Implementing a Human Rights-based Approach to Housing in the City of Toronto

Submission by Maytree to the City of Toronto Housing Secretariat regarding the development of HousingTO

Housing advocates have long been calling for governments to recognize the right to housing, but for policy-makers, bureaucrats, and private sector partners the concept is less familiar. Through HousingTO, the City has an opportunity to be explicit about what the right to housing is and what a human rights-based approach means. This will help ensure that the ideas underpinning the right to housing are understood by everyone, and that all partners involved in addressing Toronto’s housing crisis know what their role is in helping realize the right to housing.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Canada is a signatory, makes clear that the right to housing means more than just access to shelter. While there are seven components that underpin the right to housing5 , at Maytree, we frame them into three overall dimensions: 

1. Affordability – housing that residents can pay for without sacrificing other basic needs; 

2. Security – housing that offers security of tenure, freedom from the threat of eviction; and 

3. Quality – housing that is both habitable as well as appropriate to the specific needs of the resident (such as household size, proximity to services, accessibility, and cultural practices). 

Through HousingTO, the recognition that all Torontonians have a right to access quality housing, with security of tenure at a price they can afford, would signal clearly and publicly that the City unequivocally believes that all of Toronto’s residents have an inherent right to housing by virtue of being a human being, and not because of how much money they make. This would establish the principles guiding the City’s approach to housing policy, and would demonstrate that the City sees itself as a partner in the federal government’s National Housing Strategy commitment to human rights.

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