Publications, opinions, and speeches


Implementing a human rights-based approach to housing in the City of Toronto

Published on 26/07/2019

Submission to the City of Toronto’s consultation on HousingTO

Download the submission (PDF)

Over the course of 2019, the City of Toronto is developing HousingTO, an action plan to address the city’s housing and homelessness challenges over the next decade.

Maytree’s submission to HousingTO is focused on how the City can implement a human rights-based approach that will support the progressive realization of the right to housing for all Torontonians. Our submission outlines what a human rights-based approach to housing means, and includes practical examples of the processes, policies, and programming that the City can put in place to realize the right to housing. It is not merely an aspirational vision, but a series of achievable, practical actions.

The submission explains how a human rights-based approach to housing in Toronto will help us achieve affordable, secure, and quality housing for all residents. A human rights-based approach involves:

  • Developing and implementing a plan that uses its maximum available resources to increase access to housing, while prioritizing those in greatest need;
  • Having a two-way accountability framework with the City publicly reporting on its progress, and residents able to identify housing barriers which the City is required to take action on;
  • Implementing protocols for city staff and officials to review the impact of any decisions on the right to housing; and
  • Ongoing participation from a range of stakeholders with living/lived experience of inadequate housing and homelessness.

No single tool or process can fully support a human rights-based approach. Our submission outlines the following options that could work in Toronto:

  • Establishing the role of a Housing Ombudsperson responsible for investigating systemic barriers to housing faced by Toronto residents;
  • Setting targets that focus on the housing outcomes of those most in need;
  • Producing an annual report that shows how the City is progressing towards its targets overall, with disaggregated data on the housing outcomes of equity-seeking groups;
  • Providing council with an assessment of how the decisions before them impact the right to housing;
  • Establishing a long-term Housing Advisory Council including people with lived/living experience of inadequate housing and homelessness to inform the ongoing implementation of HousingTO; and
  • Committing resources to public education on the right to housing and to engaging grassroots organizations in setting the agenda for housing work at the City.

Lastly, our submission highlights some practical examples of how a human rights-based approach to housing could be implemented in Toronto through policies and programming:

  • Applying a choice-based system to the allocation of social housing units which would allow tenants to decide which of the units available is suitable for their needs;
  • Setting multiple affordability targets based in the diversity of incomes and needs in the city;
  • Implementing an inclusionary zoning policy that would provide the maximum number of deeply affordable units and prioritize access to housing for those most in need;
  • Developing a citywide regulatory framework for rooming houses that legalizes and supports the preservation and expansion of multi-tenant housing; and
  • Providing coordinated strategic expansion of tenant support services to better reflect the different causes of homelessness and the range of groups at risk.

Download the submission (PDF)


Housing and homelessness, Human rights


Submission by Maytree to the City of Toronto Housing Secretariat regarding the development of HousingTO