A rights-based proposal to address Canada’s arrears and evictions crisis

February 18, 2021

The pandemic has caused an unprecedented assault on the right to safe and secure housing in Canada. Income loss and job losses have been disproportionately experienced by women and lower income workers who predominantly rely on rental housing, and the number of tenants in arrears and facing eviction has reached a crisis level, as many were already paying unaffordable rents in cities and towns across the country.

Eviction is a serious assault on dignity, security and may place health and life at risk, and all levels of government are required to prevent eviction wherever possible. Severe economic inequality and the failure of governments to regulate housing markets are systemic and structural failures resulting in potentially widespread violations of the right to housing.

Federal government action is urgently needed to address this crisis, and Canada has a new model through which this can be done—under the National Housing Strategy Act (NHSA).

The NHSA affirms that the Government of Canada recognizes the right to housing as a fundamental human right, and commits to progressively realize this right over time—and there has never been a more urgent time for the federal government to act on its commitment.

The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) and the National Right to Housing Network (NRHN) have developed a proposal for a federal Residential Tenant Support Benefit (RTSB) to address the evictions and arrears crisis in accordance with the NHSA. This RTSB would supplement tenants’ income to ensure that their rent-to-income ratio remains the same as its pre-pandemic level.

This federal submission and proposal was produced in consultation with over 120 housing advocates and individuals with lived experience of homelessness from across Canada. It proposes a federal residential tenant support benefit for low- and moderate-income tenants to ensure that no one loses their home during this period or suffers other consequences of paying rent that they are unable to afford because of lost income.

Key highlights of the submission:

  • An analysis of the arrears and evictions crisis during the pandemic, recognizing it as a systemic issue that affects already-marginalized peoples like women, low-income workers, Black and Indigenous peoples, queer households, and persons with disabilities most
  • A review of the federal government’s commitment to the progressive realization of the right to housing under the NHSA and, in turn, to international human rights obligations which recognize housing as a fundamental human right
  • A practical and detailed proposal for a federally-funded Residential Tenant Support Benefit, administered based on tenants’ rent-to-income ratio, to help preserve tenancies and avoid evictions due to the pandemic (in accordance with the NHSA)
  • An overview of the steps taken by each provincial and territorial government to address evictions and arrears up to February, 2021



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