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Opening the door to fairer housing ads

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June 14, 2011

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For immediate publication

Toronto – As part of its ongoing work with community partners in the area of human rights and housing, the Commission announced today that it has written to media and housing websites to ask them for help in addressing discriminatory housing advertisements.

Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner, commented that, “Over the years, we have heard many stories of discrimination in rental housing. That some people are still facing discrimination right at the very start of their search for housing is unacceptable.”

Over the past few years, housing websites have become an increasingly popular way to both advertise and look for housing. In response to community concerns about discriminatory online ads, the Commission and its housing partners looked at 28 sites that offer housing listings, and then did a detailed review of four of the largest websites that provide rental housing listings for Ontario. On some sites, it found that up to 20% of online ads for smaller rental housing units contained statements that were either directly or potentially discriminatory. The research also showed that often the public is not aware of the full range of housing protections under the Code.

The Commission and its partners have written to operators of rental housing websites and print media asking them to work with us to help prevent, identify and remove discriminatory ads. The letters suggest a number of best practices such as providing information on human rights in housing, and including a non-discrimination clause on forms which landlords use to place ads.

Generally, most landlords and tenants want to comply with housing-related laws. As a resource, the Commission has developed an online fact sheet that outlines how to write a non-discriminatory housing ad, provides examples of discriminatory statements such as “adult building”, “must provide proof of employment” or “No ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program)”, and suggests fairer alternatives. Other support materials include landlord and tenant brochures as well as an e-learning module on Human Rights and Rental Housing.

“Housing is a human right and by spreading the message that discriminatory housing ads are illegal, we can advance human rights for tenants everywhere,” remarked Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner.

Article: Opening doors to fairer housing ads