Human rights in rental housing are not just a concern for housing providers and government, although they clearly share a large part of the responsibility. Nor are they a matter only of interest to a small group of tenants and their advocates. We all have a stake in ensuring that the human rights protections we value have meaning in our communities.
This report focuses on the serious human rights issues that undermine the housing security of Ontario’s most vulnerable tenants, and sets out recommendations and commitments to begin to address these concerns. The issues noted in this report have taken a long time to develop and will take a concerted effort to address. What this report points out is that a human rights analysis provides a further tool to help us all work together to address the fundamental issues of inequality within the rental housing sector. The Code and the applicable international conventions require nothing less.
In May 2007, the Commission initiated a public consultation with the launch of background and consultation papers both entitled Human Rights and Rental Housing in Ontario. The background paper described in detail the Commission’s research into the legal, social and international context for the discussion of rental housing in Ontario. The consultation paper highlighted the key issues from the background paper and set out a series of questions to guide the Commission’s process of gathering feedback.
Beginning in June 2007, the Commission held public and private meetings in four cities across the province to hear about the extent of the problems and to identify potential solutions. Around 130 organizations and an additional 24 individuals participated in afternoon consultation meetings in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, Sudbury and Toronto, and over 100 people participated in evening sessions in these locations. Hundreds more participated in other events including sessions held by COSTI, the Ontario Federation of Students, the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association (OMSSA), the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) and the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada. The Commission continued to meet with organizations, including the Federation of Rental- Housing Providers (FRPO), and individuals throughout the fall of 2007.
As well, between May and September 2007, the Commission received written submissions from over 60 organizations representing a variety of perspectives including those of tenant advocates and housing providers. Many of the submissions prepared by community organizations were based on input from meetings attended by community members, tenants or people working in the housing field, such as property managers or service managers. The Commission appreciates the efforts these agencies have taken to have their submissions reflect a broad range of experiences in their communities. In addition, almost 100 individuals sent us their comments or used our online surveys to share their experiences and concerns.
All of this material has been considered in writing this report and will be taken into account in preparing the Commission’s policy on human rights and rental housing. It should be noted, however, that many housing providers did not comment on the breadth of issues raised in the consultation paper. The key issues of concern for the majority of housing providers who contributed to the consultation were tenant screening (section 4.2), the duty to accommodate (section 4.3) and the barriers to developing affordable housing posed by NIMBY opposition (section 5.5).