Rights commission targets `blatant discrimination’ in rental-housing market

Aug 20, 2009 04:30 AM
RAVEENA AULAKH
STAFF REPORTER

If you are a student, senior, disabled person or a single parent and looking to rent, good luck.

There’s obvious discrimination in rental housing, says the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s annual report released yesterday, identifying the problem as a key area that needs immediate intervention.

"We are very early on in our work on housing but it’s very clear there is widespread and blatant discrimination," chief commissioner Barbara Hall said yesterday. "It was brought to our notice by different groups and when we started looking into complaints, we realized how serious (human rights) violations these are."

The report says access to inexpensive housing is even more important in these harsh economic times but is just as tough to find.

"We were shocked when we heard of cases where seniors were denied housing because landlords were concerned their older tenants would acquire disabilities and they (landlords) would have to make accommodations," said Hall.

There were also instances in which single-parent families were told the buildings are "only for adults. Many people actually believed that," said Hall. "The number of (such) cases we have seen is alarming."

She said the commission is working with different groups to examine discrimination in rental housing and plans to release a new housing policy this fall. "It will talk about tenants’ rights, landlords’ responsibilities and explore how the government looks at housing and zoning bylaws," said Hall.

Sharad Kerur, executive director of Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, said he’s glad issues around affordable housing are being highlighted.

"But I think they have mistakenly painted everyone with a broad brush. They need to differentiate between private and social housing landlords."

The report makes it sound like everyone has prejudices "but the fact is social housing landlords are under strong legislation," pointed out Kerur. "We don’t pick and choose – there’s a waiting list."

Meanwhile, the commission’s report also talked about a spike in complaints from mothers and mothers-to-be who were either fired or laid off because of the recession.

Hall also talked about racism against aboriginal and black people. "It continues to be rampant and hugely damaging," she said.

http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/683207

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