In response to inquiries received from advocates working with renters receiving public assistance in Saskatoon, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission launched a systemic advocacy initiative to address discrimination in housing.
Advocates from multiple agencies told the Commission their clients were facing a multitude of issues. These issues included: discriminatory advertising for rental accommodation; landlords refusing to rent to people in receipt of public assistance; and income or damage deposit requirements that, in effect, prohibit those in receipt of public assistance from obtaining housing.
People in these situations are especially vulnerable to becoming homeless if they are evicted, so they are often hesitant to complain on an individual basis.
Working with several community organizations, the Commission hosted four public consultations and heard from dozens of renters affected by discrimination, as well as several agencies working with this population. People spoke of their lack of affordable housing options, the inadequacy of some of the available rental accommodations, and policy barriers to securing and maintaining housing, as well as direct discrimination by landlords.
In May, 2018, the Commission released a comprehensive, 40-page report called, “Access and Equality for Renters in Receipt of Public Assistance: A Report to Stakeholders.”
The report addressed the discrimination and inequity experienced by people with disabilities, Indigenous persons, and people marginalized by mental health and addiction issues. The extensive public consultation processes that informed the report identified seven key issues that need to be addressed:
- Increase Awareness of Rights and Responsibilities
- Improve System Navigation
- Address the Disparity between Public Assistance and Market Rent
- Improve Supports for those with Addictions and Mental Health Problems
- Accessible Complaint Resolution Process
- Licensing to Improve Property Maintenance and Pest Control
- Planning Affordable Housing