R2HTO Statement on City deferring the new Multi-tenant housing framework

The City of Toronto made a commitment to advance the right to housing in its 10-year HousingTO Action Plan, through its housing policy. This commitment means the City adopts policies that help all residents in the city access adequate and affordable homes. Today, City Councillors in Toronto had an opportunity to pass a policy to permit and regulate multi-tenant homes across the city that would recognize Toronto’s deeply affordable housing options and to ensure that tenants with lower incomes can live in safe and adequate homes. We are disappointed that Toronto’s City Council didn’t have the votes to pass this important framework and instead had to defer passing the proposed multi-tenant housing regulatory framework.

Multi-tenant homes provide an important affordable rental option for many low-income Torontonians. These homes can be found across the entire city but are unfortunately not permitted in many parts of the city. This has forced many residents to live in the shadows, oftentimes in unsafe and inadequate conditions, with the fear of losing their homes if they raise their housing concerns with City authorities.

The City of Toronto’s Housing Charter and a human rights approach to housing recognizes that “all residents should be able to live in their neighbourhood of choice without discrimination”. The current regulatory framework of the City’s multi-tenant homes is discriminatory. Failing to harmonize the regulatory regime across Toronto is in conflict with the City’s Housing Charter commitments and violates people’s human rights.

Leaving many multi-tenant homes to operate in an unregulated regime is to pretend that these homes and their residents do not exist and don’t matter. How long will the City of Toronto let the residents of multi-tenant homes be left without legal protections and living in potentially unsafe homes?

Today the City not only failed to protect its lower income residents, but it also failed to acknowledge that multi-tenant houses are an important part of its affordable rental housing stock. It also lost a crucial opportunity to implement a more cost-effective way of increasing the affordable housing stock that Toronto desperately needs. City Council has an opportunity to right their wrong in September, and protect the right to housing in Toronto. This is our chance to do better. Let’s not lose our chance to do so.

 

Addressing homelessness in the city

Toronto City Council met on June 8 and 9, 2021 where several motions were presented by Councillors to address homelessness in the city.

Ahead of this meeting, the Joint Statement: Protecting People Experiencing Homelessness and Ensuring the Safety of the Shelter System was developed by the Toronto Drop-in Network and the Shelter and Housing Justice Network. The statement urges the City of Toronto to act in compliance with human rights legislation at the provincial, national, and international levels by enacting a rights-based approach to engage with encampment residents and people experiencing homelessness. The statement was signed by over 20 organizations and groups, including R2HTO.

Several motions were introduced to amend the recommendations to the City Manager on this matter. While, the motion introduced by Councillor Josh Matlow did not pass, a major part of the motion introduced by Councillor Mike Layton passed with a near unanimous vote. Councillor Layton’s motion asked for the City to reiterate its commitment to a human rights approach to housing for those experiencing homelessness as well as ensuring that City staff develop and implement a response that is consistent with the Jury’s recommendations from the Faulkner Inquest, as it specifically relates to the health and safety of those living in encampments. Unfortunately, Councillor Layton’s motion to meaningfully engage encampment residents and people with lived experience of homelessness in developing a strategy to provide them with housing opportunities failed to gain support from a majority of City Councillors.

Reinforcing the City’s human rights commitments is a welcome development and is a crucial approach to addressing the housing and homelessness crisis in Toronto. Meaningful engagement of impacted communities is also a core aspect of a rights-based approach to housing, such as serious human rights issues like homelessness.