Fair Housing: CERA USA

CERA is unique in Canada as an organization devoted to challenging housing discrimination. South of the boarder, the landscape is very different.

In an April issue of the New Yorker magazine, there was a full page colour ad showing a “for rent” sign in front of an apartment building followed by the words, “No Kids, No Blacks, No Latinos”. The tagline was, “Discrimination is rarely this obvious, but it is just as real. Just as illegal.” The New Yorker is a major US magazine and ad space does not come cheap. Who had the resources and wherewithal to create and place this ad? –  the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the National Fair Housing Alliance.

There are over 100 fair housing organizations and councils across the United States, each with a mandate similar to CERA’s: promoting equality and non-discrimination in housing. Add to this the National Fair Housing Alliance, a consortium of fair housing organizations and state and local civil rights organizations, and the Fair Housing Advocate, an online journal devoted to housing discrimination, and you have a shockingly “un-Canadian” approach to promoting housing equality.

Fair housing organizations in the US developed out of the national Fair Housing Act – human rights legislation that specifically targets housing discrimination – and frequently receive federal government funding through HUD and its Fair Housing Initiatives program.

Canada, on the other hand, has no human rights legislation focused on housing discrimination. Instead, housing issues get lost among employment and services- related protections in provincial and territorial human rights laws. There are also no federal or provincial funding programs that target initiatives promoting housing equality. CERA, the only Canadian organization with a mandate focused on challenging housing discrimination, has no stable funding and, in fact, receives absolutely no funds to provide legal services to equality seeking individuals.

It should not be surprising then that discrimination remains “under the radar” and neglected in Canada, despite substantial research demonstrating its seriousness (see CERA’s recent report, Sorry, It’s Rented: Measuring Discrimination in Toronto’s Rental Housing Market).

Fair Housing. Canada has a lot to learn.