Toronto – The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) today released a report on its inquiry into rental housing licensing in the City of North Bay. The report outlines what the OHRC heard, identifies the City’s response to some concerns, gives recommendations for advancing human rights moving forward, and also refers to one part of the bylaw where human rights issues remain.
The OHRC began the inquiry with a survey in March/April 2012 of tenants, landlords and organizations dealing with rental housing. Over 185 people responded to the survey. The OHRC followed up with some respondents, attended a community meeting, and reviewed materials disclosed by the City and housing research from other sources. All of this is reflected in the final report.
The City made commitments to reinforce ground rules to respect human rights at community meetings, allow a reasonable time to accommodate tenants who may be displaced if rental housing is shut down, enforce the bylaw with property owners not tenants, educate the public, and monitor the bylaw on an ongoing basis.
The OHRC heard concerns about the impact of bedroom caps, gross floor area requirements and licensing fees. Based on the information provided to the OHRC, these elements in North Bay’s bylaw do not appear to be discriminatory.
There is one bylaw feature that will be discriminatory in some cases. The City grants exemptions to the bylaw if two or fewer people are paying rent for the household. This focuses on people, not buildings. The OHRC calls for North Bay to remove this from the bylaw, because this rule can adversely affect students, single people, certain religious or ethnic groups and other Code-protected people who may not live in “traditional” family units.
Some of the promising steps North Bay is taking have been included in a new OHRC guide, Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensing. This guide is designed to help municipalities make the connection between housing licensing and human rights, and includes advice on steps that can advance human rights and steps to avoid. The guide will be distributed to every Ontario municipality, planning schools, colleges and universities, housing advocates, and to organizations and individuals involved in housing.
“Rental housing licensing is a fairly new concept in Ontario,” said OHRC Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall. “Our goal was to look closely at how licensing would affect families, students, seniors and vulnerable people who identify with grounds of Ontario’s Human Rights Code. I thank City staff and the many North Bay residents who spoke with us about this bylaw. We found some promising practices that we’ll share across Ontario, and we will continue to work with municipalities to make sure that there is room for everyone in our communities.”
While conducting the North Bay inquiry, the OHRC also led an inquiry into rental housing licensing in the City of Waterloo. A report on Waterloo is planned for the end of May.
Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall is available for interviews between 9:00 – 11:00 am and 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Please call Afroze Edwards at 416-314-4528 to arrange for an interview.
Senior Communications Officer,
Ontario Human Rights Commission,