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5. Recommendations

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5.1 Per-person floor area requirements

The OHRC recommends that the City immediately eliminate per-person floor area requirements from its bylaw.

5.2 Minimum separation distances

There is a general trend towards removing MSDs from bylaws and official plans, and more than one bylaw has faced a legal challenge because it includes MSDs.[77]

In communications with the OHRC, the City stated:

With respect to the planning purposes behind the classification and zoning of lodging houses, we again point out that these provisions go back almost twenty years, and that the City is right now undertaking a review of its Zoning By-laws, including the lodging house provisions.The City of Waterloo has changed significantly over the last few decades, and what is accepted as good and conventional planning practice has significantly developed over the last few decades, as has provincial policy and legislation. It would be premature to speculate how this review will ultimately affect the zoning (and definition) of lodging houses in the City of Waterloo, or what planning purposes will inform the lodging house zoning regime which will be implemented. That said, we again note that the new Official Plan does not contain MDS provisions.”[78]

On May 17, 2013, the City stated:

… the City cannot lawfully make any commitment at this time to amend its Zoning By-law to delete the existing MDS provisions. There are notice and procedural requirements that must be complied with prior to considering and passing a Zoning By-law. It would be improper and unlawful for the City to commit to any Zoning By-law or amendment without having taken such steps. As such, at this time we can only point you to the steps that the City has taken, including the passage of a new Official Plan which does not contain the MDS provisions that concern the Commission.

City staff can commit to considering both the Human Rights Code and the Commission’s comments in the course of preparing the new draft Zoning By-law. The Commission is encouraged to weigh in directly with the City (Development Services) if it wishes to make further comments on MDS restrictions or any other planning issues that would potentially impact on the new draft Zoning By-law that is currently being prepared.  Legally, no further commitment can be made by the City at this time regarding the provisions of the City’s zoning By-laws.

We can confirm that the City’s comprehensive zoning review is already underway – it will look at all aspects of zoning for the entire City, with the principal goal of bringing the City’s Zoning By-law into conformity with the new Official Plan. This process is regulated under the Planning Act, and public engagement is a key aspect of the zoning review. It is anticipated that this public engagement will occur in many forms, including informal public meetings, open houses, workshops, formal public meetings and various types of media. Although it will take some time to undertake this process, particularly given the numerous stakeholders and the City’s desire to meaningfully engage these stakeholders, the target for completion of the new comprehensive Zoning By-law is sometime in 2014.

There is a very real possibility that the City’s application of MSDs to certain rental units with more than three occupants will disadvantage people in Waterloo because of their association with a Code ground. The OHRC recommends that these MSDs be removed.

While the City expects to develop a new zoning bylaw sometime in 2014, and while that new zoning bylaw may not include the MSDs in question, the City remains vulnerable to a HRTO Application with respect to MSD provisions, until they are removed. In the meantime, the City may consider ways to mitigate the impact of existing MSD provisions. For example:

  • The City could prioritize and expedite the comprehensive zoning review process
  • The City could consider ways that MSD-related amendments can be considered and approved separate from (and perhaps prior to) other amendments
  • The City could investigate whether it can limit the impact of MSD provisions, until such time as they can be removed
  • City staff could make strong recommendations to those involved in the process, to remove the MSDs.

5.3 Monitoring

In communications with the OHRC, the City stated:

City staff are still developing an appropriate monitoring program. Given how recently the Rental Housing Licensing By-law came into force, and the fact that it is still in the process of being implemented, it is premature to commit to any particular formal monitoring regime. To date, the City has contacted universities, property managers, real estate professionals and student organizations, plus it hears directly from landlords, tenants and other members of the public in the ordinary course of administering the licensing program and the City’s other by-laws. Based on this anecdotal input from the community, the City is as confident as possible – given the short passage of time since implementing the by-law – that the licensing program is not responsible for increased difficulty in finding rental units. The City will continue to monitor the situation.

The City went on to say:

The City will consider whether formal data gathering would be appropriate once the by-law has been in place for a sufficient period of time, and based on a consideration of its experience in the day-to-day course of administering the by-law and running the City.[79]

The OHRC recommends that the City implement a monitoring program that tracks the impact of its licensing bylaw on Code-protected groups on an ongoing basis over a five-year period, consistent with the principles laid out in the OHRC publication Count Me In! Collecting human rights-based data and Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensing, recommendation 12. The OHRC would be happy to help the City in this endeavour.

5.4 Enforcement

The City’s “By-law Enforcement and Property Standards Procedure” states on page 7:

When making a decision related to the revocation or suspension of a Residential Rental Licensing Business the Director shall consider:

1. Imposing terms or conditions on any such licence revocation or suspension that would minimize the adverse impact on any Tenant, including the possibility of providing a reasonable time period before the licence revocation or suspension takes place to permit Tenants to find new housing or to seek relief from the Court or before the Ontario Landlord Tenant Board …

The OHRC recommends that the City state in the Procedure that the landlord, not the tenant, will be the focus of any enforcement action.

The OHRC further recommends that tenants of a rental unit be informed of any health and safety or other licensing violation as soon as the municipality is aware of it.

5.5 Education

It is essential that the City continue to educate people about the bylaw to ensure that it is understood and applied fairly and consistently in ways that minimize the chances of discriminatory impact.

The OHRC understands that the City has a “FAQ” section on its website. The OHRC recommends that the City ensure that this section addresses common points of concern and confusion, and refers to the Code. The OHRC also recommends that it mails the document in brochure form to “all tenants” of registered rental addresses.

The OHRC wishes to thank all of the people who took part in the inquiry, particularly the tenants who shared their opinions and experiences. The ORHC also thanks the staff and officials at the City of Waterloo for their cooperation. The OHRC remains available to assist the City in its ongoing monitoring and public education efforts related to the bylaw and its relationship to the Ontario Human Rights Code.


[77] The City of Guelph’s zoning bylaw (2010) 19076, which imposed minimum separation distances on rental housing, was challenged at the Ontario Municipal Board. The City rescinded its bylaw before the case proceeded to a hearing. The City of Hamilton’s refusal to enact a proposed amendment to zoning bylaw 6593 (which imposes minimum separation distances on group homes), is currently being challenged at the Ontario Municipal Board. The City of Toronto’s pre-amalgamation zoning bylaws (currently in force), and city-wide zoning bylaw (currently in draft), which impose minimum separation distances on group homes and residential care homes and other uses, are currently being challenged at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

[78] Letter from the City’s counsel to the OHRC, November 16, 2012.

[79] Letter from the City’s counsel to the OHRC, November 16, 2012.


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