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in its past three reviews and implementing recommendations that are within the jurisdiction of the provincial government. For example, the CESCR recommended increasing shelter allowances and social assistance rates to realistic levels.[133]

These concerns were also shared by some consultees who noted that the failure by governments of all levels to take meaningful steps to alleviate poverty results in continued disadvantage for people who are lone parents, racialized and have disabilities and others protected by the Code. The key example provided by many was the relinquishment of children to children’s aid societies as was discussed above.

Social assistance and living wages

Participants in the consultation expressed the view that recent increases to social assistance and minimum wage rates, [134] while welcome, have not been sufficient to enable tenants who rely on these forms of income equal access to housing opportunities. A number of consultees stated that social assistance recipients are worse off today because rate increases have not kept pace with inflation and rent increases.

In Ontario, social assistance rates were cut back 21.6% in 1995, and small increases in the past several years have failed to address the discrepancy between income and rent. A single person in 1995, for example, received $663 per month. Today they receive a monthly income of $560. When the rate of inflation is factored in, along with high rent increases, there is an approximate 40% loss of income (Housing Help Centre).

ACTO and other consultees pointed out that the vast majority of people on social assistance rent housing in the private rental market.[135] The Commission heard that this means that people on social assistance end up being unable to compete for quality housing at average rents because of their insufficient income. For example, as the Alliance to End Homelessness pointed out, in 2006, Ontario Works benefits for a single person were $548 per month while average rents were $633 for a bachelor and $774 for a one-bedroom apartment. Similarly the maximum shelter allowance for a single person under ODSP is $346, while on average it costs $787 to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Ontario[136] (PPAO).

Similar concerns were raised about programs such as Extended Care and Maintenance (ECM) that help Crown Wards prepare for independent living. These programs are funded by children’s aid societies from their general provincial allocations, but the permitted monthly allowance of $663 is too low for youth leaving care to find housing in a safe and supportive environment (CAS, London & Middlesex). The long-term consequences of the failure to provide adequate funding and support for Crown wards leaving care can be significant both for the individual youth and for society at large. There may be increased costs associated with welfare, criminal justice, health and mental health services.[137]

Once housed, the lack of sufficient income creates difficulties for tenants in keeping housing and in paying for other costs of living. Where rents are above the shelter allowance allocated by OW and ODSP, individuals on social assistance have to dip into their basic needs allowance to pay their monthly rent or are forced to look at other forms of housing, such as motels or “couch-surfing” (Algoma Community Legal Clinic). These households use a significant portion of their food money to pay rent and often use food banks to feed their families. Young parents are forced into market rent housing that is unsuitable, unsafe, unhealthy and unaffordable – leaving them little money to meet their families’ other needs (Humewood House). A tenant on ODSP told the Commission that she has had great difficulties keeping her apartment as the housing costs are higher than what she can realistically afford.

Participants in the roundtables had vigorous discussions about the impact of clawbacks on social assistance recipients and their families. For example, when a child reaches age 18, this results in a loss of income for his or her family and can affect the family’s ability to stay in social housing.[138] However, as is discussed in section 4.1 “Highlighting discrimination based on Code grounds,” this young adult would likely face barriers and discrimination in accessing suitable housing in the rental market, and is at risk of homelessness or being under-housed. Recommendations have been made that authorities responsible for public housing, Ontario Works, child care, student aid and other student supports work together to develop a transition planning system to enable eligible young adults to stabilize their own income and that of their families.[139]

Minimum wage earners are similarly disadvantaged in the rental market because of incomes that are insufficient to pay for average rents across the province. Consultees expressed concern that the current minimum wage of $8.00/ hour is not a living wage and that a person working at minimum wage full-time for an entire year will not earn enough to escape poverty.[140] In Ontario, the minimum wage is set to gradually rise to $10.25/ hour in 2010.[141] However, advocates for income security had been seeking an immediate increase to $10.00 in 2005, indexed to inflation.[142] It therefore appears that the concerns raised in the consultation and internationally about the standard of living for minimum wage earners may not yet have been fully addressed.

As many consultees pointed out, minimum wage earners often identify by Code grounds. For example, statistics show that “workers of colour”[143] and women are disproportionately represented among people earning minimum wage.[144] In addition, the Commission was told that the “working poor” find it difficult to locate affordable housing, and are refused housing because they cannot meet the rent deposits or income criteria required by landlords. See also section 4.2 “Tenant screening practices.“

It was also noted that women comprise a large portion of people who are working part-time, in many cases because of caregiving responsibilities. They are in great need of access to a decent living wage as well as other employment benefits such as health and long term disability insurance. However, CERA pointed out that in Ontario, there is no legislation requiring employers to provide benefits to part-time employees on a pro-rated basis and the practice of employers is mixed. The result is that many workers and their families are denied any protection from sudden loss of income due to disability, placing them at a much higher risk of homelessness.

Social assistance and minimum wages rates must be linked to the real cost of rental housing with a view to complying with international obligations and substantively addressing criticisms of Canada’s compliance with them. However, many of the CESCR’s 1993 and 1998 recommendations still have not been implemented and a number of serious concerns about income levels still remain.[145] These include:

  • the absence of a legally enforceable right to adequate social assistance benefits for all persons in need on a non-discriminatory basis
  • negative impact of certain workfare programs on social assistance recipients
  • insufficiency of minimum wage and social assistance benefits to ensure the realization of the right to an adequate standard of living for all
  • social assistance benefits that are lower than a decade ago, that may be less than half the low income cut-off, and that do not provide adequate income to meet basic needs for food, clothing and shelter
  • the “discriminatory impact” of the National Child Benefit “clawback system” on the poorest families in Canada, particularly those led by lone mothers
  • shelter allowances and social assistance rates that continue to fall far below average rental costs.

Impacts of low income

A number of consultees, including the Alliance to End Homelessness, linked the risk of homelessness to the growing gap between social assistance or wages earned in minimum wage jobs and the poverty line. Many low-income tenants end up paying more than they can afford for housing, to the detriment of other important needs such as food or clothing. The CAS, London & Middlesex gave the example of a youth who used almost his entire monthly allowance to pay rent in an appropriate setting away from drug use and dealing, leaving him with almost no money to meet his other daily needs.

Other tenants are resigned to accepting housing that, while cheap, imposes unsuitable living conditions on them and their families. As PACE noted, the view of many tenants is “you have to take what’s given to you” even if that means living in dank, dark basement apartments, foul rooming houses or dilapidated market rental units. Key complaints about quality of housing related to rooms or apartments that need a lot of repair in areas that are run down, polluted or affected by high rates of criminal activities such as drug dealing.

The Commission heard about the systemic failure of housing providers and responsible governments to maintain basic property standards, such as keeping units heated in the winter or installing safe windows or balcony railings, in areas occupied by low-income tenants. This results in low-income individuals and families being denied the right to enjoy equality with respect to their occupancy of accommodation, inconsistent with international human rights obligations (CERA/SRAC).

The Commission also heard about perceptions that LTB adjudicators hold the following attitudes towards tenants who pay low rent:

  • thinking they cannot expect the same level of maintenance and repair from a landlord as tenants who pay more
  • devaluing damage to a tenant’s property because they are poor while not doing the same for damage to a landlord’s property
  • viewing landlords’ concerns as more important than those of tenants, especially people who do not speak English or French as a first language.

Portable housing allowances and other ways to increase access to housing 

A number of consultees suggested raising social assistance rates and the minimum wage to levels that would allow families to secure proper housing even in the private market. Other consultees recommended improving mechanisms to help social assistance recipients transition from receipt of benefits to employment, or to reduce the deductions from the income received by people on social assistance.

Consultees noted that increases in the shelter allowance may help some people secure housing, but that a more proactive approach to addressing the needs of all low-income people is necessary. There was wide consensus among both housing providers and tenant groups that a viable option to enable low-income tenants to compete equally in the rental market is to provide portable housing allowances directly to the tenants to enable them to rent their choice of housing.[146]

MMAH indicated that housing allowances are one of four components of the AHP, along with rental and supportive housing, home ownership and Northern Housing. They aim to create affordable rental housing in rental markets with high vacancy rates, and are meant to bridge the gap between the rent that a household can afford to pay and the actual market rent.

Other consultees told the Commission that portable housing allowances target people in the greatest need, and avoid the discriminatory exclusions of youth, newcomers and others that are endemic to a system based on chronological waiting lists for designated social housing units.

This would allow the tenants much greater flexibility in the choice of unit available to them – the same flexibility enjoyed by tenants who do not have financial hardship as their “disability.” Tenants are sometimes forced to endure poor living conditions or relations with neighbours because they simply cannot afford to lose their subsidized unit. If the rent supplement was assigned to them and not to the unit, they could move to a better situation without fear of losing the affordability of their housing (Waterloo Region Community Legal Services).

Housing provider associations like the EOLO and FRPO agreed that there are a number of benefits to offering low-income households a top-up allowance to bridge the gap between income levels and market rent prices. For example, portable housing allowances can provide immediate assistance to tenants and may help people avoid long waiting lists for social housing. They also allow tenants to choose where they live, and encourage mixed-income neighborhoods. Housing allowances can be provided directly to the tenant to give to the housing provider, maintaining the tenant’s privacy and autonomy over their income, and can be used in rural areas and small towns where there are few subsidized units.

...I think housing allowances would be a good choice because they allow the low-income tenants to rent in buildings that are occupied by people at other income levels. They also allow low-income tenants mobility, in that they can rent wherever they choose, they need not be isolated in one general area of the city (Landlord, 50-99 units).

Housing providers also noted that that rent supplements or portable housing allowances can be provided without the landlord or neighbours knowing and can allow tenants to avoid any stigma attached to living in public or social housing. Finally, the Commission was told that such programs can be administered at low cost compared to the costs of building new social housing, and allow flexibility in program design to respond to different regional needs and provincial budgets.

5.4. Homelessness and human rights

Although the causes of, and solutions for, homelessness are complicated, it is squarely a human rights issue. People identified by Code grounds such as disability (including mental illness and addiction), race and race-related grounds (including people who are Aboriginal) and family status are more likely than others to experience homelessness.[147] For example, ACTO pointed out that Aboriginal persons are over-represented in Canada’s homeless population by a factor of 10.[148] The Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario said that individuals with serious mental illness are at increased risk of becoming homeless, that 30 – 35 % of the homeless population in general, and up to 75% of homeless women specifically, have a mental illness.[149] The Commission also heard that people with mental illness also remain homeless for longer periods of time.

Consultees emphasized that homelessness is not just an issue for people living on the street – people who rely on temporary housing provided by friends and families (“couch surfing”) or who sleep in shelters are still homeless. Increasing numbers of children and women now rely on shelters to temporarily meet their housing needs.[150] The Commission also heard that people being released from the criminal justice system tend to stay in shelters during their first month or two although a shelter stay has been associated with increased risk for re-incarceration (John Howard Society of Toronto).

Consultees talked about the wide range of factors leading to homelessness, including municipal, provincial and federal policies and programs, de-institutionalization and situational issues. For many, situational problems are made worse by the existence of Code-protected characteristics such as race, disability, sex, receipt of public assistance and family status and the associated poverty.

Families and individuals can lose their housing for any number of reasons: losing a job, having an income too low to stay in their homes or fleeing abuse. Added complications for some are problems associated with physical or mental health issues or substance use (Alliance to End Homelessness).

The John Howard Society of Toronto pointed out that release from incarceration is a significant factor contributing to homelessness.[151] The Commission was also told about the barriers to housing experienced by people who are incarcerated and then released. The shelter allowance portion of OW or ODSP benefits are not continued during incarceration, which means that people are more likely to be homeless on discharge, especially since benefits are not reinstated until after discharge.

The lack of assistance finding housing available to people leaving hospital or jail was raised as an issue by a few consultees, including the PPAO.[152] People are often discharged without any money, transportation allowance, clothing other than their prison jumpsuits, identification or services to help them reintegrate successfully into the community. People in this situation are unlikely to be able to compete for housing in the rental market, which means that they have to live on the streets, in shelters or with friends (when possible) while getting re-established in the community. For some, the resulting stresses lead to re-offence (John Howard Society of Toronto).

CERA/SRAC expressed the view that homelessness and the violations of the right to housing in Canada have resulted from cut-backs to social assistance and social housing, and the failure to take any appropriate measures to address the problem and to address homelessness as a violation of human rights. In addition to the CESCR, other international human rights bodies have raised concerns about homelessness as a violation of fundamental rights.[153]

The Commission also heard that widespread discrimination against people who are homeless prevents them from accessing affordable housing even when it is available.

People who are homeless are turned away simply because they are homeless ... landlords won’t rent to people from shelters, thereby increasing the time they are homeless ... When families and individuals become homeless, the discrimination against them increases exponentially in housing and employment and places a greater strain on the waiting list for social housing (Housing Help Centre).

Strategies and solutions to address homelessness

People who are homeless are at higher risk of death due to a combination of a higher risk of health problems, poverty and, at times, inadequate access to health care.[154] Even for people who manage to survive while homeless, the interference with the performance of daily life activities essential for human well-being is significant. One tenant noted that it is impossible to get a job if you are homeless.

Organizations such as the Rupert Coalition commented that having a safe place to live is a vital part of stability and recovery from the mental illnesses and addictions that affect so many homeless people.[155] Research has also shown that being homeless increases the duration and seriousness of a mental illness.[156]

Given the severe consequences of homelessness, it is imperative that action be taken to address and prevent homelessness as an urgent human rights issue. The Commission’s position is that there are many possible ways to tackle this difficult issue. However, the starting point must be a willingness to act on the numerous reports that have been written on this topic, an acceptance of the existence of widespread systemic human rights violations as a factor contributing to homelessness, and a commitment to substantively address international criticisms of homelessness in this province and country. The following are some of the ideas raised on this topic.

CERA/SRAC proposed implementing a human rights strategy to address homelessness as a violation of the right to equality under the Code. The homelessness strategy they described would address the “intersection of employment and housing equality and challenge growing barriers facing disadvantaged groups in securing adequate and stable income necessary to securing and maintaining adequate housing.” This approach is fundamentally based on key principles such recognizing adequate housing as a fundamental human right, the need for positive measures to ensure equal access to housing for Code-protected groups and the right to effective remedies.

Consultees, such as the Rupert Coalition, submitted that efforts to increase the availability of rooming houses can have an impact on homelessness because rooming houses provide an important source of affordable housing for low-income tenants.[157] Such measures would need to take into account the complex regulatory framework that exists.[158] See also section 5.2 “Adequate and affordable housing.”

The OASW said that concrete actions must be taken to actively counter the “dehousing mechanisms” at work in society. This would include creating an action plan with targets for addressing and preventing homelessness. A key element in any such actions would be the need to consider international requirements and criticisms. For example, the CESCR welcomed the National Homelessness Initiative and the adoption of other measures on housing, but regretted that the information provided was not sufficient to assess the results of such measures. In particular, the CESCR was concerned that the estimated number of homeless persons in Canada still ranges from 100,000 to 250,000.[159] It was also recommended that specific consideration be given to the difficulties faced by homeless girls.[160]

The Commission heard about the need for a multifaceted approach that provides for increased income levels, services and higher quality housing. One consultee referred to a study that showed the positive impact of these on housing in the community studied:

A report from a panel study on the Ottawa homeless population over a two-year period showed that factors such as higher income, access to subsidized housing, assistance from community workers and organizations, support of roommates, an appropriate on-going “basket” of complementary services and supports helped them become housed. Living in better quality housing in terms of comfort, privacy and space was related to higher levels of mental health (Alliance to End Homelessness).

5.5. Discriminatory NIMBY opposition to affordable housing

A number of consultees linked Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY) opposition to attitudes such as “I don’t want any of those people living near me” or “we’ve already got our fair share” of a particular type of affordable housing. The Commission has previously stated that persons and groups identified under the Code should not have to ask permission from prospective neighbours before moving in.[161] Concerns about affordable housing projects should be legitimately anchored in planning issues rather than stereotypical assumptions about the people for whom the housing is being built. Efforts to keep out persons with disabilities, including mental illness, are no less offensive than preventing racialized persons from moving into a neighbourhood.

The Commission heard that discriminatory NIMBY opposition delays 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. Alternatively, the Commission heard that housing providers may be discouraged from developing affordable housing because of NIMBY opposition. In some cases, Code-protected people are exposed to harassment throughout the planning process, and end up feeling unwelcome once they move into their new neighbourhood. Some consultees spoke about the impact of political opposition and delay tactics, sometimes called “NIMTO” (Not-In-My-Term-of-Office).

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, Code-protected populations, they may be seen to violate the Code. The most common forms of NIMBY opposition and their human rights impacts as described by consultees are summarized below.

Zoning definitions that are used to zone out or restrict access to certain people protected by the Code 

Zoning definitions allow some land uses to be included in, and others excluded from, a particular area based on their physical characteristics and function. A wide range of consultees expressed concern about the use of zoning definitions to exclude certain Code-protected groups from living in particular areas. For example, concerns were raised that such definitions can be used to reduce the sites available for supportive housing for a protected group, or subject it to additional requirements or a lengthier approvals process (HomeComing Community Choice Coalition). A distinction was drawn between this kind of zoning definition and those in municipal by-laws that are linked to benefits such as fast-tracked approvals for supportive housing. MMAH indicated that a zoning by-law is invalid if its purpose is to regulate the user, as opposed to the use of land, or define the use by reference to personal characteristics.

By-laws that limit or ban certain affordable housing developments 

Concerns were raised about by-laws that aim to keep out certain types of housing developments while allowing others. For example, the Commission heard that zoning by-laws and policies in municipalities across the province prohibit rooming houses in certain neighbourhoods. Consultees such as Project Connect told the Commission that these kinds of zoning by-laws mean that people who rely on rooming houses, and who may be protected by Code grounds, are effectively denied a place in the community of their choice. They may also have to accept housing that does not meet their needs, whether because the living conditions are substandard or because it is far from their supports, family members and social networks (Rupert Coalition).

Consultees expressed the view that a by-law that prevents all residential development in a specific zone would be acceptable as it does not have discriminatory impacts. However, a by-law that does not allow rooming houses, group homes or subsidized housing developments for persons protected under the Code, while allowing other residential development of similar scale, would be discriminatory. For example, some municipalities prohibit any new social housing, group homes, crisis care homes, lodging homes or rooming houses from being built in an entire neighbourhood. This affects people with disabilities and people in receipt of social assistance. Other municipalities distinguish between housing for psychiatric survivors living in the community and people who were formerly inpatients at a local provincial psychiatric hospital (Individual consultee).

Distancing requirements and development moratoria

A number of municipalities across Ontario have some type of distancing requirements for group homes and other housing options for people with disabilities. MMAH said that the use of separation distance requirements should be justified on a rational planning basis, passed in good faith and in the public interest.

The Commission heard that distancing requirements, caps or quotas restrict or limit where housing for people with disabilities or on social assistance can be built and may have discriminatory impacts. Consultees told the Commission about the following kinds of limits that exist in municipal by-laws across the province:

  • maximum number of tenants in group homes or homes for special care
  • maximum number of group homes in a residential area
  • maximum number of group homes per number of people in total population, per neighbourhood, per lot or municipality.

Such requirements limit the sites available for group home development, and may force housing providers to turn away otherwise ideal housing opportunities. For example, the Commission heard about a couple who wanted to donate their home to an organization that provides housing and supports to people with developmental disabilities. The organization had to turn down this opportunity to create new supportive housing because there was already another group home in the neighbourhood. The Commission was told that such distancing requirements present a barrier to housing for people with disabilities, even where the neighbours are in support of the housing.

The Commission heard that development moratoria, or by-laws temporarily freezing development of land for a maximum of two consecutive years, restrict when affordable or supportive housing can be built. Consultees indicated that they have the same effect as distancing requirements where they limit the development of housing that predominantly serves protected groups or individuals. MMAH noted that municipalities’ powers to prepare such a by-law are typically exercised in a situation in which unforeseen development issues arise with the terms of an existing zoning permission, and that anyone who is given notice of such a by-law may appeal to the OMB.

Public consultation not required under the Planning Act 

As the Chief Commissioner noted in a November 14, 2007 letter to the editor of the Toronto Star, “questions about land use are a legitimate part of the planning process. However, meetings that allow people to determine who lives in their neighbourhood are another matter.” [162] The Commission heard quite a bit about this other kind of meeting in the course of the consultation.

MMAH noted that the Planning Act requires, as a basic principle, that the public be given an opportunity to present its views at a public meeting on certain land use planning matters. This was said to be in keeping with the “philosophy of an open and transparent planning system.” However, the Commission was told that affordable and supportive housing developers may be required to participate in expensive and lengthy public consultations that are not set out in the Planning Act or in a municipal by-law.

In some cases, the Commission was told that such meetings are required by local councillors, municipal staff or even committees of adjustment when a development seems “controversial” – even if the only controversial element is the characteristics of the people who will live there. Some consultees questioned the utility of these kinds of extra meetings in overcoming fears and false stereotypes, and noted that they seem to wrongly empower neighbours to believe that they are entitled to stop or delay unwanted people from moving into the neighbourhood (HomeComing Community Coalition).

Consultees also spoke against requiring public notification or consultation requirements for “as-of-right” housing developments for protected groups (i.e. those for which zoning changes are not required). The concern about these kinds of requirements is three-fold: first, that the project is being singled out for additional requirements because it is geared towards vulnerable people who may be protected under the Code; second, that they add additional obstacles to creating affordable housing; and finally, that people protected by the Code may be exposed to discriminatory comments and conduct at such meetings. As Project Connect put it:

Sometimes, when there are community consultations sponsored by the city around affordable housing in Toronto, it has become a prime opportunity for people to express views that are plainly discriminatory. Also, however, behind code words like property values and safety (around a rooming house license “I don’t want those pedophiles near my kids”), people regularly oppose any kind of low-income housing. In addition, it is not unusual to hear: “I’m for it – just not here.” Because this kind of process can foment discriminatory views in public, these kinds of consultations need to be managed differently. As it is, the process for approval can become painful and longer (and thus more expensive for the housing provider).

People protected under the Code, and persons advocating for housing on their behalf, are sometimes exposed to inappropriate comments and abuse. This may occur at meetings led by municipal staff or councillors, through websites or pamphlets, posters or flyers. Municipalities and elected officials are expected to ensure that poisoned environments contrary to the Code are not created at their meetings. Yet, concerns were raised that municipal councillors may use the same discriminatory language as their constituents and be wary about restricting opportunities for discriminatory comments to be made on the basis of free speech.

The rationale for permitting this abuse is that it represents free speech and true community feeling. For example, at Toronto City Council many councillors voted against a Planning Department recommendation that would have enforced human rights and equity principles at public meetings because they did not want to muzzle their constituents (HomeComing Community Choice Coalition).

Throughout the consultation, the Commission heard about infringements of dignity caused by the following types of comments and conduct at community meetings:

  • hundreds of people shouting out objections to having people with mental illnesses move into their neighbourhood
  • people with mental illnesses being characterized as rapists, murderers, pedophiles and terrorists
  • representatives of community organizations or housing providers, who themselves may be protected under the Code because of mental illness or another ground, being ignored or exposed to offensive comments
  • young single mothers being told to “get a husband.”

Design compromises or requirements and community contracts 

A number of consultees, including the CMHA, Ontario recognized that design compromises are a normal part of development. However, it was noted that human rights concerns arise when opponents and neighbours demand compromises based on prejudices or fears about the people who will move in.

Sometimes these requirements are part of a municipal by-law or are requested by Council, a Council Committee, or a Committee of Adjustment as a condition of planning approvals or funding or by an individual councilor as a condition for supporting the project. These compromises and requirements may contravene the Code when they stigmatize tenants protected by Code grounds, or undermine their dignity and prevent their natural integration into the community.

For example, the Commission heard that providers of affordable and supportive housing have been asked to:

  • ensure that windows could not be opened by tenants
  • frost all windows to prevent tenants from looking at their neighbours
  • remove balconies that might allow tenants to overlook their neighbours
  • add visual buffering around group homes
  • maintain walls that separate affordable housing from neighbouring homes
  • blockade or remove gaps in a row of affordable townhouses designed to allow tenants access to their own cars
  • bar entrances with iron gates to keep tenants in at night
  • add fences, walls, gates, driveway detours or other barriers that prevent protected groups from accessing natural routes to and from their homes.

The Commission also heard that some municipalities require or recommend that housing providers sign contracts with their neighbours as a condition of occupying a building. It was noted that housing providers feel pressured to sign these documents as a sign of goodwill or to retain the local councillor’s support, but that they have the effect of undermining the dignity and privacy of protected groups. Contracts or requirements that impose extra obligations on housing for protected groups may be discriminatory and could give rise to human rights challenges.

For example, the managers of a house for homeless people agreed to report the incomes of all their residents to their east end Toronto neighbours every year. The neighbours had said they wanted to “monitor” residents to ensure no-one received a subsidy they did not deserve (HomeComing Community Choice Coalition).

Shared responsibility for preventing and addressing NIMBYism

Submissions were made that a double standard exists when it comes to discriminatory NIMBY opposition – that people who do not think of themselves as being prejudiced or discriminatory will say “we don’t want ‘those people’ in our neighbourhood,” “those people will bring our property values down,” or “we don’t want those people unsupervised around our children.” It appears that the human rights implications of these kinds of comments when made, for example in public meetings, in letters to city councillors or on community group websites are often not recognized or challenged, even by people who might otherwise view themselves as tolerant and respectful citizens or leaders.

Many consultees identified a need for greater public education to raise awareness of the human rights impacts of NIMBYism. To help people identify discriminatory statements, the HomeComing Community Choice Coalition has developed a “cringe test.”[163] This test allows individuals, including municipal councillors and members of the community, to evaluate whether the statements they are making or hearing would be inappropriate were they made in reference to other Code grounds such as ethnic origin.

Some consultees focussed on the need for “inclusive zoning” in which developers of private, for-profit housing would be required to build affordable housing as a benefit given back to the community. Many consultees saw a role for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) in taking concerted action to guide municipalities, particularly in relation to developing by-laws that would limit affordable housing options for Code-protected groups and individuals. FRPO suggested the development of a strong provincial policy statement and intervention at the OMB when development applications are being opposed by municipalities.

A number of consultees spoke about the role of municipal politicians and councillors in either contributing to, and supporting, NIMBY opposition or taking a strong stand against it, as a human rights issue. For example, the CMHA, Ontario noted that:

[S]ocial housing developments are plagued by poor political support and political interference fuelling discrimination even more. For example, Ward Councillors often feel duty bound to oppose projects they believe are unpopular with their constituents. As such, projects are often defeated when they apply for planning approvals and the discriminatory practice of “not-in-my-backyard” is reinforced.

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) was commended for consistently refusing to accept arguments based on discrimination rather than planning considerations and for not granting such appeals. While the OMB has a mechanism for dismissing frivolous or vexatious cases, it was perceived as being hesitant to use this discretion if there is the slightest chance the appeal has merit. The Commission also heard that the costs involved in defending an appeal can be substantial and can force some housing providers to abandon their projects, having already spent time, effort and money on the project to that point. For example, one OMB appeal against apartments for people with mental illnesses cost a housing provider over $300,000 and almost $9,000 per month for construction delays. Thus, some consultees saw a role for the OMB in ensuring that discriminatory appeals are dismissed at the earliest stage possible, and in advance of expert preparation for the hearing.

In addition, some consultees advocated for developing provincial legislation based on the American Fair Housing Act[164] as a major element of any strategy to address discrimination experienced as a result of property management practices. Good Shepherd proposed that the following elements be included in such a law:

  • a requirement that municipalities have an “affordable housing statement” that includes measures to address discrimination
  • rewards such as allocating additional housing to communities that are committed to affordable housing and allowing municipalities to offer other incentives
  • measures to make the impact of NIMBY opposition less “painful” and costly, such as authorizing the OMB to reject appeals that are not based on substantive planning arguments.

[91]Background Paper, supra note33 at 22
[92] Ontario Human Rights Commission, Submission Concerning Barrier-Free Access Requirements in the Ontario Building Code (March 2002), online:
[93] In Quesnel v. London Educational Health Centre (1995), 28 C.H.R.R. D/474 an Ontario Board of Inquiry stated: With respect to the personal respondent’s contention that he complied with local building codes, it is sufficient to note that s. 47(2) establishes the supremacy of the Code over any other Act or Regulation which would allow for a contravention of Part I rights. Compliance with building codes does not, in itself, justify a breach of human rights legislation.”
[94] See also Ontario Human Rights Commission, “Proposed Transit Accessibility Standard a setback for Ontarians with Disabilities” (August 30, 2007) and Submission of the Ontario Human Rights Commission to the Transportation Standards Review Committee regarding the Initial Proposed Transit Accessibility Standard (August 2007), online:
[95]Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, 2005, S.O. 2005, c. 11.
[96] See for example, Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General), 1997 3 S.C.R. 624.
[97] Kothari, Miloon, “Statement of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context”, Report presented at the 7th session of the Human Rights Council (12 March 2008) at p. 2.
[98] Smith, Joanna, “UN special envoy to shine spotlight on housing in Toronto,” The Toronto Star (18 October 2007).
[99] Kothari, Miloon, Preliminary Observations, supra note 11 at p. 4.
[100] Kothari, supra note 97.
[101] The bill, as currently worded, states that the Government of Ontario undertakes, as far as it considers reasonable and appropriate to do so, to ensure that adequate housing is accessible to those entitled to it; to provide protection from violations of the right to adequate housing, including forced evictions; to provide housing subsidies for those unable to obtain affordable adequate housing; and to take such other measures as it sees fit to recognize, promote and protect the right to adequate housing.
[102] Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH), Provincial Policy Statement (2005). MMAH noted that the policy statement was improved in 2005 as a result of planning reforms and permits and facilitates “all forms of residential intensification and redevelopment, and all forms of housing required to meet the social, health and well-being requirements of current and future residents, including special needs requirements.” Special needs include “housing used by people who have specific needs beyond economic needs, e.g. housing for persons with disabilities, such as physical, sensory or mental health; housing for the elderly.”
[103] Volk, Nick “Canadian Government’s response to Miloon Kothari – Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing presentation in Canada” (March 16, 2008), online:
[104] Kothari, supra note 97 at p. 2.
[105] As of April 25, 2008, progress had been made on 704 affordable housing projects representing a total of 11,191 affordable units. Of 9,327 rental and supportive units, there are 3,752 occupied units, 2,324 units under construction and 3,251 units in planning approvals. Of 998 units for homeownership, 781 units are occupied, 53 units are under construction and 164 units are in planning approvals. Of 866 units in the Northern Housing Component, 501 units are occupied, 33 units are under construction/repair and 332 units are in the client selection stage. Government of Ontario, “Affordable Housing,” online:
[106] MMAH indicated that the SCRSP is an important component of the overall provincial housing strategy and that it provides RGI assistance, via service managers, to households in need for both supportive and non-supportive housing units. According to MMAH, the most recent survey of service managers conducted in the fall of 2006 indicated that 6,610 households were assisted under the SCRSP, of which 1,322 were in supportive housing and 5,288 were not. It was also noted that accountability for the SCRSP is shared between the province and municipal service managers, with the province maintaining guidelines for program administration, providing funding and program support to supportive agencies, and municipal service managers delivering the program in accordance with the MOU and program guidelines. Participating landlords enter into rent supplement agreements with municipal service managers to provide rental units to eligible households.
[107] MMAH indicated that funding for this program is $18.8 million and that service managers are required by provincial rules to evaluate tenant applications on an individual basis by considering their needs and “potential for long term housing.” At the time of MMAH’s submission, this program was being evaluated to determine how the program should be changed in the future. Since then, the Government of Ontario has announced a $5 million investment in rent banks to help more families stay in their homes. Renters can apply for financial assistance from a rent bank no more than once in two years, and get up to two months help with rent. If a tenant’s application is approved, the outstanding rent is paid directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant. See Government of Ontario, “Families in Need Get Help with Rent: McGuinty Government Announces Funding for Rent Banks” (May 15, 2008).
[108] For example, the SMHN referred to federal co-operatives, supportive housing administered by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Ministry of Community and Social Services, housing allowance programs, rent supplement programs, and new affordable housing programs.
[109] See also Dartmouth/Halifax County Regional Housing Authority v. Sparks, (1993) 101 D.L.R. (4th) 224 (N.S.C.A.) at 234: “As a general proposition, persons who qualify for public housing are the economically disadvantaged and are so disadvantaged because of their age and correspondingly low incomes (seniors) or families with low incomes, a majority of whom are disadvantaged because they are single female parents on social assistance, many of whom are [B]lack. The public housing tenants group as a whole is historically disadvantaged as a result of the combined effect of several personal characteristics listed in s. 15(1).”
[110] In 2006 the government was recommended to make sure that sufficient and adequate community based housing is provided to people with mental disabilities so they are not detained when there is no medical reason for such detention. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee, supra note 17.
[111] Stapleton, J., Metcalf Foundation, Why is it so tough to get ahead: How our tangled social programs pathologize the transition to self-reliance (2007) at 29.
[112]Ibid. at 19.
[113] Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, supra note 13 at para. 28.
[114] Ontario Non-Profit Housing Corporation, Report on the Waiting List Statistics for Ontario (August 2007), online:
[115]Co-operative Corporations Act, R.S.O 1990, c. C. 35.
[116]RTA, supra note 29, section 113.
[117] EOLO and FRPO referred the Commission to extensive research, including by Nobel Laureates, on the topic of rent controls.
[118] See for example Golden, Anne, The Report of the Mayor’s Homelessness Action Task Force: Taking Responsibility for Homelessness (1999) (Golden Report) at 262.
[119]Ibid. at 265. See also ACTO, “Quick Facts: Rental Housing in Ontario,” which indicates that “[t]he secondary or non-conventional rental market has been variously estimated to be 589,861 units or 41.3% of the total rental universe and as 894,000 units or 50% of all renter households.” Online:
[120] Bill 120, the Residents Rights Act, passed in 1994, overrode municipal zoning bylaws and permitted second units in houses, including basement units, as long as health and fire safety standards were met. It provided for a simplified process for enforcement of municipal zoning and property standards. This legislation was accompanied by O. Reg. 285/94 which set out the required safety standards for such units. Bill 20, the Land Use Planning and Protection Act, was introduced in 1995. It repealed most of the second unit provisions in the Residents Rights Act and re-affirmed municipalities’ ability to decide whether to prohibit basement apartments. This Act has been replaced by the Planning Act, R.S.O.1990, c.P.13 which does not address this issue other than to indicate that there is no appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board regarding second unit policies or by-laws regarding two residential units in a detached house, semi-detached house or row-house (subsection 19(1)). See also O. Reg 384/94 “Apartments in Houses.”
[121] See also Urban Development Institute/Ontario, “Beaubien Report Released: Further Changes to Property Assessment System Recommended” (December 2, 2002), online:
[122] Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, supra note 13 at para 24.
[123]Ibid. at para 56.
[124]Child and Family Services Act (CFSA), R.S.O. 1990, c. C. 11.
[125] Miriam Cohen-Schlanger, et al., “Housing as a factor in admissions of children to temporary care: A survey,” Child Welfare (May 1995); and Shirley Chau, et al, One in Five ... Housing as a Factor in the Admission of Children to Care: New Survey of Children’s Aid Society of Toronto Updates 1992 Study, CUCS Research Bulletin #5, University of Toronto (November 2001).
[126]Kearney supra note 49.
[127] Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, supra note 13 at para. 15.
[128] Hulchanski, supra note 34
[129] See also the Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, supra note 13 at para. 29: “The Committee notes with particular concern that many evictions occur on account of minimal arrears of rent, without due consideration of the State party’s obligations under the Covenant.”
[130] Hon. Onley, David, Moving Forward the Ontario Way (November 29, 2007), online: Elements of the announced strategy include boosting the minimum wage to $10.25 by 2010, increasing child care spaces, providing more affordable housing and fully implementing the new Ontario Child Benefit, raising it to $1,100 per child.
[131] Affordable housing is a critical component of poverty reduction strategies. The Government of Ontario’s website indicates that its long-term strategy for affordable housing will be closely aligned with the poverty reduction plan. It now provides 35,000 new housing allowances and funds more than 18,000 units of affordable housing, online: See also Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty in Canada, 2007 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada – It takes a Nation to Raise a Generation: Time for a National Poverty Reduction Strategy (Campaign 2000), online:
[132] There were 1.8 million Ontarians below Statistic’s Canada’s Low Income Cut-off in 2005. Of these, 26% were under 18 (474,000 children), about 9% were adults over age 65 (169,000 seniors), and about 64% were adults between 18 and 64 (1.15 million). Information taken from Shapcott, Michael “Ontario Throne Speech and housing” (November 30, 2007) online:
[133] The CESCR also recommended that the State Party assess the extent to which poverty is a discrimination issue in Canada, and ensure that measures and programmes do not have a negative impact on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, especially for disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups. It would be encouraging to see these kinds of goals built into provincial initiatives aimed at eliminating poverty. Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, supra note 13 at para. 44. See also Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Canada, U.N. Doc. E/C. 12/1/Add.31 (1998).
[134] The Government of Ontario, Growing Stronger , online: This brochure notes that between 2004 and 2006 the Government of Ontario increased social assistance rates by 7% and that the 2008 Budget introduced a further 2% rate increase. The brochure also notes that increases of $0.75/year will bring the current minimum wage of $8.75/hour to $10.25 by 2010.
[135] 76% of ODSP beneficiaries are tenants but only 22% live in subsidized housing. 96% of Ontario Works beneficiaries rent housing but only 17% live in subsidized housing. ACTO Quick Facts, supra note 118. See also Statistics and Analysis Unit, Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities Division, Ministry of Community and Social Services, “June 2005 quarterly report of OW/ODSP cases and beneficiaries by accommodation types.”
[136] ODSP Action, “Coalition Social Assistance Rates Backgrounder”, online:
[137] See for example, Office of Child and Family Service Advocacy, We are your Sons and Daughters (June 2007), online:
[138] Stapleton, John, supra, note 110 at 13.
[140] See also Ontario Coalition for Social Justice, “Ontario Campaign for Social Justice” (August 2007), online: See also Campaign 2000, supra note 130 – the report notes that “in 2005, 41% of all low income children lived in a family in which one parent was working full time all year, but the family still lived in poverty” at 3.
[141] Government of Ontario, “Ontario’s Minimum Wage Increases 2007 – 1010,” online:
[142] While full-time work at a minimum wage of $10 in 2005 would have been enough to secure an income above the 2005 before-tax Low Income Cut-Off of $20,778, assuming an inflation rate of 2.1% between 2005 and 2010, this would be equivalent to $11.10 in 2010. Murray, Stewart and McKenzie, Hugh, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Bringing Minimum Wage Above the Poverty Line (March 2007), online:
[143] Income Security Advocacy Centre, “Ontario Needs a Raise Campaign – Minimum Wage Fact Sheet” (February 2005), online:
[145] Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, supra note 13 at paras 11(c), (f), 18, 20, 23 and 28.
[146] A housing allowance is “a government subsidy that reduces the housing costs incurred by a family or individual.” Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Housing Allowance Options for Canada (2006), online: at p. 1. This study explores four design options for housing allowance programs.
[147] See for example the Golden Report, supra note 118 which describes the need for specific strategies to address the needs of high-risk sub-groups such as families with children, youth, abused women, Aboriginal people, immigrants and refugees. Background Paper, supra note 33 at 50 & 53. See also Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, Homelessness in Toronto: A Review of the Literature from a Toronto Perspective (2004) at 1, online:
[148] “Individuals of Aboriginal origin account for 35% of the homeless population in Edmonton, 18% in Calgary, 11% in Vancouver and 5% in Toronto, but only 3.8%, 1.9%, 1.7% and 0.4% of the general population of these cities respectively: Stephen Hwang, “Homelessness and Health” (2001) 164(2) CMAJ (online: e:CMAJ”).
[149] CAMH referred to Yanos P., Barrow, S. & Tsemberis, S. (2004). “Community integration in the early phase of housing among homeless persons diagnosed with severe mental illness: successes and challenges.” Community Mental Health Journal, 40(2): 133 – 150. See also the Golden Report, supra note 118.
[150] The Alliance to End Homelessness said that in 2006, the number of single women using shelters increased by 14.5%, the number of youth using shelters increased by 11.8% and the number of children using shelters increased by 12.4 %, even though the number of families decreased by 7.9%.
[151] The John Howard Society of Toronto submitted that of the 5,052 people counted in Toronto’s Street Needs Assessment survey, 18% had had an “interaction with corrections” and 17% had “had an interaction with probation or parole” in the previous six months. It was also noted that in Sudbury, 9.4% of the 148 people counted as homeless in January 2004 gave “release from jail” as the reason for their homelessness.
[152] See also Golden Report, supra note 118.
[153] See for example Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Canada, supra note 15 and Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Canada, supra note 16.
[154] Homeless women between 15-44 were 10 times more likely to die than women in the general population of Toronto. Angela M. Cheung & Stephen W. Hwang, “Risk of death among homeless women: a cohort study and review of literature” (2004) 170(8) CMAJ 1243 at 1245.
[155] Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario, “Homelessness and the Seriously Mentally Ill” (January 31, 2003). See also the Golden Report, supra note 118 at 119.
[156]Ibid. at 112.
[157] Previous reports have noted that decreases in the numbers of rooming houses have been associated with increasing homelessness and have recommended permitting rooming houses as-of-right as part of a homelessness strategy. See for example the Golden Report, supra note 118 at 179.
[158] See for example, Social Housing Strategies Inc. for the City of Toronto, Rooming House Issues and Future Options, Background Report 2: Regulation and Licensing of Rooming Houses in the City of Toronto and Other Jurisdictions (April 2004), online: and Social Housing Strategies Inc. for the City of Toronto, Rooming House Issues and Future Options, Final Report (April 2004), online:
[159] Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, supra note 13 at para. 28.
[160]Ibid at para. 57.
[161] Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall, “Re: Residents angry over housing project,” (November 14, 2007), online:
[163] Homecoming Community Choice Coalition’s cringe test can be accessed online at
[164]Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.

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