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Re: Bill 140, Strong Communities through Affordable Housing Act, 2011

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April 5, 2011
Hon Rick Bartolucci
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
17th Flr
777 Bay St
Toronto ON M5G 2E5

Dear Minister,

On behalf of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, I would like to congratulate you on bringing forward Bill 140. The Bill is receiving general support for taking positive steps on oversight, local planning and flexibility for delivery of affordable housing services, as well as for its requirements on municipal zoning laws permitting second unit apartments. However, concerns remain about very long waiting lists for limited availability of affordable housing in Ontario.

It is vital that Ontario recognizes housing as a human right and a matter of provincial and national interest. This is because first, the international community recognizes housing as a human right; second, because housing is protected under Ontario’s Human Rights Code; and, because those most in need of affordable housing are the same individuals and groups that face discriminatory tenant screening, accommodation barriers and lack of inclusive design, and neighbourhood opposition to affordable housing projects.

The OHRC is pleased to see the Bill sets out a number of areas of “provincial interest” for development of provincial policy and local plans relating to housing and homelessness, including “treat[ing] individuals and families with respect and dignity”. The OHRC recommends that the Government add “human rights” as an area of provincial interest. We then recommend that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing develop a provincial policy statement for local plans to address housing discrimination and human rights obligations.

The OHRC supports a number of other amendments proposed by groups, including the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, the Social Rights Advocacy Centre, the Housing Network of Ontario, Ontario Municipal Social Services Association, March of Dimes Canada and the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, among others. The proposed amendments are consistent with recommendations the OHRC made in its 2008 consultation report, Right at Home, the OHRC’s 2009 Policy on Human Rights and Rental Housing, and with its November 2010 Comment on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s Provincial Policy Statement on land use planning and development under the Planning Act.

Bill 140 should:

  • Acknowledge the “right to adequate housing” and require the Minister to implement an affordable housing strategy which addresses the obligation to “respect, protect, promote and fulfil” the right to adequate housing, as guaranteed under international human rights law
  • Require reasonable goals and timetables be set for the reduction and elimination of homelessness
  • Require program coordination and consolidation at the inter-ministerial level to better facilitate local planning and support solutions for affordable and accessible housing with supports for special needs
  • Require local plans to identify barriers and priorities for the needs of the most vulnerable groups. This should include examination of discriminatory barriers to affordable housing that may be contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code
  • Authorize municipalities to enact “inclusionary” housing requirements to guarantee a proportion of affordable housing units in new “mixed income” developments
  • Require meaningful participation of civil society and stakeholders in provincial and local planning including those that represent groups in need of adequate housing
  • Provide for transparent accountability mechanisms, including independent monitoring and progress review over the implementation of the affordable housing strategy
  • Provide for an individual complaints mechanism and means to effect remedies
  • Provide for a mechanism for provincial follow up to United Nations reports and recommendations

The OHRC would be pleased to meet with you or members of your staff to discuss these recommendations and other ideas for recognizing housing as a human right in Ontario.

Yours truly,

Barbara Hall, B.A, LL.B, Ph.D (hon.)
Chief Commissioner