It was shocking to read, in last weekend’s Toronto Star, about a prospective tenant who has repeatedly been denied housing because of her race.
The Unifor member – our sister, Latoya Williams – spoke out about her experience with landlords who were initially receptive to her, based on her salary and credit score, but put up roadblocks after they discovered she was black.
It’s hard to believe, that in a multicultural and diverse city like Toronto, black people are still subjected to such blatant housing discrimination and violations of human rights – but it’s happening. And if you’re a black person who also happens to be LGBTQ, your odds of finding a home to rent are even worse.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on human rights and rental housing clearly states no one should be refused a place to live based on any of the grounds set out in the Ontario Human Rights Code. This includes race, colour, ethnic background, religious belief, citizenship, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability and receipt of public assistance.
Compliance with the Human Rights Code must be enforced and there must be consequences for landlords who engage in discriminatory behaviour.
The Ontario Landlords Association tries to ensure its members are educated about, and abide by the Human Rights Code. Unfortunately, not all landlords are members.
Landlords who are brought before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal are usually fined, when found guilty. They may also be handed a non-financial remedy or public interest remedy. In the case of a non-financial remedy, the Tribunal can order the landlord to allow you to rent the next available apartment in his or her building. A public interest remedy has an educational focus. Its goal is to prevent the discrimination from happening in the future. In this case, a Tribunal may order a property management company to send a memo to all superintendents or develop non-discriminatory policies.
In order to create real change, these judgments must go further.
The government must do something to address this problem.
Our sister had to take matters into her own hands and started a Facebook page to connect inclusive landlords with renters who are having trouble finding housing because of discrimination. The landlords who denied her applications should face serious consequences.
I’m calling on Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to take concrete steps to stop landlords from engaging in this destructive behaviour.
Minister Steve Clark has just recently announced the More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan. According to the ministry’s news release, the plan is “a full-spectrum suite of legislative changes to increase the supply of housing that is affordable and provide families with more meaningful choices on where to live, work and raise their families.”
If this legislation is supposed to benefit all Ontario families equally, then Minister Clark also needs to address the rampant discrimination that exists in the rental market, and take meaningful measures to prevent landlords from denying people their basic human rights.