Publications, opinions, and speeches
A human rights review of Toronto’s multi-tenant homes policies
Published on 11/11/2020
Multi-tenant homes (MTH), traditionally known as rooming houses, are a vital source of deeply-affordable housing in Toronto. They come in a wide range of forms and are home to a diverse array of residents, including newcomers, students, seniors, and many who have experienced homelessness. Members of equityseeking groups, such as racialized individuals and people with physical and mental disabilities, also rely on MTH to a great degree.
Yet, despite serving as a crucial housing form in a city of rising rents and low vacancies, MTH are not permitted in the majority of neighbourhoods. Also, while in some parts of the city hundreds of dwelling rooms are being lost to upscaling and new development, in others they are proliferating quickly and illegally to meet rising demand. Safety and property standards issues are pervasive, posing a serious risk to tenants and driving a wedge between neighbours. These on-going challenges have brought into question the sustainability of existing approaches to regulation and preservation of this important housing stock.
In response to these issues, the City of Toronto is introducing proposals on a new zoning strategy and a modernized regulatory framework for MTH this fall. As a complement to this work, Maytree, in collaboration with an interdivisional working group, was tasked with conducting a human rights review of the proposed changes, examining primarily:
- A city-wide zoning approach to Multi-Tenant Homes, which would permit MTH in all areas of the city, subject to zone-specific requirements.
- Harmonized city-wide zoning and licensing definitions of MTH, aligned with the Ontario Building Code and Ontario Fire Code.
- A new regulatory regime that enhances conditions for tenants, including requirements for landlords to have property maintenance, waste and pest management plans, floor plans, and a process for landlords to respond to tenant issues.
Undertaking such a review means assessing how public decisions affect the enjoyment of our rights. The focus in this case is on the right to adequate housing and considering whether proposed policies promote compliance with established standards and norms related to adequacy, safety, and affordability, among other important elements. Conducting a human rights review of the proposed MTH policy changes is consistent with the City’s existing housing objectives and human rights obligations, as outlined in its HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan.