WoodGreen Community Services – New Supportive Housing Project – RTA Issues
People who have lived on the street for long periods of time need extra help getting back into permanent housing. But when government funds new affordable housing for them does it really help them to take away their legal protection from arbitrary eviction and harassment?
WoodGreen Community Services has a long record of providing social services and good, affordable housing to disadvantaged people in East Toronto. They were able to get funding from the Federal Homelessness Partnership Initiative to convert a run-down old hotel there to 28 homes for older, homeless men who would live there for up to four years. After that, WoodGreen would help them find permanent homes. WoodGreen asked the Government of Ontario to enact a special regulation for them that would exempt this building from the Residential Tenancies Act. They claimed that this was the only way to keep the tenants from being preyed upon by drug dealers and other bad influences. This exemption would allow WoodGreen to evict tenants without proving that there was a legal cause for eviction at the Landlord and Tenant Board. It would also prevent these tenants from applying to the Board if they needed repairs done or if they were being harassed. Some government officials appeared to be ready to approve the request for the exemption.
But the Minister of Housing had concerns about this unprecedented request. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing was directed to discuss the request with ACTO and with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. We met with WoodGreen and the Ministry and expressed our concerns about allowing landlords – even well-intentioned ones – to operate their housing outside of the laws that affect everyone else. The Human Rights Commission was concerned that these tenants were being treated as second-class because of their disabilities, including addictions.
The Ministry has now changed its approach. They are recommending that WoodGreen only be granted a limited exemption that would stop the tenants from applying to the Landlord and Tenant Board on harassment and interference claims and would allow WoodGreen to evict them after four years. This is a significant improvement over the original proposal, but ACTO is still concerned that vulnerable people will have rights enjoyed by others taken away. We will continue to monitor this situation and watch for other efforts to take away tenants’ ability to hold their landlords accountable.