Addressing anti-Black racism and discrimination in housing

February 2, 2022

Canada’s rental housing market is punishingly competitive. Low vacancy rates and out of control rental rates that are divorced from people’s ability to pay have left housing out of reach for many in the city. Finding housing that fits within one’s budget is extremely difficult, and the resulting housing instability has led to countless households being underhoused or homeless.

In addition to having to compete for housing in this environment, many Black households face anti-Black racism and discrimination from landlords and housing providers when trying to access housing, even though race is a protected ground under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

What anti-Black racism in housing looks like

Discrimination in the housing market is unfortunately not rare. In July 2021, CERA and the Right to Housing Toronto held a workshop on discrimination, where two Black women shared some of the challenges they have faced when trying to find and maintain safe and accessible housing in the GTA – from passive aggressive comments to blatantly discriminatory housing ads. The women shared that the racial discrimination they faced was compounded by other factors related to their income, family status and disabilities. After long searches and multiple refusals from landlords, both women were forced to accept the only options open to them, in unsuitable housing where they did not feel comfortable or safe.

In 2009, CERA conducted a study about discrimination faced by renters in Toronto’s housing market. The important findings from this work have informed our advocacy efforts for equitable changes to housing policy and legislation. CERA’s research study found that Black housing seekers faced discrimination based on multiple human rights grounds, such as race, family status and/or place of origin. Intersectionality is also relevant to the difficulties Black renters can experience when trying to find housing. Our study found that 1 in 4 single parents who were Black experienced discrimination when searching for rental housing, and this continues to be reported by the media.

In the same CERA study, the research found that racial discrimination, while prevalent, was not explicitly stated by housing providers. Media reports show that it is common for Black renters to face additional questions and inquiries from housing providers due to discriminatory stereotypes. The consequences of housing insecurity for racialized communities have only worsened in the decade since our study was released and have become dire with the onset of COVID-19.

Actions needed to address anti-Black racism in housing

Acknowledging the systemic racism that has prevented many Black Canadians from accessing housing is crucial to advancing effective change. This discrimination has not only impacted individuals but has also meant that Black renters have been shut out of entire parts of the city. The right to housing must be a reality for all households on an equitable basis, and it cannot be fully realized without addressing the housing discrimination experienced by the Black community.

In order to even begin to address anti-Black racism in housing, governments must take some basic steps:

  1. Increased government investments in resources and support for Black renters searching for housingMore resources, such as information and advocacy support are needed to address discrimination in the housing market. This is particularly important because many renters who face discrimination often do not have the time or resources to pursue their legal rights when experiencing racism. It is important for renters to have access to resources that provide support and information about how to assert their rights in a given situation.
  2. Better data collection on the discrimination and racism experienced by Black housing seekersIt is extremely difficult to find data about Anti-Black racism and discrimination that Black housing seekers face in Ontario. More funding is necessary to ensure that in-depth data about Anti-Black racism in the housing sector is collected. This data is key to ensure that the right measures are put in place to address this issue. Every level of government must do their part to ensure that housing rights organizations have the funding and support needed to carry out this work, especially now with COVID-19 exacerbating the inequalities that already existed before the pandemic.

Support for Black renters facing discrimination in housing

CERA is dedicated to helping renters facing anti-Black racism and discrimination from their housing providers. If you are being discriminated against by your housing provider,please contact us to speak with a caseworker about how we can help to advocate for you:

Renters can also reach out to:

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