“Sorry, it’s rented.” Measuring discrimination against newcomers in Toronto’s rental housing market

November 30, 2022

New research report: Sorry it's rented: Measuring discrimination against newcomers in Toronto's rental housing market.

Our 2022 discrimination audit report examines the level of discrimination faced by newcomers in Toronto’s rental market, and how race, gender and parental status increases the likelihood of discrimination when searching for rental housing. 


About the discrimination audit report

Canada has recognized that adequate housing is a fundamental human right and is essential to living a life with dignity. Access to adequate and affordable housing is vital in order for people to feel included and be part of the fabric of society. However, there has long been concern that newcomer and refugee populations, especially those who are racialized, face heightened discrimination and other barriers when seeking rental housing. Every year, CCHR receives hundreds of calls from newcomers who report experiencing discrimination and other barriers to accessing rental housing. Often, newcomers tell us they can find an apartment to rent, but their applications are denied based on their immigration status, race, the composition of their family, or because they receive social assistance. 

Over a decade ago CCHR undertook a study examining discrimination in the rental application process in Toronto titled “Sorry, it’s rented”: Measuring Discrimination in Toronto’s Rental Housing Market. Our 2009 report found that 26% of Black lone parents and 23% of South Asian men in Toronto experienced discrimination when accessing housing. The widely cited 2009 report continues to be one of the most current resources on the topic of discriminatory treatment in housing searches. Since the 2009 report was published, the crisis in rental housing for lower income people in Ontario has only deepened and many communities continue to face challenges in accessing adequate rental housing. 

In 2022, CCHR undertook an audit to understand the extent of discrimination faced by newcomers and refugees searching for rental housing in Toronto. The new discrimination report involved conducting over 1,300 paired tests in Toronto via telephone and email, as well as a survey and interviews with newcomers.


Key findings

The study found that newcomers in Toronto face up to 11 times as much discrimination as non-newcomers when searching to secure rental housing. The study also found that racialized newcomers experience more discrimination compared to non-racialized newcomers when calling to inquire about a rental listing and that the composition of their family compounded the experience of discrimination. Our report’s findings were further confirmed by a survey and interviews with newcomers who shared the myriad of challenges they experienced trying to access housing in Toronto’s rental sector.   

  • For both men and women, disclosing newcomer status elicited some form of discrimination.  
  • Female callers who disclosed a newcomer status faced a 62% increase in discrimination when they had accents that presented as racialized compared with female newcomer auditors who did not have racialized accents.  
  • Male callers who disclosed a newcomer status faced 267% increase in discrimination when they had accents presented as racialized compared with male newcomer auditors who did not have racialized accents. 
  • Racialized newcomer women callers faced a 563% increase in discriminatory treatment when they disclosed that they were caring for a child compared with when parental status was not disclosed.  
  • In the email audits, auditors who disclosed newcomer status with names that presented as female faced a 30% increase in discrimination when their name was also presented as racialized compared with their non-racialized counterparts.  
  • In many interactions, after a telephone auditor or email auditor disclosed their newcomer status, housing providers outlined stringent criteria they had to meet to rent the unit. By outlining such criteria, housing providers were able to deny housing to newcomers. 

Recommendations 

The experiences of discrimination described in this report are damaging and have real impacts on the ability of individuals and families to thrive in Canada. It is important that discrimination in housing against newcomers and members of equity-deserving groups is foregrounded in public conversations and that action is taken on the ground as well as at the policy level to prevent and address it. CCHR has compiled a list of 9 policy recommendations to address discrimination in rental housing.  

Our governments must take steps to prevent and address discrimination, so that everyone can live in adequate, accessible and affordable homes. 


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