TORONTO, March 8, 2012 /CNW/ - Two public interest inquiries by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) will explore if new rental housing licensing bylaws in North Bay and Waterloo create discriminatory barriers to rental housing. New bylaws in the two municipalities come into force in the next few months - Waterloo's on April 1, 2012 and North Bay's on May 1, 2012.
"Housing is a fundamental human right," says OHRC Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall. "While rental housing licensing can be a valuable tool for promoting the safety and security of tenants, the ability to license must not be a licence to discriminate. We want to make sure this isn't happening."
The inquiries are being conducted under the OHRC's Human Rights Code mandate to promote, advance and protect human rights in Ontario. This includes identifying and working to eliminate discriminatory practices in areas such as housing. It will help the OHRC to discover potential discriminatory effects of licensing policies on Code-protected groups, identify possible solutions, and suggest ways municipalities can draft bylaws that respect and protect the human rights of tenants.
The inquiry will invite interested parties - tenants, landlords, community groups, advocates and service providers - in the North Bay and Waterloo areas to complete a survey about the new bylaws, online or in writing. The deadline for submissions is April 15, 2012.
While anonymous submissions will not be accepted, the OHRC will keep all personal information confidential as required by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The OHRC will also review documents that each City relied upon when developing the bylaws. Other steps will be determined once the survey and document review is completed. The OHRC will report what it heard, lessons learned, and recommendations for making sure that rental housing licensing efforts reflect the vision and the legal obligations of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
- Rental housing licensing is a fairly new concept - it has only been possible since the Municipal Act 2001 and the City of Toronto Act, 2006, gave municipalities new authority to license and regulate various forms of rental housing.
- Several municipalities, especially those that are home to colleges and universities, have adopted or are considering rental housing licensing bylaws.
- For the past three years, the OHRC has contacted several municipalities on these bylaws, including the Cities of Oshawa, North Bay, Waterloo and Windsor.
- The OHRC has consistently raised concerns about minimum separation distances, bedroom caps, gross floor area requirements, applying bylaws across the entire municipality and other issues that appear to target certain Code-protected groups or result in differential treatment of these groups
- The inquiries and the survey are being conducted as part of the OHRC's mandate under sections 29 and 31 of the Human Rights Code. Section 29(c) allows the OHRC "to undertake, direct and encourage research into discriminatory practices and to make recommendations designed to prevent and eliminate such discriminatory practices".
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For further information:
Afroze Edwards, Senior Communications Officer, Ontario Human Rights Commission, 416-314-4528, [email protected]