In July 2008, the OHRC released Right at Home: Report on the consultation on human rights and rental housing in Ontario. This report followed a year of public sessions, meetings and submissions involving hundreds of individuals, organizations and landlords across the province. It focuses on housing as a human right, and sets out a framework for collective action to identify, remove and prevent discrimination in rental housing.
The OHRC heard how tenants are affected by issues such as “adult-only” rentals, discriminatory attitudes and stereotypes, and applicant screening requirements including illegal rent deposits or requests for guarantors for some tenants based on Code grounds such as gender, race or ancestry. Many tenants, housing providers and decision-makers also spoke about the challenges arising from the duty to accommodate because of disability or family status.
Right at Home included 37 recommended actions for various levels of government, partners in affordable housing development, social housing providers, decision-makers such as housing tribunals and boards, private-market landlords, service providers, tenant organizations and human rights advocates.
This Report is just the beginning of the OHRC’s commitment to help make human rights lived rights for tenants across Ontario. The Commission is developing a formal policy on rental housing, and has actively promoted human rights in areas such as zoning and municipal by-laws. For example, the OHRC has had extensive discussions with the City of Oshawa and other municipalities to express concerns about licensing and by-laws affecting student housing, and continues to speak out when different rules are applied to housing geared for persons with mental illness. One of the key messages in all of these discussions is the need – in fact the legal requirement – for communities to use planning forums to deal with land use and building issues, not to choose who lives next door.