Governments commit to address discrimination in housing
Governments commit to address discrimination in housing
Actions include expanding equity initiatives
August 8, 2021
By Veronica Silva Cusi
The Philippine Reporter
All levels of government have committed to addressing systemic discrimination in housing with initiatives that include expanding equity and representation.
The Philippine Reporter reached out to the three levels of government to respond to a recent workshop by housing advocates where stakeholders shared their experiences and expertise on the topic systemic discrimination in housing.
The workshop, the second in a series of five this year, was organized by Right to Housing in Toronto (R2HTO) and the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) last July 6.
In response to TPR, all three levels of government — federal, Ontario and the City of Toronto — unanimously said they are committed to non-tolerance to discrimination and racism and upholding Canadians’ right to housing.
At the federal level, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) replied to TPR, saying: “The federal government is committed to ending racism, including by working with partners to create an equitable housing system for all.”
CMHC provides administrative services and support to the National Housing Council, an advisory body that is tasked to further the National Housing Strategy Act which was assented in 2019. The strategy calls for a federal housing advocate who is a member of the council and tasked, with the help of the council, to ensure that the strategy is implemented.
The council members were named in November 2020, but the housing advocate has yet to be named.
“The FHA is to be appointed by the Governor in Council (the Governor General, on the advice of the Cabinet). The appointment of the Federal Housing Advocate is outside of the scope of CMHC,” said Audrey-Anne Coulombe, CMHC senior officer, media relations, in an email to TPR.
As Canada’s national housing agency, CMHC said it has made progress in addressing anti-racism and equity. Some of these initiatives done internally and externally include:
• establishing an internal Anti-Racism and Equity Task Force;
• devising plans around race-based data collection, community engagement and partnerships, ensuring that HR practices, policies and programs are inclusive, and eliminating discrimination in policies, programs and practices through an equity lens;
• creating a Chief Equity Officer role, who acts as advisor to the CMHC CEO and senior management;
• appointing a new vice-president, Indigenous Relations last July;
• appointing its first Indigenous Advisory Council with representations from First Nations, Inuit and
• Metis peoples; and
• incorporating measures to better target housing solutions under the NHS to racialized communities.
Coulombe added that CMHC’s Anti-Racism and Equity Program continues to evolve.
In Ontario, the housing mandate rests on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. A communications representative from the minister’s office said: “Our government believes everyone deserves a place to call home. We have zero tolerance for racism or discrimination of any kind.”
Krystle Caputo, the minister’s director of communications, went on to cite the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords (or housing providers) under the Human Rights Code. Foremost of these, “all tenants have the right to equal treatment in housing without discrimination and harassment.”
The country’s most populated city, Toronto, said it has in place policies to address systemic housing.
“Toronto has a long history of addressing systemic housing issues and a robust accountability framework to address administrative fairness, [including] the Commissioner of Housing Equity and more broadly the City Ombudsman’s legal mandate,” said Abi Bond, executive director of the city’s Housing Secretariat, in an email reply to TPR.
Bond points to the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, adopted by council in 2019, on some of these elements to help address the issue, including:
• the Toronto Housing Charter – Opportunity for All, which gives Torontonians fair access to housing;
• the city’s recognition that housing is a human right;
• focused and defined targets for equity- deserving groups, such as women, Indigenous, people experiencing homelessness and overall low-income households, many of whom are members of racialized communities; and
• the establishment of a Housing Commissioner of Toronto.
Housing advocates have been keeping a close watch on the naming of the housing commissioner, who will oversee that the city’s housing policy, as embodied in the action plan, is realized.
ond said the city is reviewing the role and function of the housing commissioner in the governance, accountability and other principles of the city.
“Work to date also includes initial outreach and input from stakeholders and the beginning of discussions with the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate, given their mandate in this area and the importance of interjurisdictional collaboration in addressing housing issues,” Bond added.
In an implementation plan update of September 2020, the city said it is working with the Right to Housing in Toronto (R2HTO) campaign to, among others, “explore options for establishing a Housing Commissioner role or function, as directed by Council.”
In an interview at a Filipino heritage event at Regent Park on July 24, Toronto Centre Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said the position for the commissioner has been approved in the budget “so we should probably be trying to on board this new individual by the end of the year.”
TPR interviewed Wong-Tam in the context of housing developments in the Regent Park neighbourhood where there is a substantial Filipino and immigrant population. The neigbhourhood has undergone significant changes in housing developments in recent years – from a predominantly public housing to its billion-dollar revitalization.