Ontario NDP Housing Plan takes a big step forward in advancing the right to housing

November 11, 2020

Across Ontario, a worsening housing crisis is making adequate, affordable housing increasingly out of reach, with more and more households lacking housing that meets basic conditions of affordability, security of tenure, accessibility, and habitability. The scope and scale of this crisis requires nothing short of a fundamental shift towards a human-rights based framework to housing policy. At the heart of this framework is the progressive realization of adequate housing as a human right, rather than a commodity to be bought and sold.

On Monday November 9th, Ontario’s New Democratic Party released a Housing Plan (“the Housing Plan”) titled “Homes You Can Afford” as part of the party’s 2022 election platform. The Housing Plan includes a number of measures aimed at building and preserving affordable housing, cracking down on the financialization of housing, supporting the development of housing for vulnerable individuals and communities, and protecting tenants against unlawful and bad-faith evictions.

Here we run down what the Ontario NDPs’ Housing Plan gets right, what’s missing and CERA’s take.

The Housing Plan and the Human Right to Adequate Housing

Encouragingly, the Housing Plan incorporates the language, process and substance of a rights-based approach to housing policy. The Housing Plan begins with an acknowledgment that housing is a human right and that inadequate housing disproportionately impacts women, Black, Indigenous, and racialized people, individuals living with mental health and addictions challenges, and 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals. From here, and throughout the Housing Plan, housing and housing policy are seen as key tools to achieving social, economic, health, and environmental goals such as ending homelessness, reversing the financialization of housing, addressing mental health issues through the use of supportive housing, and taking measures that recognize the important linkages between housing and the climate, in particular increasing energy efficiency through environmentally progressive building standards. Many of the Housing Plan’s proposals focus on improving housing outcomes for those in greatest need and in building sustainable and inclusive communities – both of which are priorities in a rights-based approach to housing policy. A commitment to meaningful engagement with and participation from Indigenous and Northern Ontario communities, individuals experiencing homelessness, and survivors of domestic violence sets the tone for tackling the housing needs of these individuals and communities. In short, the Housing Plan contains many of the protocols and measurements necessary for upholding the human right to adequate housing.

The Housing Plan and Basic Conditions of Adequate Housing

In a human rights-based framework, everyone has the right to equitable access to adequate housing. This right implies more than having four walls and a roof, and is not limited to the basic supply and availability of housing. At minimum, adequate housing meets the following basic conditions:

  • Affordability, meaning that the cost of housing does not interfere with access to other basic needs;
  • Security of tenure, meaning that residents are protected from arbitrary eviction;
  • Accessibility, meaning that people of all abilities have housing that accommodates their needs;
  • Habitability, meaning that housing provides a safe, secure, and healthy environment in which to thrive;
  • Location close to employment, education, and services;
  • Serviced by necessary infrastructure, such as safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, affordable heating and water, and access to communication; and,
  • Cultural adequacy, meaning that housing must respect and provide for the expression of cultural identity.

The Housing Plan includes specific policies aimed at ensuring the various elements of the right to housing listed above are met. Highlights include:


  • Working with the Federal Government of Canada to build 69,000 new affordable homes over 10 years;
  • Protecting 260,000 existing affordable homes by contributing 40% of capital repair budgets for repairs and renovations to these homes;
  • Expanding the Housing First model to provide safe, secure, and supportive housing to individuals experiencing homelessness;
  • Removing exemptions to rent control laws and ending vacancy decontrol – a policy that allows landlords to increase rents by any amount they choose after an existing tenant has moved out or been evicted; and
  • Working with federal government and municipal service agencies to provide direct financial support to help 311,000 tenants pay their rent.

Security of Tenure

  • Cracking down on unlawful renovictions and bad-faith “landlord’s own use” evictions;
  • Preventing unfair above guideline rent increases from landlords who complete unnecessary repair and/or renovations; and,
  • Filling adjudicator vacancies at the Landlord and Tenant Board to ensure tenants have access to legal remedies that protect tenants against poor housing conditions, disrepair, harassment, illegal evictions, etc.


  • Mandating Universal Design building codes and standards that address the needs of people of all ages, sizes, abilities and disabilities


  • Establishing standards for elevator availability that prevent delays in repairs to out of use elevators and ensure timely and consistent access to elevators


  • Ensuring homes are built near accessible transit options through the use of inclusionary zoning

Serviced by necessary infrastructure

  • Establishing a “Cooling Strategy” for Seniors and other vulnerable tenants to ensure proper air conditioning and cooling infrastructure is in place during warm seasons

Cultural adequacy

  • Working with Indigenous communities, the federal government and Indigenous-led housing providers to an adequate supply of safe, affordable and culturally-appropriate urban and rural housing, with supports where needed;
  • Partnering with community organizations to invest in culturally appropriate transitional housing for survivors fleeing domestic violence; and,
  • Developing policies for ending homelessness that address the individual needs and lived experience of individuals from all communities including women, families, Black, Indigenous and racialized people, youth, 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, and newcomers

The Housing Plan and the Financialization of Housing

A key cause of the housing crisis is the financialization of housing which treats housing as a market commodity rather than a social good – a distortion that is responsible for increased homelessness and a lack of adequate housing. When housing is thought of as a commodity, it is no longer recognized for what it is: a fundamental human right. In order to advance the right to housing, active measures must be put in place to ensure financialization no longer continues.

The Housing Plan responds to and addresses the issue of the financialization of housing through several policy proposals targeting housing speculation and hidden ownership. Many of these proposals are inspired by recent policies adopted by the Government of British Columbia, which include:

  • ending hidden ownership of real estate and cracking down on money laundering that is facilitated by hidden ownership;
  • increased regulation within the condominium and short-term rental market;
  • closing loopholes for the Non-Resident Speculation Tax (NRST) and adding an annual speculation and vacancy tax on residential property; and,
  • Tracking and taxing pre-construction condo flipping.

What’s Missing?

There are a number of ways that the Housing Plan could be enhanced to further protect the right to adequate housing.

The availability of timely legal advice, information and/or representation is necessary to ensure tenants can offset the existing power imbalance between landlords, many of whom have access to legal professionals, and tenants. The Housing Plan does not include increased funding for Legal Aid Services for tenants who require legal advice, representation and information to defend themselves against eviction and enforce their rights, nor does it provide increased funding for non-profits and housing advocacy groups that play a crucial role in assisting tenants facing eviction, discrimination and impediments to enforcing their rights as tenants who are not able to avail of legal aid services.

Bill 184, the misleadingly named “Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act,” threatens several critical components of the Right to Housing – security of tenure, affordability, and safety. This Bill strips tenants of several procedural rights guaranteed by the Residential Tenancies Act and will result in more evictions into homelessness for tenants across Ontario. The Housing Plan does not mention any specific intention to repeal this Bill and restore the rights to tenants facing eviction.

CERA’s Take

While the omissions mentioned above represent some important missed opportunities to level the playing field between landlords and tenants, the remainder of the Housing Plan represents a substantive step forward in addressing the significant housing needs of low income and vulnerable Ontarians, which have only been exacerbated as a result of COVID-19. Of particular interest is the commitment to provide 311,000 tenants with financial support to pay their rent, which could be the most significant opportunity to stem the likely wave of COVID-19 evictions that many of the organizations and individuals we work with remain deeply concerned about. Also of interest are the commitments to crack down on unlawful evictions due to landlord’s own use provisions and above guideline increases, two processes which we know to be widely misused and which contribute to the housing crisis in Ontario by facilitating rent escalation beyond a level that is reasonable. We are encouraged by the Housing Plan and hope that the omissions mentioned above may be addressed in future policy development or platform pieces.

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