The OHRC’s inquiry looked into whether anyone may have experienced Code-based discrimination as a result of Waterloo’s rental housing licensing regime. The inquiry is authorized under clauses 29 (c) and (e) of the Code which permit the OHRC to “undertake, direct and encourage research into discriminatory practices and to make recommendations designed to prevent and eliminate such discriminatory practices” and to “initiate reviews and inquiries into incidents of tension or conflict.”
The OHRC’s mandate includes protecting the human rights of people who are vulnerable because of their age, receipt of public assistance, disability, family status and other factors. Many vulnerable people rely on rental housing. The inquiry was designed to collect information about these people’s experiences with the rental housing licensing bylaw, and to collect information about the City’s processes and policies relating to rental housing licensing.
2.1 Surveys and follow-up to surveys
The OHRC used surveys to collect information from tenants, landlords and organizations that help people who are looking for rental housing. Targeted outreach for this project included making surveys available on the OHRC’s website, and emailing them directly to agencies that work with vulnerable people in the Waterloo community.
The OHRC did not accept any anonymous submissions, but did make a commitment to respect the confidentiality of responses. The OHRC did not disclose surveys to any party.
The survey period ran from March 8 to April 30, 2012. The OHRC received 228 submissions from people and organizations in Waterloo.
The OHRC conducted follow-up interviews with a number of survey participants via telephone and email in 2012, and again in early 2013.
Our goal was to collect people’s stories about the impact of the bylaw. The surveys were not designed to constitute a statistically representative sample of the community. Instead, the goal was to collect qualitative data. The resulting responses have given the OHRC valuable insight into effects and potential effects of the bylaw and the experiences of the people who did respond.
The OHRC heard from tenants of diverse ages, backgrounds and household compositions. Of the 66 tenants who completed surveys, about half were students, and half were 25 years old or younger. A majority were single, living in a range of households, from renting a room from a family, to living alone, sharing a unit with one or two friends, or living in collective households of several people, or in lodging houses. Several reported living with a partner, and 11 tenants reported having families with 1 – 6 dependents. Several reported that they or other household members share bedrooms. About a quarter were first-time renters in Waterloo.
Landlord responses ranged from a tenant who had a lodger, to landlords renting out one or two rooms in their homes, to owners of multiple properties. Just under one-third of landlords taking part in the survey lived in the same building as their tenants, and more than half owned only one property.
2.2 Additional comments
The OHRC provided contact information on its website for anyone who had questions or comments about the inquiry, and received 44 calls, letters and emails from residents outlining their perspectives and concerns. About 20 of these were from non-landlord homeowners and others not clearly identified as landlords or tenants, expressing various views on the bylaw.
2.3 Materials disclosed by the City
The OHRC requested, under clause 31(7)(a) of the Code, that the City share documents they had relating to the purpose and implementation of the bylaw. The OHRC reviewed the materials provided by the City – including documents about public consultations, reports, complaints relating to the bylaw, minutes from City Council meetings, and emails sent to and from City staff.
2.4 Correspondence with the City
The OHRC corresponded with the City and requested more information, where necessary, to make sure that the City’s positions are accurately represented in this report.
2.5 Other information
The OHRC analyzed the information gathered from the surveys, additional commentary, disclosure materials and discussions with the City, along with data gathered from other sources, including primary and secondary sources and legal and social science research. The report was also informed by the OHRC’s previous work on housing, including province-wide consultations with planners, tenant groups and a broad range of people in the housing sector.
This report is based on all of the submissions and information that the OHRC reviewed during the inquiry process.