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11. Housing

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11.1. Systemic and societal issues

a) Lack of affordable housing

This is pretty simple and straightforward ... mental health issue=public assistance for income=public housing=8 year waiting list=only to live in a project=where I feel unsafe=so my symptoms flare=I become a danger to myself=another suicide statistic=nobody cares

– Survey respondent

The lack of affordable and suitable housing across Ontario was raised by individuals with mental health and addiction disabilities, and organizations. Statistics Canada’s 2006 Participation Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) shows that in Ontario, people with “emotional” disabilities are more likely to be in core housing need than the non-disabled population and people with other types of disabilities.[76] We heard many concerns about homelessness. The closing of psychiatric institutions in Ontario, together with the lack of community resources available to people who had been housed in psychiatric institutions, has led to high levels of homelessness for people with mental health and addiction issues. [77] The RNAO said that the federal government has not fulfilled its obligations to address homelessness by implementing the Kirby report’s recommendations on poverty, housing and homelessness. RNAO told us there is an urgent need for the province and municipalities to bridge the gaps in public policies related to housing, income support and mental health.

Box: The right to housing and the state of affordable, available housing in Ontario and Canada is reported on in great depth in the OHRC’s Human rights and rental housing in Ontario: Background paper, its housing consultation report, Right at Home, and in its Policy on human rights and rental housing End Box.

CMHA Ontario said that maintaining safe and affordable housing can be difficult for people with mental health issues and addictions in periods of illness, and people may be unable to work and experience a loss of income. As a result, many people can only afford substandard housing that is crowded, noisy and located in undesirable neighbourhoods. The Toronto Community Housing Corporation Anti-Ableism Committee voiced concerns about people with chronic mental illnesses or addictions being “warehoused” in public housing communities, in part due to the lack of affordable private housing.

The UN Human Rights Committee has expressed concern about people with psychosocial disabilities in Canada being detained in institutions because of the lack of supportive housing in the community. [78] This finding echoed several individuals’ experiences: we heard that some people have been unable to leave psychiatric hospitals, or move to less restrictive units for months or even years, because the hospital was unable to find appropriate housing. Others related how people are discharged from services into homelessness. Referencing a 2006 study, the RNAO stated that, “It is clearly unacceptable, for example, that in London, Ontario in 2002 there were at least 194 instances when people were discharged from psychiatric facilities to the street or shelters.” [79]

Many people raised concerns about waiting for many years for social, supportive and co-operative housing. Submissions identified the need for more housing subsidies and increases in social assistance rates to open the door to more affordable housing (TCHC Anti-Ableism Committee). After our 2007 housing consultation, we recommended that the federal and provincial governments put in place housing strategies that include measurable targets and provide sufficient funds to accelerate progress on ending homelessness and ensuring access of all Canadians, including people with limited incomes, to adequate housing without discrimination. Since these recommendations were made, a federal national housing strategy bill was proposed but did not become law. Federal investment in affordable housing has been declining since the 1990s. [80]

Ontario released its long-term affordable housing strategy, and passed the Strong Communities through Affordable Housing Act2011, which, among other things, aims to join housing and homelessness programs. It also requires municipalities to allow more affordable housing in the form of second units. [81] However, organizations such as the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) and the Housing Network of Ontario said that the strategy does not address the need for increased investment in new housing development, or the ongoing maintenance of existing properties. [82]

Box: Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes the right of people with disabilities to live in the community with choices equal to others. It states that States Parties (such as Canada) should take effective measures to make sure that people with disabilities are fully included and can take part in the community by, among other things, ensuring:

  • People can choose their community and where they live on an equal basis with others
  • Access to a range of in-residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community.  End Box.

Inadequate housing

ARCH told us that many people with psychosocial disabilities experience housing that is notoriously badly maintained; people may be reluctant to complain and then find themselves without a home. Many landlords and housing providers keep their housing in a state of good repair. However, in the case of social, supportive or co-operative housing, limited government funding can make maintaining and repairing units for existing tenants difficult. [83] Several people said poor living conditions in low-income housing (both social and private rental housing) increases people’s vulnerability to abuse, harassment and to feeling unsafe. That can result in negative physical and mental health impacts, and some people may even have to leave the communities of their choice to find more affordable housing. We heard examples of poor living conditions  - housing in disrepair, mould, fire hazards, bed bugs and poor heating (People Advocating for Change through Empowerment).  

The lack of choice to live without supports was another theme that emerged. People told us that they may be forced to choose supervised or supportive housing when they can live without these supports. Many people may have to live in shared accommodation because of low income. Living in shared housing can be difficult for people who face negative attitudes from roommates because of their disability, or who need to live alone to accommodate their disability. 

Social and supportive housing

According to the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, social housing is housing that is community-sponsored (for example, by local faith groups, service clubs, YMCAs, other community organizations, or by municipalities).[84] It is generally run on a non-profit basis with government capital/operating assistance. [85] Supportive housing is non-profit housing for people who need support to live independently -  the frail elderly, people with mental health disabilities, addictions or developmental disabilities. Supportive housing is typically available in the form of shared settings (converted houses, clustered apartments), and offers rehabilitation-oriented support to consumer/survivors to improve their community living skills.[86] Many co-operative housing organizations also form part of the network of non-profit social housing. Social, supportive and co-operative housing can be mixed-income housing, with some units that are subsidized or rent-geared-to-income (RGI), and some with market rents.

We heard examples of how social and supportive housing opportunities can support people’s right to housing and improve the lives of people with mental health disabilities and addictions. One Ottawa housing provider uses a harm-reduction model that allows people with addictions to stabilize. The rent-geared-to-income approach of social housing was described as responding to individual needs. Some social and supportive housing providers reported successfully working with tenants with mental health issues or addictions to accommodate their needs.

We were told that the lack of supportive housing units across Ontario contributes to homelessness. In addition to long wait times, we heard about a lack of supportive housing for people with mental health issues with multiple needs. Some supportive housing providers may only address certain types of disabilities (mental health disabilities but not physical disabilities or addictions). This can create additional barriers for people from certain Code groups and leaves them with few housing options (for example, people with mental health issues who are older and able to live semi-independently, Aboriginal women with addictions leaving prison, or people with eating disorders).

[Around] half of women incarcerated have a mental health issue, but may have addictions and a dual diagnosis. Even in transitional housing there may be barriers where they won’t be accepted into residential programs if they have outstanding charges.

– Participant in Ottawa roundtable session

Some people are placed in housing that doesn’t match their needs, such as younger people with mental health issues or Huntington’s disease being placed in long-term care facilities (ACE).

Some submissions raised concerns about gearing housing specifically towards people with mental health issues because it reinforces separation instead of integration. We heard that living with other people in a communal setting can be extremely difficult for people with severe mental health issues, particularly if they require different levels of support, and that many people prefer privacy and living on their own. Also, due to a lack of resources, people may have little access to support in supervised housing and be subject to overcrowding (Royal Ottawa Health Care Group).

Long-term care homes

ACE told us that the lack of affordable housing has a considerable impact on older adults with mental health needs, particularly because of the complex and physical health care needs older people may have. There is a lack of accessibility in the built environment for older people with mobility impairments, and discrimination can arise in the rental housing market on multiple Code grounds including age and mental disability.

Psychiatric facilities may reject older adults who need a high level of care due to behavioural issues from dementia, psychiatric illness or other neurological issues. The facilities may say they do not provide long-term care. At the same time, ACE has heard that these individuals are rejected by long term-care homes because of their complex needs, even if they are eligible for long-term care. As a result, people have to live in substandard housing or remain in hospital.

ACE said that if the person is admitted into a long-term care home, the required level of care is not available, with staffing levels that are often inadequate. Despite general improvements in the long-term care sector in terms of knowledge and training, ACE contends that long-term care home staff need further training to manage behaviours and needs relating to mental illness.


9. The Government of Ontario should link social assistance, including shelter allowance, to the real cost of rental housing in regions across Ontario.

10. The Government of Ontario should ensure more social housing options as well as subsidy alternatives, such as a portable housing allowance, to open up opportunities for people with low incomes in the private rental housing market and to permit greater flexibility in terms of where one may live.

11. Because people with mental health issues or addictions are disproportionately likely to be in need of housing, the Government of Ontario and municipalities should consider inclusionary zoning measures: laws and bylaws that require developers and municipalities to set aside a percentage of new housing for affordable housing, or a percentage of housing to accommodate persons living with mental health issues or addictions.

The recommendations the OHRC made in Right at Home should be implemented, including:

12. That the Government of Canada adopt a national housing strategy, in consultation with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, that includes measurable targets and provision of sufficient funds to accelerate progress on ending homelessness and ensuring access of all Canadians, including those of limited income, to housing of an adequate standard.

13. That the Government of Ontario enhance its existing Affordable Housing Strategy by providing sufficient funds to accelerate progress on ending homelessness and ensuring access of all Ontarians, including those of limited income, to housing of an adequate standard without discrimination.

14. That the Government of Ontario review and improve funding rates, programs, laws and regulations in the Province of Ontario to make sure that low-income tenants are able to afford average rents, food and other basic necessities. Specific attention should be given to:

  • Ensuring that minimum wage rates are indexed to inflation and allow a full-time earner to live above the poverty line
  • Assessing impacts of rent control/vacancy decontrol
  • Address claw backs in income facilitated by the Housing Services Act and social assistance programs.

b) Barriers in social and supportive housing

We heard that the legislation and procedures that govern the delivery of social or supportive housing may create certain barriers for people with mental health issues or addictions.

Applying for supportive housing

Some mental health advocates are concerned that people with severe mental health issues are being screened out of supportive housing because they are perceived as “too much work,” without considering accommodating the person to the point of undue hardship. As well, many said the process of applying for supportive housing can disadvantage consumer/survivors or people with addictions. Some said application forms for supportive housing were inaccessible and intrusive. Questions about police or prison records were seen as a barrier to obtaining social housing. Any questions about people’s disabilities should be linked to necessary housing or service requirements. 

Some were also concerned about the privacy of medical information, particularly when applications can be shared with other housing providers. Some people were concerned that such in-depth information is being used as a tool to discriminate against people who are seen as “hard-to-house” based on assumptions about health and safety risks, without considering accommodation needs.

People are applying for housing, but because of the consolidated social housing database, people are rejected. People are rejected as safety risks initially by one housing provider, and then continue to be rejected by others as the information is shared. 

            – Consumer/survivor initiative representative

ONPHA and other supportive housing providers told us that supportive housing programs have special mandates relating to disability and offer different levels of services. ONPHA said that the information requested in these forms is needed to ensure applicants with complex needs get the right supports for a successful tenancy, and to show that someone is able to live independently, as required by the Housing Services Act, 2011[87] ONPHA said that this information is shared sparingly and appropriately.

This disagreement shows the need to balance privacy rights with the organization’s need for information so it can respond to a person’s accommodation requirements. The information requested must not create barriers based on disability.


15. Supportive housing providers, working with people with mental health issues and/or addictions, should examine their application processes to ensure that the information collected is necessary and does not inadvertently create barriers for people with mental health disabilities or addictions or violate people’s rights to privacy. Before rejecting an individual, each housing provider must consider its obligations under the Code to assess a person’s individualized needs, and accommodate the person to the point of undue hardship.

Tenancy in social or supportive housing

We also heard concerns about how social or supportive housing is administered. If a person delays declaring changes in their income, it can result in their subsidy being threatened; this was also raised in our housing consultation. We heard how someone was not able to identify their change in income in time, and was threatened with eviction, even though she had been hospitalized for a mental health issue. Housing providers such as the Municipality of Chatham Kent Health and Family Services also said that the requirement to live independently is often subjective, and guidance is needed on how to interpret this section in the context of tenants with mental health and addiction disabilities. We also heard concerns about the ways in which service is provided to people with mental health issues or addictions in supportive housing. Where supports (such as mental health support) are provided by staff and tied to the unit, tenants will lose this support if they move or get evicted.

People said that the rules under the Housing Services Act do not make it worthwhile to work part-time. The rules permit social housing providers to raise rents to account for increases in non-benefit income, such as from employment, when this income exceeds the amount specified in regulation.[88] This is often made worse by a corresponding decrease in social assistance payments. Reports from the Metcalf Foundation describe how these rules keep people in poverty and perpetuate the need for social assistance.[89]

c) “NIMBY” discrimination

Many submissions said discriminatory opposition to affordable housing for groups protected under the Code (“Not-in-my-backyard“ syndrome or “NIMBYism”) limits affordable social and supportive housing for people with psychosocial disabilities. In Right at Home, we recommended that government and organizations monitor and combat NIMBY opposition. The OHRC also made its own commitments to actively challenge discriminatory NIMBYism. In February 2012, we launched a guide on human rights and zoning, entitled, In the Zone: Housing, human rights and municipal planningavailable at

NIMBY opposition refers to opposition to housing projects based on stereotypes or negative attitudes about the people who will live in them. These are often directly related to one or more Code grounds. NIMBY opposition can refer to discriminatory attitudes as well as actions, laws or policies developed by a municipality.

We heard that NIMBY opposition was often directed towards supportive housing for people with psychiatric disabilities, because of community concerns that property values would go down and crime would increase. According to the York Support Services Network and York Regional Police, this is based on mistaken perceptions that link mental illness and criminality. ACTO raised concerns about separation distances (which set the distance between certain housing or service types), as these will affect the zoning of group homes, which often house people with psychiatric disabilities and addictions. ACTO said this limits the range of housing options for group home providers. Many forms of NIMBY discrimination are described in the OHRC’s Policy on Human Rights and Rental Housing (section 2.7.2).

We also heard concerns about NIMBY opposition to homeless shelters and addiction treatment centres - services used by people with mental health disabilities and addictions. Some municipalities have passed or attempted to pass bylaws to eliminate or restrict services for people with addictions. One representative of an addiction treatment centre said that because people with addictions are perceived more negatively than other Code-protected groups, these restrictions are not getting as much attention as they should from government or the OHRC. 

Many voiced frustration that efforts to fight NIMBYism often fall to the organizations developing affordable housing or services. The Federation of Rental Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) noted that clear direction is required from the provincial government to prevent discrimination at the municipal level, or else the local planning process will continue to discourage the development of affordable and supportive housing. CMHA Ontario supported amending the Planning Act to include a section on inclusionary zoning that will give municipalities the right to direct that a certain percentage of new development be set aside for social housing.[90] ONPHA agreed, recommending that developers and municipalities be required to set aside a percentage of new housing to house persons living with mental illness or addictions.

The OHRC also heard that the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), which hears land-use planning disputes and has the jurisdiction to apply the Human Rights Code, is an important forum to ensure that human rights are respected and NIMBYism is challenged.


16. As outlined in the OHRC’s submission to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Government of Ontario should amend the Provincial Policy Statement which provides direction on land use planning matters, to:

  • Confirm a commitment to human rights
  • Lay out expectations for municipalities to review and remove barriers to affordable housing development that could lead to discrimination against groups protected by the Human Rights Code.
  • Lay out mechanisms of accountability for removing discriminatory barriers to affordable housing development.
  • Outline clearer expectations that municipalities will increase affordable housing in their communities.

17. Municipalities across Ontario should review their zoning and rental housing licensing bylaws to eliminate barriers to housing and services used by people with mental health issues or addictions (such as group homes or addiction treatment centres). Municipalities should remove any non-legitimate or non-bona fide requirements that apply to housing or services used by people with psychosocial disabilities that do not apply to housing of a similar scale or similar types of services.

OHRC commitments:

C10. The OHRC will continue to promote its guide, In the Zone: Housing, human rights and municipal planning and provide education to municipal councils, planners, legal clinics, developers, neighbourhood associations, tenant associations and other stakeholders on their rights and responsibilities under the Code to prevent discriminatory opposition to affordable housing.

C11. As per the commitments it made in Right at Home , the OHRC will continue to be available to consult with community organizations, municipalities/municipal associations and the Government of Ontario to help develop and implement a province-wide strategy to address and prevent discriminatory NIMBY opposition. 

C12. The OHRC will continue to use its mandate to actively challenge discriminatory NIMBY opposition through, where appropriate, working with municipal councils, conducting public interest inquiries, pursuing legal challenges, and other initiatives.

11.2. Types of discrimination against individuals

a) Rental housing screening methods

In both the private and social housing rental market, consultees identified types of screening practices that lead people with psychosocial disabilities to be turned down or subjected to different terms and conditions when renting housing. Many of these screening practices are rules based on legitimate rental criteria, but that have an adverse impact on people with psychosocial disabilities. Other screening methods may involve landlords or housing providers basing rental decisions on stereotypes about real or perceived disabilities – a form of direct discrimination. For more information about rental housing screening methods, see the OHRC’s Policy on human rights and rental housing (section 4.1.2.).

Private housing market: adverse effect screening techniques

We heard that if people, due to disability, have:

  • Spent time in hospital, a treatment centre or in a correctional facility 
  • Experienced unstable, low paying, or intermittent employment
  • Experienced periods of homelessness
  • Low income or no credit history
  • Experienced disability-related behaviour for which they were evicted.

they may be unable to meet legitimate rental criteria, such as having a sound rental or credit history, or being able to provide the required deposits. When prospective tenants need a service animal to assist them, they cannot meet landlords’ illegal demands for “no pets.” All of these requirements can discriminate based on disability and should give rise to the duty to accommodate.

Screening for criminal history in private rental housing is becoming more common, we were told. CMHA Sudbury-Manitoulin indicated that people with mental health issues or addictions with criminal records have a very difficult time finding housing that will accept them. In the OHRC’s housing consultation, the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA/SRAC) said that rejecting potential tenants with criminal histories may violate the human rights of people with mental health issues if a criminal record was related to their disability. Housing providers must take into account a person’s individual circumstances in these cases. We also heard of situations where landlords got information about a person’s apprehension under the Mental Health Act when inquiring about a police record, which created a further barrier to renting housing.

Private housing market: screening techniques directly based on disability

In private rental housing, many people said they were denied housing after revealing, or being perceived to have, a mental health issue or addiction. We learned of significant barriers in this area: many people tried to get housing multiple times but were unsuccessful because of landlords’ reactions. Research supports the fact that many private landlords deny housing to people with mental health disabilities.[91]

Some rental screening techniques directly discriminate against people with mental health issues and addictions. Use of guarantors is permitted in certain situations; for example, when other screening information is unavailable, or where there is a history of rental default. However, guarantors should not be requested just because the prospective tenant is a member of a Code-protected group. We heard of situations where people who received social assistance or had a psychiatric history were asked to have a co-signor or guarantor. Some people also described being asked for extra deposits beyond one month’s rent, based on their disability.

When I found housing downtown, landlords refused my application on the grounds that if my health became worse, how would I pay rent? When a landlord actually accepted my application, his condition was that I would pay him $100 dollars extra, in cash. I had to find housing and I had to accept the deal he offered. – Survey respondent

People are often asked intrusive questions by potential landlords about the nature of their disability, particularly when they receive ODSP. Many people did not know that they do not have to disclose information about their disabilities to a potential landlord. We heard how certain mistaken assumptions are made about individuals with known or perceived mental health issues and addictions, particularly where this intersects with low income, or where people may appear different from other people because of their disability. Landlords may assume that people with addictions attract drug dealers to the building. We heard how some people were wrongly stereotyped as being unable to take care of themselves, irresponsible tenants or even dangerous.

My son … now age 30, had these experiences in the last 15 years: denial from a cooperative housing unit on the grounds that his psychiatric disability might be a so-called “sexual” disability; [there was a] refusal to rent to him because he “looked strange”…

            – Survey respondent

I am a landlord and I absolutely do not feel safe sharing my home with a mentally ill tenant. It is beyond belief that someone would put innocent people at risk in the general public.

            – Survey respondent

Some people found it difficult to get an apartment without the help of a housing worker. At the same time, some landlords will not rent to a person if they know the candidate has been involved with a mental health agency (CMHA Sudbury-Manitoulin). Others said that their housing worker would ask landlords if they rented to people with disabilities, or tell them of their client’s mental health conditions, prompting intrusive questions about the nature of their client’s disability and decreasing the person’s chances of being rented an apartment.

Source of income

People receiving public assistance (for example, disability benefits, student loans, social assistance, employment insurance, or Canada Pension Plan benefits) are protected from discrimination in the area of housing. Despite this, many people said they were consistently denied rental housing in the private housing market because their income was social assistance, especially Ontario Works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits. They noted that having ODSP as a source of income automatically marks people as having a disability.

We heard that to get a rental apartment, some people were forced to lie about receiving social assistance or about the nature of their mental health or addiction history.

It was very difficult to find an apartment with my fiancée. We weren't getting calls back. One landlord asked me why I was on Disability and how long and how much I received, and told me that it was because the property management needed to know everything about their tenants ... but she wasn't asking as many questions of my fiancée. My fiancée has a good job and good credit; there was no reason we shouldn't have been approved for the places we applied for. Once I stopped telling the landlords that I was on Disability, and instead that I was waiting to be approved for [the Ontario Student Assistance Program] or a student already attending school, then we got approved. I can't imagine what it would be like to try and find a place to live on my own.  – Survey respondent

Some people described negative and judgemental attitudes from landlords who knew they received public assistance. People told us that landlords may be acting on misperceptions about people who receive public assistance, including that they may not be able to live independently, are receiving social assistance fraudulently, or are unreliable tenants. Sometimes people face discrimination in housing based on multiple Code grounds, which may be linked to intersecting stereotypes. One person stated, “I would never tell a potential landlord that I was a single, middle-aged woman on disability: the kiss of death.”

Conditions to receive treatment

Once after a suicidal crisis [in university], I was forced to sign a contract indicating that I would continue with counselling in order to remain a resident. It was also indicated that if my condition worsened I would be evicted from residence … To give myself lasting self-respect, I claimed an apartment off-campus. – Survey respondent

The OHRC heard that in social and supportive housing, and in the private rental market, some housing providers require tenants to take treatment or medication, or want information about medications, as a condition of receiving or maintaining housing [Empowerment Council and the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office (PPAO)]. ARCH raised concerns about conditions placed on social housing tenants who have been released from hospital and are under the supervision of ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) teams and subject to Community Treatment Orders (CTOs). CTOs allow people who would otherwise be detained involuntarily in hospital to be treated in the community, under certain conditions.

According to a representative of a supportive housing agency, there may be a requirement that the tenant agree to take medications as a condition of tenancy within supportive housing programs that offer a high level of assistance to tenants. The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association said that the requirement for treatment may also be part of an eviction-prevention process when tenants have failed to meet their tenancy obligations due to a mental health or addiction disability, and medication and/or treatment supports them to live independently and meet their responsibilities. When someone is able to meet their tenancy obligations without complying with these requirements, he or she would not be evicted based on non-compliance.

Requiring mandatory treatment to start or continue a tenancy can raise human rights concerns. If a person needs housing, they may feel forced to agree to conditions not allowed by the Code.  Capable people have the right to freely consent or not consent to take treatment. There may be some situations where asking a person to seek treatment as a condition of tenancy is justified. Housing providers should closely evaluate conditions that link housing and treatment and eliminate any that do not have a legitimate (or bona fide) rationale.

The Supreme Court of Canada has set out a test for determining whether a requirement or standard that results in discrimination is bona fide and can be justified.[92] To do this, an organization must show that the standard or requirement:

  • relates to the purpose or nature of the activity being performed (such as a job)
  • was adopted honestly rather than for a discriminatory reason
  •  is necessary to do the activity (e.g. fulfill one’s role as a tenant), and
  • there isn’t a more inclusive alternative that would avoid or reduce the negative effect (on Code-protected groups), and
  • the circumstances of the individual are still considered and accommodated as much as possible, unless there are costs or health and safety reasons that would cause undue hardship.

A “housing first” approach recognizes that housing is a protected human right. It means people can obtain social or supportive housing without having to follow treatment conditions or conditions of sobriety.[93]

OHRC commitment:

C13. The OHRC will examine the issue of mandatory treatment conditions in private, social and supportive housing in its policy on mental health and addictions and will provide further guidance to landlords and housing providers.

b) During tenancy

Inequitable treatment and harassment

Submissions identified concerns about both landlords’ and housing providers’ reactions to tenants with psychosocial disabilities. Although many private housing market landlords respect human rights, people noted situations where they were treated inequitably. We heard that people’s privacy was not respected, with landlords inappropriately releasing information to others about a person’s disability, asking about medications people were taking, or over-monitoring tenants. During our housing consultation, the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office (PPAO) said landlords may impose their own values on the tenant with a mental health disability when they exercise their rights to enter the unit. We received similar submissions during this consultation.

We learned how people may be subject to harassing comments or conduct from the landlords based on disability that poisoned their environment (CMHA Sudbury-Manitoulin), such as being called “crazy” by their landlord. Some people said they were harassed or bullied by other tenants or neighbours because of the perception of their mental health issues, and that the landlord did not adequately respond.

People also reported being repeatedly ignored by both landlords and social housing providers when they asked for repairs to be completed. They attributed this to having a mental health issue or addiction. Some said that because of these disabilities, it is difficult for tenants to continuously ask for repairs to be made; sometimes it takes an advocate to get involved before something is done.


In both the private and social housing market, several persons said that they or people they knew lost their housing due to having a mental health disability or addiction, which sometimes resulted in homelessness. In the private market, we heard that people with psychiatric disabilities and addictions may be threatened with eviction or evicted because landlords do not like the person’s source of income or because they become aware that the tenant has a disability.

The landlord went from being really wonderful to me, and then she talked to her sister at ODSP and found out I had mental issues. All of a sudden the house was up for sale. She started all this fuss about me destroying the property, when I had been taking care of everything … I was definitely discriminated against because of what she found out from the ODSP office. – Focus group participant

We heard how people may be evicted or threatened with eviction for behaviour related to their disability that disturbs the “reasonable enjoyment of the premises” of other tenants. This can be grounds for eviction under the Residential Tenancies Act[94] However, people described how some landlords jump to evict people with mental health disabilities or addictions before trying to take the time to resolve any issues, if they occur. In these situations, the duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship will apply.

My sister has schizophrenia. When she first took sick, we didn’t know what was going on. When we went to ask if her rent was paid up to date, they told us that they couldn’t disclose that. At the end of the month, she called, and said that they were putting all her stuff outside, and she didn’t know why. We didn’t know what to do – she was homeless. She ended up in the hospital. Now it has changed; [the social housing provider has] to call the emergency contact person before they evict.  – Focus group participant

11.3. Housing and the duty to accommodate

We received many submissions on the housing sector and the duty to accommodate. ONPHA said that there is a need for greater clarity between OHRC policy on the duty to accommodate and the various legislative, administrative and funding requirements for social housing providers. Individuals said it sometimes can be challenging for landlords and housing providers to balance the rights of the person with the disability who requires accommodation when these may conflict with the rights of other tenants, some, or many of whom may also have mental health disabilities or addictions (FRPO, Nipissing Community Legal Clinic).

We heard about different strategies that were successful when tenants and housing providers used the accommodation process. For example, if the person’s needs are complex, accommodation could be contacting outside supports or implementing a team approach, with the person’s consent. Some consultees emphasized that accommodation may need to take place over a period of time. Excessive hoarding was identified as one type of behaviour that may be complex to address, due to the potential health and safety concerns.

The TCHC Anti-Ableism committee and FRPO told us that landlords and social housing providers need more resources to support a tenant to be successful and to provide relevant accommodations. They called on government to help them do this. Where accommodation calls for housing providers to work with outside agencies to support a person to maintain their tenancy, ONPHA says that in many areas of the province, timely services are not available.

We were called upon by a number of people to educate individuals and organizations about their rights and obligations under the Code to progressively realize human rights in housing (ACTO, FRPO, ONPHA). ACTO said that increased awareness among tenants of their rights in housing has the greatest potential influence on advancing human rights. FRPO recommended providing relevant education to owners, managers and others who supply rental housing. Others recommended that the housing sector establish policies and protocols on the duty to accommodate people with psychiatric disabilities and addictions and communicate these to tenants. [95]


18. The Government of Ontario should support social, co-operative and private housing providers to ensure that they meet their duty to accommodate. This could include ensuring there are sufficient third-party agencies available to assist with tenants’ accommodation needs. 

19. Social, co-operative and for-profit housing providers should develop human rights expertise so they can provide housing-related human rights advice, mediate and investigate complaints, where appropriate, and do barrier reviews of their policies and procedures.

OHRC commitment:

C14. The OHRC will continue to provide education on human rights and rental housing to tenants, landlords, housing providers and others, and will include a focus on human rights, mental health and addictions.

[76] A household is in core housing need if its housing fails to meet at least one of three standards established for housing: adequacy (in need of major repair), suitability (fewer bedrooms than required) and affordability (it costs 30% or more of household before-tax income); and if its income before taxes is at or below the appropriate community-and-bedroom specific income threshold. Statistics Canada, Participation and Activity Limitations Survey, 2006: Selected Variables by Emotional Disability, Other Disabilities and No Disability for Canada and Ontario, 2006. Data provided to the OHRC.

[77] Douglas A. Steinhaus, Debra A. Harley & Jackie Rogers, “Homelessness and People with Affective Disorders and Other Mental Illnesses” (2004)  35 J. Applied Rehabilitation Counseling 36; For a review of precarious housing and health impacts, see Wellesley Institute, Precarious Housing in Canada (2010) online: Wellesley Institute; Rahel Eynan, et al. “The Association Between Homelessness and Suicidal Ideation and Behaviours: Results of a Cross-Sectional survey”  (2002) 32 Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 418.

[78] Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Canada, UN ESCOR, 2006, UN Doc. CCPR/C/CAN/CO/5. at para 17.

[79] Cheryl Forchuk et al., “From Psychiatric Ward to the Streets and Shelters” (2006) 13:3 J. of Psychiatric & Mental Health Nursing 301.

[80] For more information on this topic, see Ontario Human Rights Commission, Human Rights and Rental Housing in Ontario: Background Paper (Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2007) online: OHRC 

[81] Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Media Release, “Affordable Housing boosted by New Legislation” (19 April 2011) online: Government of Ontario

[82] Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, Media Release, “ONPHA Comments on Housing Strategy: Strategy Recognizes Importance of Community-Based Housing for Ontario’s Future” (29 November 2010), online: ONPHA; Housing Network of Ontario, “Ontario’s proposed affordable housing plan fails to meet the five basic tests set by the Housing Network of Ontario” (30 November 2010), online: Canadian News Wire

[83] Ontario Human Rights Commission, Right at Home: Report on the consultation on human rights and rental housing in Ontario (Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2008) at 63.

[84] Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, “Glossary of Terms and Acronyms” online: Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, retrieved December 14, 2011.

[85] Patrick J. LeSage, Report on the Eviction of Al Gosling and the Eviction Prevention Policy of Toronto Community Housing Corporation (May 2010) online: Toronto Community Housing Corporation at 5.

[86] John Sylvestre et al., “Strengthening Ontario’s System of Housing for People with Serious Mental Illness” (2007) 26:1 Can. J. of Comm. Mental Health 79 at 82.  

[87] Housing Services Act, 2011, S.O. 2011, c. 6, Sched. 1, O.Reg. 367/11, s. 24. The Housing Services Act, 2011 replaced the Social Housing Reform Act, 2000.

[88] Housing Services Act, 2011, ibid. O. Reg. 298/01 (formerly under Social Housing Reform Act, 2000). Sections 48(5) and 48(6) state that if monthly non-benefit income exceeds a certain amount per month (based on the size of the benefit unit), the monthly rent can exceed the amount otherwise stipulated.  

[89] John Stapleton, Why is it so Tough to Get Ahead: How Our Tangled Social Programs Pathologize the Transition to Self-Reliance (Metcalf Foundation, 2007) at 29; John Stapleton, Zero Dollar Linda: A Meditation on Malcolm Gladwell’s “Million Dollar Murray,” the Linda Chamberlain Rule, and the Auditor General of Ontario (Metcalf Foundation, November 2010) online: Metcalf Foundation

[90] Bill 198, the Planning Amendment Act (Enabling Municipalities to Require Inclusionary Housing), 2009, which included sections on inclusionary zoning, was referred  to the Standing Committee on General government on September 24, 2009, but did not go through third reading.

[91] In a study done by the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, it estimated that one in three house-seekers who disclose a mental illness will experience discrimination in the Toronto rental housing market. Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, Sorry It’s Rented: Measuring Discrimination in Toronto’s Rental Housing Market (July 2009) online: CERA Thirty-four percent of respondents taking part in the Senate Standing Committee’s e-consultation reported that they or people they knew had been turned down for a job or fired because of a mental illness, and 21% had been denied housing by a landlord. Howard Chodos, N. Pogue & T. Riordan, E-consultation on mental health, mental illness and addiction: Phase one (Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament, 2005) as cited in the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, supra note 14 at 228.  

[92] Meiorinsupra note 25.

[93] Sam Tsemberis, Leyla Gulcur & Maria Nakae, ”Housing First, Consumer Choice, and Harm Reduction for Homeless Individuals With a Dual Diagnosis” (2004) 94:4 Am. J. Public Health 651; Mental Health Commission of Canada, At Home/Chez Soi Early Findings Report Volume 2 (January 2012) Online: MHCC; the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s National Mental Health Strategy recommends the use of “housing first” strategies to address homelessness. Mental Health Commission of Canada, Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada (2012), Recommendation 3.5.2 at 75.

[94] Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c. 17, s. 64. (1) A landlord may give a tenant notice of termination of the tenancy if the conduct of the tenant, another occupant of the rental unit or a person permitted in the residential complex by the tenant is such that it substantially interferes with the reasonable enjoyment of the residential complex for all usual purposes by the landlord or another tenant or substantially interferes with another lawful right, privilege or interest of the landlord or another tenant.

[95] For example, some social housing providers such as the Toronto Community Housing Corporation and City Housing Hamilton have established “mental health frameworks,” human rights and harassment policies, eviction prevention procedures, or other resources for vulnerable tenants. These must be applied consistently and to be effective, staff should be trained on them. Patrick J. LeSage, Report on the Eviction of Al Gosling and the Eviction Prevention Policy of Toronto Community Housing Corporation (May 2010) online: Toronto Community Housing Corporation> at 6, 26 & 27.


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