Across Canada, renters are increasingly at risk of housing insecurity. Many are facing “economic eviction” due to excessive rent increases, others are forced to live in over-crowded, poorly-maintained, or inaccessible homes because it is the only housing they can afford, and some also face discrimination and other illegal behaviour from landlords.
This winter, through our Secure Homes for Renters campaign, CCHR is calling on the federal government to ensure that there are basic legal standards to protect renters across Canada, and hundreds of Canadians have joined us in this call.
We know there is a great need for this work, because renters across the country tell us so every day. Every year, we hear from hundreds of renters about the struggles they are facing in their housing, and these challenges only continue to grow. Our team is working to respond to these challenges by advancing change at a systemic level, and also by helping renters assert their rights and avoid eviction on the ground.
“A group of four tenants reached out to us back in August. Their landlord was insisting they had to be out because of the sale of the property. He was trying to shame them and squeeze them into leaving,” recounts Tim Heneghan, one of CCHR’s staff lawyers. “Any time the landlord is trying to apply pressure, our job is to minimize that pressure.”
This past year, nearly 1,700 renters contacted CCHR’s services program for assistance, which is almost 20% higher than last year, and last month, demand for our services reached an all-time high. Our team provides legal information, guided referrals, connections to pro bono legal help, and legal advice and representation to people during what is often a frightening time in their lives.
CCHR lawyer Ademofe Oye-Adeniran recounts working with a renter who was facing eviction for reasons beyond his control. If this renter were evicted, not only would he lose his home, the city would likely also lose another affordable unit. “Their rent was $700 for a bachelor unit, which was quite affordable for Toronto, and I was able to take that on,” says Oye-Adeniran. She represented the renter in front of the Landlord and Tenant Board, and ultimately helped to prevent him from being evicted.
In addition to our services, CCHR works to empower communities by delivering training and building leadership and advocacy skills among renters in communities across Ontario, and in cities like Halifax, Winnipeg and Calgary. This year, our training programs reached over 1,100 renters, service providers and housing providers.
“Last week, tenants who were having an argument with their landlord asked us to come into their building to present a training on housing rights basics,” says Jessica Long, CCHR Senior Program Lawyer. “We provide about two trainings per week, including public presentations at libraries, to students at universities, and to shelter residents.”
Meaningful engagement is key to realizing the right to housing and advancing secure homes for renters, and it is foundational to our approach. “Any time you are going through something like evictions or issues in your housing situation, and you feel like David and your landlord feels like Goliath, you just have to talk to people,” says Heneghan, reflecting on his experience supporting renters. “The ones who succeed are the ones who look to community, and we’ve got a big part to play there, but just one part of a larger whole.”
As we continue working toward ensuring that all renters have secure homes, please consider supporting our work by making a donation this holiday season. Your support helps us continue to provide direct and practical help to renters facing eviction and housing insecurity right now, as we continue to push for better legal protections for renters across Canada over the longer term.