Responsibility for housing, either as a Service Manager or as a landlord, also includes a responsibility for human rights. A human rights lens needs to be applied to all housing matters, including the use of tools enabled by legislation.
Municipalities must follow a variety of provincial legislation regulating housing and housing-related issues. Examples are the Residential Tenancies Act and the Housing Services Act. Both of these contain provisions that can help prevent discrimination and encourage inclusiveness.
But a municipality’s responsibility does not end there – it must also comply with the Human Rights Code. And if there is a conflict between the legislation and the Code, the Code must prevail.
What is a Service Manager?
Local Service Managers are responsible for funding and administering social housing. A Service Manager can be a regional government, county, or a separated city, depending on local circumstances. Service Managers are also responsible for administering other social programs, such as Ontario Works and childcare. (Source: www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page6450.aspx)
Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (RTA)
The RTA is the legislation governing rental housing in Ontario. Under the RTA, when selecting prospective tenants, landlords can only consider information that complies with the Human Rights Code and related regulations. They may not discriminate on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, disability or the receipt of public assistance.
If a person is already a tenant, the RTA does not allow landlords to evict them based on any of the grounds of discrimination included in the Code.
The Code also provides that every person has the right to equal treatment and to be free from discrimination when applying for housing and during their tenancy, and a tenant has the right to freedom from harassment by the landlord or other tenants based on race, ancestry, etc. The Code also outlines a landlord’s legal duty to accommodate tenants based on the Code grounds.
For more information on appropriate landlord practices, see the OHRC’s Policy on Human Rights and Rental Housing.
Housing Services Act, 2011
The Housing Services Act, 2011 outlines the provincial commitment to affordable housing. It clarifies the housing roles and responsibilities of municipalities, and helps them to set municipality-specific priorities for affordable housing, social housing, housing for persons with disabilities, and preventing homelessness.
Service Managers, which include regional governments, cities and district boards, are responsible for delivering and administering affordable and social housing as well as other social service programs such as Ontario Works and childcare. Service Managers also have obligations under the Human Rights Code to provide housing that is free from discrimination. This includes a legal duty to respond to requests for accommodation based on Code grounds, and to accommodate to the point of undue hardship. For more information, see the OHRC’s Policy on Human Rights and Rental Housing.
Under Section 6 of the Housing Services Act, Service Managers have to develop Local Housing and Homelessness Plans to set the municipality’s overall strategy in these areas. While developing and implementing these plans, Service Managers have an excellent opportunity to make sure human rights are supported and respected. Best practices include:
- Developing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies
- Reviewing and removing barriers
- Designing inclusive housing programs
- Drafting procedures to respond to accommodation requests
- Setting procedures for resolving disputes quickly and effectively
- Setting up education and training programs.
For more detailed information on these Acts, refer to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s Municipal Tools for Affordable Housing Handbook.