Access to justice is a critical aspect of the right to housing, especially as it relates to the security of tenure. This means that people should feel secure in their homes with the legal right to remain there without arbitrarily facing an eviction and by having access to mechanisms that provide them with avenues to exercise their legal rights. In Ontario, the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) is the provincial tribunal with jurisdiction over eviction matters but municipal governments can play a major role in ensuring access to justice. Municipalities can support tenant communities and those living in precarious housing by providing eviction prevention programs that help stabilize their housing as well as programs that support tenants to learn about their legal rights and come together to have their needs heard by decision-makers.
In 2019, the City of Toronto adopted its 10-year housing plan, called the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, and committed to advance the right to housing for its residents in line with the federal government’s commitment to the right to housing in the National Housing Strategy Act (NHSA). This means that the City has committed to align its housing policies and programs to advance the right to housing and to ensure that individuals can live in safe, secure and affordable homes.
This Rights Review on Access to Justice for the Right to Housing examines the City of Toronto’s frameworks, programs and supports that advance access to justice for Torontonians. Two categories of relevant City programs are discussed. First, eviction prevention and housing stabilization programs are examined, which are important ways that the City can support tenants to advance their right to housing by accessing justice beyond the provincial tribunals and courts. These include rent-geared-to-income subsidized housing, housing stabilization and rent supplement programs, and eviction prevention programs. Second, tenant education and legal support initiatives are examined to understand how the City can help people learn about their rights and come together as a community to advance access to justice. Thereafter, this Rights Review delves deeper into the effectiveness of these programs and the various improvements needed to ensure access to justice can be advanced for Torontonians.
A set of practical rights-based recommendations for the City of Toronto are provided which can advance Torontonians’ access to justice so they can live with security and dignity in their homes.
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