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OHRC submission to the MMAH Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy Update

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Ontario Human Rights Commission Submission to the
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing 
Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy Update

July 3 2015


Housing is a human right. Accordingly, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is making this submission[1] to the government’s consultation on updating Ontario’s Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy.[2]

The OHRC applauds the Government for acknowledging the connection between housing, poverty and human rights. The current Affordable Housing Strategy[3] identifies affordable housing as an important part of Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.[4]

The government’s consultation guide says the updated Affordable Housing Strategy should support the diverse needs of Ontarians including Indigenous peoples, survivors of domestic violence, youth leaving care, seniors and people with disabilities. This is in keeping with the Poverty Reduction Act[5] and the Poverty Reduction Strategy, which recognize the heightened risks these groups face with access to housing as one of the determinants of poverty.

Ontario’s Planning Act[6] also recognizes affordable housing as a matter of provincial interest. The Provincial Policy Statement[7] under that Act provides a definition for “affordable” housing and sets out the provincial interest in ensuring a full range of housing to meet current and future needs of communities. It also requires that it be implemented in a way that is consistent with Ontario’s Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Human Rights Code[8] and OHRC policies say everyone has the right to be free from discrimination in housing accommodation, services, employment and other areas because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status, disability or the receipt of public assistance.

The Code’s protection against discrimination in housing and related areas should be interpreted in light of Canada’s commitment under the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[9] (ICESCR).[10] Matters within provincial competence are the obligation of the provincial government[11] and include the right to adequate housing under Article 11.

The OHRC supports the proposed update to the Affordable Housing Strategy’s vision statement because it better reflects the right to adequate housing: Every person has an affordable, suitable, and adequate home to provide the foundation to secure employment, raise a family, and build strong communities.

OHRC recommendation:

  1. That the Affordable Housing Strategy recognize Ontario’s obligations in regards to the right to adequate housing under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Over the past several years, the OHRC has undertaken community consultations, public inquiries and litigation, and has prepared policies and reports addressing the right to housing, with a particular emphasis on rental housing, systemic impacts of municipal planning and licensing, and the situations of people with mental health and addiction disabilities as well Indigenous communities. The following comments and recommendations for the Government’s four key themes are based on what we learned.

Adequate supply of affordable housing

Many groups identified by Code grounds are more likely to require affordable housing, including social housing, lodging houses and other low-cost private rental housing, group homes or other supportive housing, and other options. These forms of housing are particularly important for newcomers, people with disabilities (including mental health, addictions, physical and/or intellectual disabilities), people who receive social assistance, racialized and Indigenous people, students, older adults, transgender people, women, and larger, young or lone-parent families. Many individuals from these groups, and a range of housing and community support advocates and organizations, have raised concerns with the OHRC that the lack of affordable and suitable housing is a systemic social barrier across Ontario.[12]

The Government’s consultation guide refers to Statistics Canada data that shows more than 7% of homeowners in Ontario and 30% of renters are in “core housing need” largely due to problems with affordability.[13]

Data from Statistics Canada published by the Canadian Human Rights Commission shows that 20.4% of Aboriginal households in Canada are in core housing need compared to 12.4% of non-Aboriginal households.[14]

Unpublished data from Statistics Canada obtained by the OHRC[15] shows that 29.1% of Ontarians with mental health or addiction disabilities[16] were in core housing need (homeowners and renters combined). This is about twice the proportion of people with other disabilities (16%) and without disabilities (14%) in core housing need.

The OHRC heard many concerns about homelessness during its consultation on mental health disability and addictions. The closing of psychiatric institutions in Ontario, together with the lack of community resources available to people who had been housed there, has led to high levels of homelessness for people with mental health and addiction issues. 

CMHA Ontario said that maintaining safe and affordable housing can be difficult for people with mental health issues and addictions in periods of illness, and people may be unable to work and experience a loss of income. As a result, many people can only afford substandard housing.

The Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s Anti-Ableism Committee voiced concerns about people with chronic mental illnesses or addictions being “warehoused” in public housing communities, in part due to the lack of affordable private housing.

Many people raised concerns about waiting for many years for social, supportive and co-operative housing. While social housing is an essential part of the picture, its availability has long been insufficient to meet need for affordable housing. This means that many people have been forced to find housing in the public rental market. A range of factors, such as rent decontrol between tenancies, the frequency with which low-income households move, and discrimination based on Code grounds, means that many low-income households have a high likelihood of having to pay rents that are not affordable (lower third of market rents).[17]

This can have severe impacts on particularly disadvantaged groups, such as racialized and Indigenous women, lone mother-led households, and parents and individuals who receive public assistance, including ODSP. Submissions identified the need for more housing subsidies and increases in social assistance rates to open the door to more affordable housing. The OHRC has also heard about how discriminatory opposition and municipal bylaws can restrict affordable social, supportive and rental housing options (see below).

The ARCH Disability Law Centre told us that many people with psychosocial disabilities experience housing that is notoriously badly maintained; people may be reluctant to complain and then find themselves without a home. Many landlords and housing providers keep their housing in a state of good repair. However, in the case of social, supportive or co-operative housing, limited government funding can make maintaining and repairing units for existing tenants difficult. 

People said poor living conditions in low-income housing (both social and private rental housing) increases people’s vulnerability to abuse, harassment and to feeling unsafe. That can result in negative physical and mental health impacts, and some people may even have to leave the communities of their choice to find more affordable housing. We heard about examples of poor living conditions – housing in disrepair, mold, fire hazards, bed bugs and poor heating.  

OHRC recommendations:[18]

  1. Link social assistance, including shelter allowance, to the real cost of rental housing in regions across Ontario.
  2. Ensure more social housing options as well as subsidy alternatives, such as a portable housing allowance, to open up opportunities for people with low incomes in the private rental housing market and to permit greater flexibility in terms of where one may live.
  3. Enhance the Affordable Housing Strategy by providing sufficient funds to accelerate progress on ending homelessness and ensuring access of all Ontarians, including people with limited incomes, to housing of an adequate standard without discrimination.
  4. Review and improve funding rates, programs, laws and regulations to make sure that low-income tenants are able to afford average rents, food and other basic necessities. Specific attention should be given to:
  • minimum wage rates that allow a full time earner to live above
    the poverty line
  • assessing impacts of rent control/vacancy decontrol
  • social assistance claw backs.

Fair system of housing assistance

In its consultations, the OHRC heard that the lack of supportive housing units across Ontario contributes to homelessness. In addition to long wait times, we heard about a lack of supportive housing for people with mental health issues with multiple needs. Some supportive housing providers may only address certain types of disabilities (mental health disabilities but not physical disabilities or addictions). This can create additional barriers for people from certain Code groups and leaves them with few housing options (for example, people with mental health issues who are older and able to live semi-independently, Indigenous women with addictions leaving prison, or people with eating disorders).

Some people are placed in housing that doesn’t match their needs. Examples are younger people with mental health issues or Huntington’s disease being placed in long-term care facilities (ACE).

Some submissions raised concerns about gearing housing specifically towards people with mental health issues because it reinforces separation instead of integration. We heard that living with other people in a communal setting can be extremely difficult for people with severe mental health issues, particularly if they require different levels of support, and that many people prefer privacy and living on their own. Also, due to a lack of resources, people may have little access to support in supervised housing and be subject to overcrowding.

We heard examples of how social and supportive housing opportunities can support people’s right to housing and improve the lives of people with mental health disabilities and addictions as well as other Code-protected groups. One Ottawa housing provider uses a harm-reduction model that allows people with addictions to stabilize. The rent-geared-to-income approach of social housing was described as responding to individual needs. Some social and supportive housing providers reported successfully working with tenants with mental health issues or addictions to accommodate their needs.

We also heard that the lack of affordable housing has a considerable impact on older adults, especially people with mental health needs, particularly because of the complex and physical health care needs older people may have. There is a lack of accessibility in the built environment for people with mobility impairments, and discrimination can arise in the rental housing market on multiple Code grounds including age and disability.

Psychiatric facilities may reject older adults who need a high level of care due to behavioural issues from dementia, psychiatric illness or other neurological issues. At the same time, these individuals are reportedly rejected by long term-care homes because of their complex needs, As a result, people have to live in substandard housing or remain in hospital.

We also heard concerns about how social or supportive housing is administered. If a person delays declaring changes in their income, even if it is because they were in hospital because of their disability, it can result in a threat to their subsidy or even eviction. Housing providers also said that the requirement to live independently is often subjective, and guidance is needed on how to interpret this section in the context of tenants with mental health and addiction disabilities.

We also heard concerns about the ways service is provided to people with mental health issues or addictions in supportive housing. Where supports are provided by staff and tied to the unit, tenants will lose this support if they move or get evicted.

People said that the rules under the Housing Services Act do not make it worthwhile to work part-time. The rules permit social housing providers to raise rents to account for increases in non-benefit income, such as from employment, when this income exceeds the amount specified in regulation. This is often made worse by a corresponding decrease in social assistance payments. Reports from the Metcalf Foundation describe how these rules keep people in poverty and perpetuate the need for social assistance.

OHRC recommendations:

  1. Review provincial policies and guides to make sure that social housing, service and program requirements are legitimate and do not adversely affect people with disabilities or other Code-protected groups by creating disincentives to accessing affordable housing or putting their housing tenancy at risk.
  2. Require, facilitate or encourage supportive housing providers to examine their application processes to ensure that the information collected is necessary and does not inadvertently create barriers for people with disabilities or other Code-protected groups or violate people’s rights to privacy. Before rejecting an individual, each housing provider must consider its obligations under the Code
    to assess a person’s individualized needs, and accommodate the person to the point of undue hardship.

Co-ordinated, accessible support services

The government’s consultation guide appropriately recognizes the important goal of supporting the diverse needs of Ontarians and that housing insecurity and homelessness affect some groups more than others. In particular, First Nation, Métis and Inuit Ontarians are more likely to be in core housing need and face a greater risk of homelessness than non-Indigenous Ontarians.

The consultation guide also recognizes that unique housing and supports are required for survivors of domestic violence, youth leaving care, seniors, and persons with mental health needs, addictions, physical disabilities or developmental disabilities.

The consultation guide describes families to be in all kinds of households and living arrangements across the province, and can include one individual, several families or several unrelated people. This broad notion of family is consistent with the OHRC’s consultation findings[19] and policy,[20] which recognize family status to include individuals in child-parent type relationships living in lone-parent and blended families, including families where parents are in same-sex relationships.

Many individuals from these various groups, as well as members of racialized communities, have experienced socio-economic disadvantage historically and continue to face prejudice, discrimination and harassment when trying to access housing accommodation.

NIMBYism, land use planning, housing licensing

The consultation guide asks how the government can improve regulatory and legislative tools to enhance housing affordability. During its consultations, public inquiries and litigation, the OHRC learned about how land use planning and municipal decision-making can lead to discrimination in housing.

Discriminatory opposition to affordable housing for groups protected under the Code (“not-in-my-backyard” syndrome or “NIMBYism”) makes it much harder to develop affordable social and supportive housing, and to maintain or increase the supply of affordable rental housing, as well as low-cost housing ownership. In Right at Home,[21]
a report on the OHRC’s consultation on human rights and rental housing, the OHRC recommended that governments and organizations monitor and combat discriminatory NIMBY opposition.

NIMBY opposition to housing projects is based on stereotypes or negative attitudes about the people who will live in them. These are often directly related to one or more Code grounds. This opposition can include discriminatory attitudes as well as actions, laws or policies developed by a municipality.

As discussed, many groups identified by Code grounds are more likely to require affordable housing, including group homes, lodging houses, social housing or other low-cost rental housing. When these forms of housing are restricted, such as by limits to their number or location, or more indirectly by design or building requirements in excess of those required of owner-occupied homes or by health and safety standards, Code-identified groups are disproportionately affected.

For example, we heard how NIMBY opposition is often directed towards supportive housing for people with mental health issues, because of mistaken community perceptions that property values would go down and crime would increase.

We also heard about zoning restrictions for group homes and lodging houses, such as exclusion from residential neighbourhoods, or requirements for minimum separation distances (MSDs) between these housing types. These restrictions significantly limit options and often lead to higher costs to develop group homes for people with developmental or mental health disabilities or youth in care, and limit the availability of very low-cost housing needed by these and many other Code-identified people.

We also heard concerns about opposition to services used by people with mental health disabilities and addictions and other Code-protected groups, such as homeless shelters and addiction treatment centres. Some municipalities have passed or attempted to pass bylaws to eliminate or restrict services to people with addictions.

Licensing bylaws are often being designed in ways that seem at cross-purposes with affordable housing goals. Many municipalities are licensing rental housing and lodging houses in ways that target or disproportionately affect Code-identified groups, and appear to limit availability and affordability of rental housing.

In particular, we have seen rental licensing bylaws targeted to student areas, or to certain forms of housing, such as low-density “single-family” homes in neighbourhoods.

Licensing is also often linked to discriminatory zoning restrictions, such as where rented houses are redefined as “lodging houses,” regardless of whether the occupants form a household, and then subjected to zoning restrictions and more onerous health and safety requirements that don't apply to similar houses in the neighbourhood.

Also, some proposed licensing schemes apply rules and requirements, such as bedroom limits and floor area requirements, that do not appear to be justified by any legitimate rationale, such as Building or Fire Codes, property standards, planning issues, or to address specific documented problems. Rather, they appear to arbitrarily limit the houses or rooms available for rental, or the number of tenants who can occupy the housing.

The common focus on placing limits, instead of facilitating rental housing as a form of affordable housing, can reduce the overall availability and drive up the cost of much-needed housing.

These types of “people zoning” practices have long been recognized as problematic and outside the scope of the Planning Act.[22] Such bylaws may discriminate even if they do not explicitly mention the characteristics of the people who will occupy the housing, because of their impact on marginalized, Code-protected groups.

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), which hears land-use planning disputes and has the jurisdiction to apply the Human Rights Code, is an important forum for challenging NIMBYism and respecting human rights.

The OHRC became involved in two cases where the OMB struck down attempts by the cities of Hamilton[23] and Kitchener[24] to restrict the location of group homes and services for people with disabilities by using minimum separation distances.

New concerns have emerged that licensing, which cannot be appealed to the OMB, sometimes appears to be a proxy for “people zoning.” In some municipalities, licensing may be linked to exclusionary zoning bylaws, or otherwise appears to target certain Code groups or forms of affordable housing, which can have a discriminatory impact. While municipalities have the right to license rental housing, licensing should be undertaken only for legitimate purposes, such as to address genuine health and safety, land use and property maintenance concerns.

We have learned that some municipalities appear to be using subsection 17(24.1) of the Planning Act to shield exclusionary aspects of official plans and zoning amendments from appeal, despite advice from the OHRC and/or the Ministry. For example, Oshawa has allowed second units city-wide, with the exception of areas around colleges and universities, adversely affecting students based on their age.

The Dream Team,[25] a group of advocates living with mental health disabilities, has been instrumental in challenging discriminatory zoning practices by Ontario municipalities. In 2010, the group filed human rights applications at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against Toronto, Sarnia, Smiths Falls and Kitchener to challenge MSDs and other zoning restrictions for group homes for Ontarians with disabilities. The Dream Team was represented by the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, and the OHRC intervened in the cases. The cases were settled successfully by 2014 after each municipality amended its bylaws, removing the discriminatory restrictions.[26] As part of its review of the issue, the City of Toronto released an independent expert’s report that found no planning justification for MSDs for group homes, and recommended that they be removed.[27]

OHRC recommendations:

  1. Include language in the Municipal Act and the City of Toronto Act stating that licensing must comply with the Human Rights Code; and issue guidelines, educational materials and communications to that effect.
  2. Provide clear direction to municipalities to identify and remove zoning barriers, including removing minimum separation distances and other zoning prohibitions and restrictions for group homes that limit affordable housing without a land-use planning or health and safety rationale; that distinguish between housing of similar size and land use based on who lives in the housing; and by allowing group homes, lodging houses, supportive housing and multiple-owner co-owned houses as-of-right.
  3. Undertake a province-wide review of the land use planning system for a preventative approach to removing municipal planning barriers that adversely affect human rights.
  4. Require municipalities across Ontario to review their zoning and rental housing licensing bylaws and remove any non-legitimate requirements that cause barriers to housing and services used by people with mental health issues or addictions (such as group homes or addiction treatment centres).
  5. Have the planning system provide incentives, and use other measures, to make sure that zoning bylaws and municipal and regional official plans are consistent with provincial policies and priorities and with the Human Rights Code.
  6. Require, permit or encourage inclusionary zoning measures: laws and bylaws that require developers and municipalities to set aside a percentage of new housing for affordable housing, or a percentage of housing to accommodate persons with disabilities or other Code-related needs who are disproportionately likely to be in need of housing; and take other steps to advance inclusionary housing across the province.
  7. Consider options that would enable the goal of the appeal exemption under the Planning Act to be met while limiting the potential for municipalities to use it to protect restrictions or rules that may contravene the Code or circumvent the Ministry's own affordable housing goals.


The OHRC has reported on discriminatory treatment in rental housing affecting various Code-protected groups at the screening stage and during tenancy that can sometimes lead to eviction and even homelessness.

Many people report that private sector landlords refuse to rent to them because they are from Indigenous or racialized communities, because they are single parents, or because of their place of origin, gender identity, disability, etc. Many have said they are consistently denied housing because their income is from social assistance despite the prohibition against this form of discrimination under the Code. Even when they are accepted as tenants, people can face harassment from landlords and other tenants poisoning their environment. People also report landlords and social housing providers repeatedly ignore them when they ask for repairs to their unit.

In private rental housing, many people said they were denied housing after revealing,or being perceived to have, a mental health issue or addiction. In a study done by the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, it estimated that one in three house-seekers who disclose a mental illness will experience discrimination in the Toronto rental housing market. 

We heard how some people with a psychiatric history were wrongly stereotyped as being unable to take care of themselves, irresponsible tenants or even dangerous. Some were asked to have a co-signor or guarantor, or were asked for extra deposits beyond one month’s rent. People were often asked intrusive questions not knowing they do not have to disclose information about their disabilities to a potential landlord.

In both the private and social housing market, individuals said that they or people they knew were threatened with eviction or lost their housing due to having a mental health disability or addiction, which sometimes resulted in homelessness.

Legal decision-makers have recognized that people who are homeless are among the most vulnerable in society and often have mental health issues or addictions,[28] and have considered evidence that shows the impact of homelessness on physical and mental health.[29]

We heard how people might be evicted or threatened with eviction for behaviour related to their disability that disturbs the “reasonable enjoyment of the premises” of other tenants. This can be grounds for eviction under the Residential Tenancies Act. However, people described how some landlords jump to evict people with mental health disabilitiesor addictions before trying to take the time to resolve any issues, if they occur. In these situations, the duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship will apply.

It can be challenging sometimes for landlords and housing providers to balance the rights of the person with the disability who requires accommodation when these may conflict with the rights of other tenants. We heard about different strategies that were successful when tenants and housing providers used the accommodation process. For example, if the person’s needs are complex, accommodation could involve contacting outside supports or implementing a team approach, with the person’s consent.

Discrimination in accessing and retaining market rental housing means that often, the most vulnerable groups and those with lowest incomes must resort to paying rental costs far above what is considered affordable. This increases risk of homelessness, hunger, lack of accommodation, harassment, and other discrimination within housing, as so few options are available to tenants.

OHRC recommendations:

  1. Educate social, co-operative and private housing providers about their obligations under the Human Rights Code
  2. Support social, co-operative and private housing providers to ensure they meet their duty to accommodate. This could include making sure there are sufficient third-party agencies available to assist with tenants’ accommodation needs.
  3. Support social, co-operative and for-profit housing providers to develop human rights expertise so they can provide housing-related human rights advice, mediate and investigate complaints where appropriate, and do barrier reviews
    of their policies and procedures.

Police record checks

Screening for criminal history in private rental housing is becoming more common. This practice negatively affects groups, such as Indigenous and racialized communities and people with mental health and addiction disabilities. These groups have historically had disproportionate contact with the criminal justice system and experience related discrimination such as racial profiling contrary to Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

CMHA Sudbury-Manitoulin told us, for example, that people with mental health issues or addictions with criminal records have a very difficult time finding housing that will accept them.

In April 2015, the OHRC made a submission to the to the Ontario government’s consultation on mandating standards for police record checks.[30] The Government has since introduced legislation for public input.[31] The OHRC raised concerns about the potential discriminatory effects of police record checks on certain groups, causing barriers to accessing employment, housing and other services. The OHRC pointed out that the current limited protection for record of offences under the Code only applies to employment and not to the areas of housing, or services or vocational associations.

OHRC recommendation:

  1. Review how proposed legislated standards for police record checks and other protections for record of offences would apply to housing as well.

Child and family services

In its submission to the Government’s review of the Child and Family Services Act, the OHRC reported concerns that children in Ontario continue to be relinquished to or apprehended by children’s aid societies because of inadequate housing.[32]

In 2012, the Commission to Promote Sustainable Welfare also reported that “families receiving child welfare services often face a complex array of issues that may include inadequate housing as well as poverty, addiction, racism, poor health, unemployment and social isolation.”

Similar concerns were raised in the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its 2006 report on Canada. The Committee noted that low-income families, single-mother-led families and Aboriginal and African Canadian families are overrepresented in families whose children are relinquished to foster care. The Committee was concerned that women continue to be forced to relinquish their children into foster care because of inadequate housing. The Committee recommended that the government collect statistical data to accurately assess the extent of the problem. It also recommended that the federal, provincial and territorial governments undertake take all necessary measures, including financial support where necessary, to avoid such relinquishment.

During its housing consultation, the OHRC heard that poverty rates experienced by Indigenous peoples, African Canadians, persons with disabilities and other groups disproportionally affect their access to adequate housing.

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing also reported from its 2007 mission to Canada that women, especially Aboriginal women, attempting to leave abusive relationships have few housing options and face the threat of child protection agencies apprehending their children. The Special Rapporteur recommended that “[s]ufficient income and housing assistance should be ensured to allow mothers to secure adequate housing and maintain custody of their children.”

OHRC recommendations:

  1. Review the Child and Family Services Act, and/or any interpretive policies and guides, to make sure inadequate housing or poverty is not a stand-alone factor for considering whether the child’s well-being is at risk.
  2. Report on the proportion of children and their families with low income and inadequate housing receiving child and family services, including by collecting and/or monitoring aggregate data disaggregated by disadvantaged groups identified in the Poverty Reduction Act.

Evidence and best practices

Based on its research, public consultation and inquiries, and litigation, the OHRC agrees with the consultation guide that there is a lack of data, limiting the understanding and ability to track progress towards achieving the vision of everyone having an affordable, suitable and adequate home.

In 2013, the OHRC made a submission to the Government’s review of Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy[33] recommending it break down its success indicators, including the housing measure, to show the impact of the strategy on immigrants, women, lone mothers, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples and racialized groups who disproportionally experience poverty.

The Government’s 2014 Poverty Reduction Strategy reflects in part the OHRC’s recommendation by committing to measure the poverty rate of these vulnerable groups. At the same time, public concern has been raised through the media that the Government could not meet its target for reducing poverty of children and their families by 25% during the five years of its first strategy. There is also concern that the Government has not yet set a target for its new focus on homelessness.

OHRC recommendations:

  1. Report yearly on, among other measures, the poverty rate, the rate of core housing need (unaffordable, inadequate, unsuitable) and progress towards a homelessness reduction target for children and their families as well as the other disadvantaged groups identified under the Poverty Reduction Act and Poverty Reduction Strategy: immigrants, women, lone mothers, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples and racialized groups.
  2. Provide “best practice” human rights-related information, education and resources to housing service providers and those responsible for related programs and services, including developing and/or updating provincial guides, having regard for OHRC policies and guides.

The OHRC has prepared several policies and guides to help promote best practices in human rights and housing:

Other OHRC submissions addressing the link between poverty, housing and inequality

[1] The OHRC made an initial submission in 2009 to the consultation leading to the first Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy 2010, online:

[5] Section 2(2)3 of the Poverty Reduction Act, 2009 recognizes, “That not all groups of people share the same level of risk of poverty. The poverty reduction strategy must recognize the heightened risk among groups such as immigrants, women, single mothers, people with disabilities, aboriginal peoples and racialized groups.” Section 2(3)3 of the Act also recognizes that “housing” is one of the key determinants of poverty and accordingly requires annual reporting on indicators to measure its success.

[10] The Supreme Court of Canada has said that domestic law (which includes the Code and the Charter) should be interpreted to be consistent with Canada’s international commitments (see Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [1999] 2 S.C.R. 817 at para. 69). Courts in Ontario have recognized the intersection between socio-economic status and grounds of discrimination that are protected in the Code [see Kearney v. Bramalea Ltd. (No. 2), (1998), 34 C.H.R.R. D/1 (Ont. Bd. Inq.); aff’d Shelter Corp. v. Ontario (Human Rights Comm.) (2001), 39 C.H.R.R. D/111 (Ont. Sup. Ct.), a case that involved the discriminatory use by several landlords of minimum income criteria or rent-to-income ratios when assessing applications for tenancy].

[11] ICESCR Article 28: The provisions of the present Covenant shall extend to all parts of federal States without any limitations or exceptions.

[12] The right to housing and the state of affordable, available housing in Ontario and Canada is reported on in great depth in the OHRC’s Human rights and rental housing in Ontario: Background paper (2007), its housing consultation report, Right at Home (2008), and in its Policy on human rights and rental housing (2009), as well as in Minds that Matter: Report on the consultation on human rights, mental health and addictions (2012), and its Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions (2014); online:

[13] People are said to be in core housing need if their homes are inadequate, unsuitable or unaffordable; and if they would need to spend more than 30% of their income to access other housing at the median local rent. Also see: Jacqueline Luffman, “Measuring Housing Affordability” (2006) 7(11) November. Perspectives on Labour and Income, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 75-001-XIE. Online: Statistics Canada (retrieved April 22, 2015) at 16.

[14] Report on Equality Rights of Aboriginal People, Canadian Human Rights Commission 2013, online:

[15] Adapted from Statistics Canada, Custom Tabulation (for the OHRC), Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS), 2006, adults age 15 and over.

[16] In the PALS, this group was defined as people with “emotional disabilities.”

[17]“Submission to the Ontario Human Rights Commission on Human Rights and Rental Housing in Ontario,” by the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, and the Social Rights Advocacy Centre with the National Working Group on Women and Housing in Canada, 2007; and Human Rights, Access and Equity: CERA’s recommendations for the Homelessness Action task Force, November 1998.

[18] Adopted from OHRC reports Minds that Matter and Right at Home, supra, note12.

[19] The cost of caring: Report on the consultation on discrimination on the basis of family status (OHRC), online:

[20] OHRC Policy and guidelines on discrimination because of family status, online:

[22] The analysis of “people zoning” comes from the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Bell (1979), (S.C.C.), 98 D.L.R. (3rd) 255, in which the Court struck down a bylaw limiting dwelling occupants to family members, stating that this was “people zoning” and outside of the scope of the Planning Act.

[23] When the City of Hamilton refused the Lynwood Charlton Centre’s request to move its home for eight teenage girls with mental health issues, the OHRC intervened in a successful appeal of the decision at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The OMB agreed with the OHRC’s arguments that the Centre’s proposal aims to remove land use barriers and improve accessibility to appropriate housing for persons with disabilities, which is consistent with the Ontario government’s Provincial Policy Statement and other planning legislation. The OMB also agreed that the PPS requirement that planning authorities permit and facilitate housing for special needs is a “powerful direction reflecting an important provincial policy interest.” The City of Hamilton decided not to appeal the decision, and has committed to conducting “a comprehensive review of residential care facilities in the context of the PPS, as it relates to special needs, separation distances and the Human Rights Code.” Hamilton (City) Zoning By-law 6593 (Re), (2013) 78 O.M.B.R. 253.

[24] In 2010, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) ruled that municipalities have to consider the needs of everyone – including people with disabilities or on social assistance – when making bylaws. Two bylaws stopped new non-profit and supportive housing and services from being built in the Cedar Hill neighbourhood in downtown Kitchener. The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and other groups objected, and the OHRC intervened and made the argument that the OMB had to apply the Code when considering the case. Kitchener (City) Official Plan Amendment No. 58 (Re), (2010) 64 O.M.B.R. 283.

[27] Agrawal, Dr. Sandeep, “Opinion on the Provisions of Group Homes in the City-wide Zoning By-law of the City of Toronto.” See City of Toronto Staff report to the Planning and Growth Management Committee, February 28, 2014, Attachment 1, pp. 33-83. Accessed online at:

[28] See Victoria (City) v. Adams, 2009 BCCA 563 (CanLII) at para. 75; Victoria (City) v. Adams, 2008 BCSC 1363 (CanLII); Pivot Legal Society v. Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Assn. (No. 6) (2012), CHRR Doc. 12-0023, 2012 BCHRT 23 (CanLII).

[29] Victoria (City) v. Adams, 2009, ibid. at para. 26; Victoria (City) v. Adams, 2008, ibid. at para. 44.

[42] Also see OHRC 2013 Submission to the City of Toronto Statutory Public Meeting for the draft city-wide Zoning By-law online at

[48] Supra, note 1.