Tag Archives: Legislation

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Eviction Prevention for Seniors Initiative – Ways to Participate

Did you know that the number of homeless seniors in Toronto doubled between 2009 and 2013? And that at least 10% of the homeless population of Toronto are older adults?

CERA is working with seniors across the GTA to identify eviction prevention strategies that work for them. We need to hear from senior tenants and their service providers. Join the conversation!

Upcoming Round-Table Sessions & Ways to Participate:

For Senior and Older Adult Tenants:

Round Tables will include a free lunch for participants, and TTC tickets will be provided. Spaces is limited. Please RSVP to 416-944-0087 Ext 3. Please let us know of any accommodations or translation needs in advance.

Friday, December 2nd, 2016  from 1:00-3:00 pm at Bathurst & Finch Hub, 540 Finch Ave West

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016 from 9:30-11:30am at the Newmarket Seniors Meeting Place, Hall #1, 474 Davis Drive

Can’t attend a roundtable? You can share your story and thoughts in a variety of ways – fill out a tenant survey online or print a copy to mail in or contact us directly.

For Service Providers & Workers:

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016 from 9:00am-11:30am at CSI Spadina, 215 Spadina Ave, 4th Floor. Light breakfast will be served.

Friday, December 2nd, 2016 from 9:30am-12:00pm at Bathurst & Finch Hub, 540 Finch Ave West.  Light breakfast will be served.

Can’t attend a roundtable? We are also seeking  feedback from service providers – please take five minutes to fill out our survey for service provideror stay tuned for opportunities to join the conversation online.

*Please RSVP to katie@equalityrights.org  or 416-944-0087 ext 3 or by Eventbrite.

*This page will be updated as additional sessions are scheduled

 

 

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Finally, Some Good News

There was a little bit of good news just before the New Year when the Ontario Liberal government announced $42 million in funding to help municipalities develop and implement their housing and homelessness prevention plans for 2013-2014.

The funding will help ease the transition that comes from the elimination of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) as of December 31, 2012. CSUMB, which was available to all Ontarians on social assistance, helped cover unexpected housing costs, such as rental arrears, and was an important tool to help keep low income families housed. The Liberals’ decision to cancel this benefit and pass on 50% of the funds to municipalities was an ill-conceived one; aside from offering less to those who need it most, many of the municipalities did not have programs in place to properly administer the funds.

This is still nothing more than a $42 million band aid. The Liberals have offered no real long term solutions to the problem they created by cancelling CSUMB. Until they do, this gesture towards our most vulnerable citizens will have to do.

Roomers’ (Non)Rights

If you rent a room in someone’s home and share the kitchen or bathroom with the owner or the owner’s family, you aren’t protected under the Human Rights Code (you aren’t protected under the Residential Tenancies Act either, but that’s a discussion for another blog). It’s a very precarious type of housing.

This exception under the Code has always troubled us at CERA. “Rooming” situations are typically the most affordable type of housing in any community and are often the only option for particularly vulnerable households such as youth, people with disabilities, refugees and recent immigrants, and others living on very low incomes. Because of this exception, these equality-seeking communities are left with few housing rights.

It’s not clear to me what the rationale is behind this exception – it always seems to be presented as a truism, that “it’s just the way it is.” Possibly, it stems from an assumption that once you share a kitchen or bathroom you are part of a private household. Governments don’t want to be seen to be prying too far into the business of private households.

Private household or not, do we think it is acceptable that a landlord can publicly advertise a room for rent and then freely refuse to accept someone because they are Muslim, Black, have a disability, etc.?

Unfortunately, this is a pretty fundamental exception in human rights law, with most provinces and territories having similar exclusions. It will take a lot of pressure to get governments to move on this. But it is possible. In the past this exception was even broader – applying to buildings with six or fewer units – so we’ve already moved some distance.

And, while widespread, this exception isn’t universal: New Brunswick does not limit its human rights protections in this way. Instead, the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission clarifies that there may be circumstances where it would be reasonable for a landlord to restrict access to a room in a way that appears discriminatory. Where the requirement is a Bona Fide Qualification, or “BFQ”, it could be permissible. The Commission uses the example of a single woman renting out a room in her home who may only want to rent to another woman. (Ontario already permits landlords to restrict occupancy by sex, so this would be allowed without resorting to the concept of a bona fide qualification).

The BFQ defence isn’t unique to New Brunswick – it is a principal of human rights law across Canada. If roomers were brought under the protections of Ontario’s Human Rights Code, landlords could still potentially make use of this defence.

So what is the Government of Ontario afraid of? It’s time to change the law.

CERA Presents to Legislative Committee on Province’s Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy

The Province of Ontario released its Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy in late 2010.  Bill 140, Strong Communities Through Affordable Housing Act, 2011, legislation which has passed 2nd reading and is now before the Legislature at the Comittee on Justice Policy, is the implementing legislation for the Housing Strategy.

CERA and the Social Rights Advocacy Centre (SRAC) appeared before the Committee on 24 March 2011, to encourage the Committee to adopt a series of amendments to Bill 140 to ensure that it is in keeping with the provinces’ commitments under international human rights law.

CERA provided an overview of the 5 components that Bill 140 must include to ensure it is in compliance with international human rights standards based on what UN human rights bodies and officials have indicated must be in a housing strategy.  SRAC then provided the Committee with an overview of practical amendments that could be made to Bill 140 to integrate the 5 components.   Both the Wellesley Institute and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario submissions were supportive of this approach.

Committee members from all three parties expressed interest in the CERA and SRAC presentations and the suggested amendments.  CERA and SRAC will  work collaboratively with other organizations concerned with housing rights and will continue to press for human rights amendments to Bill 140.  For more on human rights accountability of the province and Bill 140 click here.

CERA’s presentation

Summary of UN Consensus

SRAC’s presentation

Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario presentation

What’s Next for Toronto Community Housing Corporation?

Between fiduciary failings, bad press, and the dissolution of its Board, the public housing company has a decidedly cloudy future.

Let’s say Mayor Ford clears all the provincial legislative hurdles.  Let’s say the city actually privatizes much of the public housing stock.  Let’s say the whole enterprise goes belly up.

What then?

According to current mayoral wisdom, the sell-off of TCHC assets would mean the city relies more heavily on rent supplements to provide affordable housing for 164,000 tenants.  Plus, incoming monies from the sale of buildings could start to provide supplements to 143,000 tenants on the subsidized housing waiting list.  Sounds great!  Except the success of rent supplements relies on a high vacancy rate; when vacancies drop, rents rise, and the city ends up paying more to keep up its end of the bargain.  Guess what?  Toronto vacancies have been dropping for a decade.  According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, there has been a 30% decrease in rental units across the GTA since 2000.  Worse than that, there is no incentive for private developers to build more affordable housing because the condo market is just too lucrative.

If the city sells off its assets, are we ahead of the game or not?  Up till now, there has been no serious dialogue on social housing policy.  To be fair, council has been preoccupied with the fallout of the city auditor’s report and the ensuing fight over the liability of the Board itself.  But now that this has played out, will Mayor Ford or TCHC managing director Case Ootes spend time talking to housing experts?  Will they look at social housing models in other cities?  Even a quick glance shows that a combination of strategies – rent supplements and dedicated affordable housing – yields the most promising results.  It’s not an exact science by any means, but it is an area that requires study, thought, and discussion.

Bill C304: A National Housing Strategy

Bill C304: A National Housing Strategy

They said it couldn’t be done. The Bloc Québécois would never change its mind and support Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, without an exemption and compensation clause. And, without Bloc support for the Bill, it was certain to die on 3rd reading as the NDP and Liberals don’t have enough MPs to carry a vote and the Conservatives appear to be categorically opposed to the Bill.

On 20 October 2010, the Bloc did precisely what everyone said they wouldn’t.  They changed their position.  In the first hour of debate at 3rd reading of the Bill, the Bloc indicated that they would support the Bill if it included a simple amendment attesting to their unique expertise and jurisdiction in the area of housing.  As a result, Bill C304 went from being well meaning but ultimately doomed dream to a possible reality.

What was the catalyst for this about-face? Was it the inclusion of human rights principles in the Bill – principles the Bloc believes in and is proud of – and thus reluctant to vote against?  Was it that Quebec housing groups articulated, in no uncertain terms, that they wanted the Bloc to support this Bill? Was it that dozens of national organizations endorsed the Bill? Was it the cross-country day of action – the Red Tent Campaign – held in cities the day before third reading? Was it pressure from the NPD and Liberals who had invested considerably in the Bill?

In all likelihood there was no single catalyst. It was, probably, the result a confluence of all of these factors and pressures. But what we do know is that it didn’t come about by luck or chance.  These days, political victories for marginalized groups, even relatively small victories of this nature, are only won when individuals, organizations, communities and government officials of different political stripes, share a vision, collaborate and work hard till the bitter end.