Receipt of public assistance
In housing, the Code protects tenants against discrimination based on receipt of public assistance. “Public assistance” – more commonly referred to as social assistance – includes Ontario Works, OSAP, ODSP, Old Age Security, Employment Insurance, etc.
Some housing providers have negative attitudes towards people who are poor. They may take several steps that could contravene the Code, such as:
- screen out prospective tenants based on stereotypes about poverty and poor people
- impose illegal rental criteria (such as security deposits)
- provide substandard housing-related services
- harass tenants
- be more quick to try to evict.
Ontario is one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the world. Yet, there are still many Ontarians who do not have access to adequate and affordable rental housing. There appear to be several reasons for this, including a shortage of housing supply, low social assistance and wage rates and discrimination practiced by housing providers. Measures have been undertaken in recent years to address housing supply, for example the much talked about Canada/Ontario Affordable Housing Agreement. However, it is clear that much remains to be done.
The Commission heard that the eligibility criteria for some of these programs make them inaccessible to people on disability pensions or social assistance. MMAH noted that some service managers allow or disallow social assistance recipients and social housing tenants from accessing rent bank assistance because they already benefit from other programs.
The OHRC knows that low social and economic status is a common factor in many types of housing discrimination. People identified by Code grounds are disproportionately likely to have low incomes. The shelter allowance rates for people and families who receive social assistance are far below market levels.
March 2012 - The OHRC will focus its comments on the issues and barriers identified in the CRSAO’s reports that connect to the OHRC’s current priority initiatives dealing with racism experienced by Aboriginal people and other groups as well as disability, especially mental health discrimination.
Many individuals and organizations talked about people’s experiences with poverty. Poverty is a significant concern for people across Ontario with psychosocial disabilities. Unemployment, underemployment, discrimination and the lack of affordable housing for people with psychosocial disabilities were identified as major factors contributing to poverty.
Those seeking rental housing who are in receipt of public assistance, as well as other Code-identified individuals with low incomes, have been particularly affected by the application of minimum income criteria. Many landlords apply a standard guideline that a tenant applicant should be spending no more than 25-35 percent of his or her income on rent. Those who fall short of this ratio are rejected.
2001 - This paper is one of several initiatives by the Ontario Human Rights Commission to explore ways in which human rights commissions can become more involved in protecting and promoting economic and social rights and in implementing international treaties to which Canada is a party. The challenge for human rights commissions is to find ways to maximize the potential of their mandates to promote international standards, including those contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.