Our History

Advancing the right to housing in Canada for 35 years

For the first 35 years of our existence – from 1987 until 2022 – the Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR) was called the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA).

CCHR began as a coalition focused on a singular goal and across our history, has evolved into Canada’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the right to housing.

Our origins

CERA was formed in 1987 by a coalition of low-income families in Ontario. The previous year, these families had successfully advocated for major changes to Ontario’s Human Rights Code (OHRC) to ensure compliance with newly enacted provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The goal of these changes to the OHRC was to address the problem of escalating homelessness in Ontario.

These amendments to the OHRC ensured that Ontario offered some of the best statutory protections from discrimination in housing in Canada and internationally. However, it soon became clear that low-income households and those most vulnerable to homelessness were not enjoying the intended benefits of these protections

In order to benefit from Ontario’s human rights and housing protections, impacted groups required assistance and information about how to claim and enforce their rights. CERA was established to fill this gap and to advance the right to housing by representing individuals facing discrimination and advocating for the interests of groups vulnerable to housing insecurity and homelessness.

Our expansion

Over time in response to demonstrated needs from communities, CERA’s mandate expanded to include work across Canada and internationally. Over the years, our mandate has included a variety of activities and programs including:

  • Public education and training, outreach, research, law reform and policy development on housing rights.
  • Human rights case work on housing issues, including providing individualized services and undertaking test case litigation.
  • Early intervention eviction prevention programming.
  • Initiatives focused on advancing housing rights for equity deserving groups including women, newcomers, seniors, Indigenous communities and youth.
  • International advocacy related to human rights and housing.

Our new name

As CERA continued to grow, our name no longer reflected the breadth of our work and the space we held in the right to housing movement in Canada. With input from our valued community – renter clients, partners, and supporters – in 2022 CERA was renamed the Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR), a name chosen because it clearly reflects who we are and what we do.

Our track record

  • October 1987 – CERA was officially incorporated.
  • December 1998 – In Kearney v. Bramalea Ltd., a case launched by CERA on behalf of three complainants, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal declared that the use of rent-to-income ratios/minimum income criteria in selecting tenants violated the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  • 2000 – We launched an innovative new program focused on providing early intervention eviction prevention services to renters in Ontario who were threatened with the loss of their home, one of the first programs of its kind.
  • March 2003 – We were engaged by the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements and the United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake the first research study on the status of the right to housing for Indigenous peoples, particularly women, around the world. 
  • June 2003 – As co-coordinator of the Women’s Working Group of the International Network on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), we officially launched the Montréal Principles at an international human rights conference in Thailand, which addressed the meaning and application of women’s economic, social and cultural rights. 
  • July 2009 – We published “Sorry, It’s Rented: Measuring Housing Discrimination in Toronto”, a report on our ground-breaking audit of discriminatory practices faced by equity-deserving residents in their search for a rental home in Toronto.
  • May 2010 – In partnership with individuals who had experienced poverty and homelessness, we launched a legal challenge against the federal and provincial governments. The challenge argued that the governments of Canada and Ontario violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by failing to address and contributing to a growing homelessness and inadequate housing crisis. This landmark legal challenge sparks a widespread right to housing movement across Canada. 
  • January 2012 – We launched Youth for Housing for Youth (Y4H4Y), an arts-based legal education project that empowers youth through human rights education and creative advocacy. 
  • January 2014 – In partnership with the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) we launched a project that facilitated housing rights training in five Northern Ontario communities and produced resources for First Nations, Metis and Inuit tenants. 
  • June 2019 – CERA became the coordinating organization of the Right to Housing Toronto (R2HTO), a group of over 180 key housing organizations and advocates working to advance rights-based housing policy in Toronto.
  • December 2019 – The City of Toronto became the first municipality in Canada to commit to advancing the right to housing in its 10-year housing plan, HousingTO 2020-2030, after months of consultations with CERA and R2HTO. 
  • February 2021 – In partnership with the National Right to Housing Network and Social Rights Advocacy Centre, we developed a submission to the Government of Canada focused on advancing the right to housing, advocating for the implementation of a federal rent relief program to curb the pandemic eviction crisis.   
  • September 2022: CERA changes its name to the Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR), beginning a new chapter in our long history and charting a path for the work ahead.
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