A Hard Won Victory for Housing


June 21, 2019 (Toronto, ON) – An important milestone has been achieved in Canada as Parliament formally recognizes that housing is a fundamental human right. Bill C-97, which includes the National Housing Strategy Act, received Royal Assent today. For over a decade, the right to housing movement across the country demanded the creation of a National Housing Strategy and the recognition of the right to housing in law. The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and the Right to Housing (R2H) Coalition celebrate that millions of people can now hold their government accountable for addressing their housing needs.

The R2H Coalition and ACTO’s historic Charter challenge inspired public awareness of what a right to safe, secure and adequate housing could mean for those living in Canada. Five applicants bravely shared their life experience of struggling with inadequate housing and homelessness, while many social justice organizations intervened to echo the call for the right to housing. “Taking the government to court for failing to address growing homelessness and the affordable housing crisis was a colossal task,” explains Kenneth Hale, the Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at ACTO. “As a specialty legal clinic committed to representing the needs of low-income Ontarians, we had to show Canadians and the world that too many vulnerable lives were being harmed.”

Across Canada, 1.7 million people are living in unaffordable and inadequate homes. Mass homelessness is disproportionally impacting Indigenous people, people living with disabilities, women, lone-parent households, racialized and immigrant communities. “It’s been proven that safe and secure housing is a step further to socioeconomic well-being,” says Lubna Khalid a member of the R2H Coalition. “It builds people’s self-esteem and confidence while improving mental and physical health.”

After the R2H Coalition and ACTO highlighted Canada’s failure to adequately house its vulnerable residents before a United Nations committee in Geneva, Canada was told that it must adopt a human-rights based national housing strategy and collaborate with affected communities. With the right to housing now legislated, people will have a new Federal Housing Advocate and the National Housing Council to hold the government accountable for systemic violations of their right to adequate housing. “We see the terrible consequences to people who experience homelessness every day,” says Mike Creek, a member of the R2H Coalition who attended the UN meeting. “The right to housing will change lives and how we view housing. Canadians should celebrate that housing is recognized as a human right. This is something to be proud of.”

So what does this new legislation mean?
Read ACTO’s blog post: We got the Right to Housing. Now What? (June 27, 2019)
Read CHRA’s blog post: Right to Housing is Now Law in Canada: So Now What? (July 5, 2019)

Tell the City of Toronto that housing is a human right

Right to Housing in Toronto banner image

The City of Toronto is in the midst of consultations on their upcoming 10 year housing and homelessness plan – HousingTO – and they have received direction from City Council to consult on a rights-based approach to housing. This is a great chance to finally have housing as a human right recognized in Toronto, especially since it can build on the right to housing work that looks to be moving forward through the national housing strategy.

Similar to the TO Housing Pledge, a few of us have come together again to call for changes at the City – this time focusing on the right to housing. We’ve created a website – www.Right2HousingTO.ca – with information on what a rights-approach to the HousingTO plan should include, as well as pathways to the City’s consultation process where people can also indicate their support for a right to housing in Toronto (it also includes some information on the right to housing federally).

There is an opportunity for real movement on a right to housing in Toronto through this new 10 year housing and homelessness plan.

Learn more here and find out what you can do to tell the City that housing is a right!

Recognize the Right to Housing in Law

Canadians have been urging their governments to recognize housing as a human right for over a decade. Last year, the federal government introduced Canada’s National Housing Strategy and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that “housing rights are human rights”. Now public consultations on the National Housing Strategy’s human rights-based approach to housing are underway until June 2018. The Government of Canada wants to hear what you have to say about the key elements of a human rights-based approach to housing, the proposed approach to new legislation, and new concepts to be explored.

We believe that the federal government MUST recognize that housing is a human right in law. Canada signed international agreements that must be upheld. We need clear remedies to hold our government accountable to their promise. Without recognition of the right to housing in law, a human-rights based approach to housing is merely symbolic.

Click on this link to send an email to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and tell them to recognize housing as a right in law.

Right to Housing Forum

On April 30, 2018, we organized the Right to Housing Forum. Panelists discussed solutions to Ontario’s affordable rental housing crisis and what the right to housing should look like in Canada – if you couldn’t make it in person, watch the forum here:

The Government of Canada is currently in the midst of a national consultation for their human rights-based approach to housing. Consultations will end on June 1, 2018. We encourage everyone to engage in this process through written submissions.

Here are two resources to help you with your submission:

1 – ACTO’s ideas paper on the human rights-based approach: Questions on the Way to the Right to Housing.

2 – Emily Paradis, Research Consultant at the University of Toronto and Bruce Porter, the Executive Director of the Social Rights Advocacy Centre have prepared a summary paper that sets out key elements for implementing the right to housing: Implementing the Human Right to Housing in Canada’s National Housing Strategy.

Right to Housing Community Forum













Register here.

Our federal government has promised to fix the affordable housing crisis with the recently announced National Housing Strategy. They announced billions of dollars of investments, which will require cost-matching by the provinces and territories. What will the Ontario government do to make sure we don’t lose these funds?

The federal government also promised to recognize that housing is a human right. But what does that mean? How can we hold our government accountable to their promise?

Join us for a discussion on what is needed to fix Ontario’s affordable housing crisis and what a rights-based approach to housing should look like.

The panel of housing advocates include:

Moderated by Effie Vlachoyannoacos (Maytree)

This is a free event. Everyone is welcome!

Wheelchair accessible. ASL interpretation provided. Scent-free zone.
This event will be livestreamed at acto.ca

Please download this flyer and share within your network.
Share and invite your friends on our Facebook event page.

Canada responds to years of pressure from community advocates by recognizing housing as a human right


ACTO and the Right to Housing Coalition applaud recognition of right to housing in National Housing Strategy

November 24, 2017 (TORONTO) — For over seven years, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and the Right to Housing Coalition – alongside housing advocates from across the country, including those with lived experience of homelessness – have pressed for a National Housing Strategy and the recognition in law of the right to housing. Those demands have finally been heard by the federal government in their announcement of a National Housing Strategy.

“The courts repeatedly blocked our efforts to have these rights recognized under existing laws. But the community organizing on the ground sent a loud message to the government that enough is enough,” says ACTO lawyer Tracy Heffernan, one of the legal counsel in the historic Charter challenge. “The fight isn’t over just yet. Until new legislation is adopted by Parliament, we have to keep up the pressure to ensure that our government stays true to their promise of legally recognizing that housing is a human right.”

From 2010 to 2015, the Right to Housing Coalition worked tirelessly to have the voices of those impacted by the affordable housing crisis heard by the courts through the Charter case called Tanudajaja vs. Canada. 10,000 pages of evidence never heard by the court demonstrated:

Five applicants bravely shared their life stories of struggling with inadequate housing and homelessness, while many social justice organizations intervened in the case to echo the call for the right to housing, backed up by a National Housing Strategy.

In 2016, ACTO, the Right to Housing Coalition and others went to Geneva to make the case before the United Nations’ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) that people were suffering from governments’ broken promises and to push for the right to housing in Canada.

Details of the National Housing Strategy unclear

While we celebrate the recognition of the right to housing and the creation of the first National Housing Strategy, we are also waiting for more details of how it will be implemented, to verify that it actually meets the needs of those living on lower incomes in Canada. The affordable housing crisis most adversely impacts hundreds of thousands of people living on lower incomes and fighting to keep a roof over their heads. These people cannot wait several years for the bulk of the money to be spent.

“Committing to a national strategy is an important step toward ending the affordable housing crisis, but a generation has gone by without meaningful spending and the time is now to invest in building communities,” says Kenneth Hale, the Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at ACTO. “We must continue to advocate for the rights of the most marginalized members of our society and work in partnership with people whose lives are being thrown off course by a lack of housing opportunities.”

See official press release here.

Tell Canada’s Prime Minister to make affordable housing a human right!


The Canadian government has promised to fix the affordable housing crisis with Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy. From June to October 2016, the Federal government asked Canadians to share their thought on the future of housing in Canada. They summarized their findings in What We Heard: Shaping Canada’s National Housing Strategy.

The federal government promised to invest new funds in the next 11 years through the National Housing Strategy, to tackle the affordable housing crisis.  This fall, they will unveil the National Housing Strategy.

We believe that access to safe, adequate and affordable housing is a basic human right. And we want to make sure that our National Housing Strategy will guarantee everyone the fundamental right to housing.

Take action now! Click here to tell PM Justin Trudeau to make safe, adequate and affordable housing for all in Canada a legislated human right.

For more information:
Mind the Gap: Repairing Canada’s Social Safety Net with Human Rights
R2H Coalition submission to the Government of Canada on a National Housing Strategy
R2H Coalition submission to the UN’s CESCR on the Right to Adequate Housing

Activists march to get housing recognized as a right

“Canada’s housing safety net is full of holes, that can and should be fixed, because access to clean, safe and affordable housing shouldn’t be considered a privilege, it is a human right. That was the message sent by advocates, supporters and activists who gathered on the lawn of Queen’s Park on Friday afternoon, before marching through Toronto in support of the National Housing Day of Action. . . ”

Read the full article here.

Follow-up story:
Toronto Star – November 22, 2016: “Report on Canada’s national housing strategy released

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