February 22nd, 2021

MPPs Hassan and Singh introduce bill to enshrine housing as a human right

QUEEN'S PARK— NDP MPPs Faisal Hassan (York—South Weston) and Sara Singh (Brampton Centre) introduced a bill Monday that, if passed, would see all laws and policies in Ontario guided by the principle that housing is a human right.

The MPPs discussed their bill in a virtual press conference Monday, joined by Alyssa Brierley, Executive Director of the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), Beth Wilson, Senior Researcher at Social Planning Toronto, and Alejandra Ruiz Vargas, Chair of the East York chapter of ACORN Canada.

"Everyone deserves a good, stable place to call home – a place they can afford, in a community that makes them feel safe and welcome," Hassan said. "The NDP believes housing is a human right. Yet housing in Ontario is in a state of crisis, with racialized, newcomer and refugees disproportionality affected. For decades, Conservative and Liberal governments have created loopholes that benefit developers and corporate property owners, making it increasingly hard for everyday folks to afford a place."

"The pandemic has worsened this crisis, with thousands facing eviction through no fault of their own due to lost income," Singh said, "and the Ford government allowing evictions to continue through much of the pandemic while refusing to give tenants rent relief. This isn't just a public health concern, but an issue of racial and economic injustice. For Black, Indigenous, racialized, LGBTQ and disabled people, and people stuck in the cycle of poverty, there's discrimination and systemic barriers that make it harder to get into a safe, stable, affordable home."

The Housing as a Human Right Act calls for the government to take action in housing to focus on the widening gaps in access to safe, affordable housing, and adopt policies and programs that address exclusion and segregation by providing equitable access.

It also calls for the creation of an independent Housing Commissioner, whose role would include data collection on inequities in housing and research on issues like preventing evictions. It would establish a Housing Inequities and Disparities Working Group to draw on the lived experience many in Ontario face with respect to accessing proper housing.

Hassan and Singh will table the bill in the Legislature Monday afternoon.


Beth Wilson, Social Planning Network of Ontario:

"Social planning councils across Ontario recognize housing as a matter of human rights, public health, and racial justice. We strongly support the “Housing is a Human Right Act” and its call for the establishment of a Housing Inequities and Disparity Working Group and Independent Housing Commissioner. Both are essential mechanisms to advancing the human right to housing in Ontario.”

Alejandra Ruiz-Vargas, ACORN Chair East York:

Housing is a human right and the government needs to make sure to protect that right for people by removing barriers like unfair evictions in a pandemic. And the government needs to create a rent relief program for the 10 per cent of tenants in Ontario who are facing arrears according to CMHC. The government also needs to support non-profit housing and co-op housing to create a housing system that is based on people's rights and not one that prioritizes the right for investors and big landlords to maximize profits."

Alyssa Brierley, Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA):

"This bill is so important, because at CERA we hear from and work with thousands of Ontarians every year who experience violations of their right to housing. We hear from low-income and increasingly middle-income Ontarians who are not able to find housing that they can afford. We hear from individuals with disabilities who aren’t able to find adequate housing that accommodates their needs. We hear from Black, Indigenous, and other Ontarians of colour who experience blatant and rampant discrimination when trying to find and stay in their housing.

We hear from individuals living in poverty or on a fixed income who are being pushed out of their housing so that their landlords can raise the rent. We hear from renters across our urban areas who live in substandard conditions.

And we also see the population of people without homes exploding as housing continues to turn into a speculative asset, increasingly controlled by REITs and wealth management funds, and getting farther and farther out of reach for ordinary people.

We know, and the people we work with across Ontario know, that enough is enough. Ontarians need their government to step in and protect them when our systems fail. Our housing system is failing, and we need drastic action now."