Right to Housing and COVID-19

COVID-19: A Human Rights Response to the Pandemic for the City of Toronto

The Right to Housing Toronto has distilled international and domestic human rights principles into advice for the City of Toronto about how to ensure its housing and homelessness-related COVID-19 responses are grounded in human rights.

Our four-part human rights-based recommendations demonstrate what a rights-based approach to pandemic responses will look like in practice, emphasizing the importance of protecting and housing the most vulnerable, ending homelessness, preventing eviction, promoting housing security, and building a rights-based housing system.

You can read the full recommendations here and the summary here.

March 17 Letter to All Three Levels of Government

The global pandemic brought on by COVID-19 is a stark reminder that the right to housing and the right to health are inextricably bound up with each other. As public health officials daily tighten the protocols for self-isolation to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic’s impact, many Canadians have never been more aware of the importance of having a safe, secure home.

On March 17, we wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Ford, Mayor Tory, Minister Hussen, Attorney General Downey, and Deputy Mayor Bailao urging them to take urgent measures to ensure the right to adequate housing for all, as a fundamental basis for health and well-being in responses to COVID-19. Click here to view the entire letter.

Our letter includes recommendations for each government to consider, which include, but are not limited to the following:

Government of Canada

        • Ensure an adequate income for all residents, including those not currently eligible for EI, using existing delivery mechanisms to enable improvements to be implemented quickly (for example, through an improved EI system and / or an income-tested refundable tax credit, so that the most amount of support goes to people with low-incomes)
        • Provide emergency funds to municipalities to support local resources, such as rent banks, for those who fall through the cracks of federal systems, and for the other actions described below.

Province of Ontario

        • Direct the Landlord and Tenant Board to deny future eviction applications for non-payment or persistent late payment of rent during the period of the COVID-19 outbreak, where tenants’ ability to pay has been affected by illness, caring for others who are ill, caring for children during school and daycare closures, self-isolation requirements, and / or loss of income due to the outbreak.
        • Prevent discharge of anyone from the health system into homelessness or into the homeless shelter system.

City of Toronto

        • Expand funding for the Rent Bank and Eviction Prevention programs in order to keep vulnerable tenants housed. Enable simple online applications for Rent Bank funds, provide funds as grants not loans, and publicize the service widely via traditional and social media.
        • Immediately expand the capacity and personnel of the shelter, drop-in, and respite system so that recommended distances can be maintained between residents at all times. Make emergency use of community centres and other closed City facilities, and ensure the accessibility of shelter and drop-in spaces to persons with disabilities.

Many of these measures are in the process of being implemented, while others are being considered. R2HTO supports these initiatives and recognizes the dedication of all in the public service who are working tirelessly to respond as new circumstances unfold.

In the midst of this unprecedented crisis, we stand ready to work together to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities.

This call to action has received support from the following individuals and groups. Click here to sign on and support the R2HTO call for action on COVID-19.

          • ACORN Canada
          • Adrienne Pacini
          • Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario
          • Alex Hoffman
          • Amanda Buchnea
          • Anita Block
          • Astrid Mrkich
          • Barbara Kilbourn
          • Bruce Novakowski
          • Campaign 2000
          • Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA)
          • Christopher King
          • Danielle Herrington
          • David Tobias
          • Dustin Rabin
          • Elizabeth Sinopoli
          • Emily Paradis
          • Eugenio Tamburini
          • Family Service Toronto
          • Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association (FMTA)
          • Gordana Dimitrijevic
          • Guy Ewing
          • Hailey Benedict
          • Israt Ahmed
          • Jane Finch Housing Coalition
          • Janet Goodfellow
          • Jean Baillargeon
          • Jefri Knazan
          • Jennifer Goldberg
          • Jeremy Withers
          • Jessica MacDonald
          • Johanna Macdonald
          • John Hibionada
          • Joy Connelly
          • Kathleen Doyle
          • Kelly Joseph
          • Keren Harvey
          • Kevin Gulayets
          • Kirsten Wilson
          • Kyle Berger
          • Leon Jarvis
          • Lina Demedeiros
          • LMD Insurance & Wealth Management Inc.
          • Marcus Peterson
          • Marta Ziemelis
          • Maureen Halushak
          • Michelle Levesque
          • Sarah Iles
          • Saroja Ponnambalam
          • Saskia Baez
          • Shannon Garden Smith
          • Shelter & Housing Justice Network
          • Stephanie Weller
          • Teresa Northcote
          • Wesley Fung