Item - 2022.EX34.7

Tracking Status

  • City Council adopted this item on July 19, 2022 without amendments.
  • This item was considered by the Executive Committee on July 12, 2022 and adopted without amendment. It will be considered by City Council on July 19, 2022.

EX34.7 - Review and Considerations for a Housing Commissioner Role or Function

Decision Type:
ACTION
Status:
Adopted
Wards:
All

City Council Decision

City Council on July 19, 20, 21 and 22, 2022, adopted the following:

 

1. City Council direct the City Manager, in consultation with the Deputy City Manager, Community and Social Services and the Executive Director, Housing Secretariat to report to City Council by the end of the first quarter of 2023 with a proposed Terms of Reference for a new Council Advisory Committee to support the City's goals set out in the Toronto Housing Charter and HousingTO Plan for the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing, within its jurisdiction.   

 

2. City Council request the Toronto Ombudsman to consider the report and Attachment 1, Crean and Maytree's Report, to the report (June 27, 2022) from the City Manager on a Toronto Housing Commissioner, and report to City Council in 2023 with their review and recommendations related to the resources and structure required for their Office to focus on investigations and reports related to systemic housing discrimination and systemic hurdles in the City of Toronto's housing planning and service delivery roles, including consideration of a dedicated Deputy Ombudsman, Housing.

 

3. City Council direct the Deputy City Manager, Community and Social Services, in consultation with the City Manager, Ombudsman and new Council Advisory Committee referenced in Part 1 above, if established, to develop an approach including possible procurement of external expertise, to provide City Council with independent assessments of the City’s progressive realization of the right to adequate housing outlined in the HousingTO 2020 – 2030 Action Plan at the halfway and end points of the 10-year Action Plan.

 

4. City Council direct the Executive Director, Housing Secretariat, in consultation with the Deputy City Manager, Community and Social Services, to procure and implement a program of human rights training on housing for senior leaders and policy staff in housing-related City divisions, agencies and corporations listed in Section D of the (June 27, 2022) from the City Manager report to enhance the City’s capacity to apply a human rights lens to housing policy development and service delivery, and support the City's Toronto Housing Charter objectives.

 

5. City Council request the Mayor to send a letter to the Federal Housing Advocate requesting that the impact of federal policies and programs and a review of systemic housing hurdles experienced by Torontonians be a priority focus for that Office.

 

6. City Council direct the Executive Director, Housing Secretariat, in consultation with the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Community Housing Corporation and the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Seniors Housing Corporation, review the role and function of the Office of the Commissioner of Housing Equity during the two-year interim period where the Office of the Commissioner of Housing Equity will report to both housing corporation boards, considering its original mandate when it was created by Toronto Community Housing Corporation, its transformation over time including the creation of the Toronto Seniors Housing Corporation, and to report back to City Council and the Boards of Toronto Community Housing Corporation and Toronto Seniors Housing Corporation in 2024 on the results of the review.

Background Information (Committee)

(June 27, 2022) Report from the City Manager on Review and Considerations for a Housing Commissioner Role or Function
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2022/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-228257.pdf
Attachment 1 - City of Toronto Housing Commissioner Report
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2022/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-228262.pdf
Attachment 2 - Snapshot of the Housing System: A Toronto Perspective
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2022/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-228240.pdf
Attachment 3 - Letter from the Ombudsman to the City Manager, City Manager's Report on a Housing Commissioner
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2022/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-228241.pdf

Communications (Committee)

(July 11, 2022) Letter from Lynn Medi on behalf of Right to Housing Toronto (EX.Supp)
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2022/ex/comm/communicationfile-155003.pdf
(July 11, 2022) Letter from Bahar Shadpour, Centre for Equality Rights in Acommodation (CERA) (EX.Supp)
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2022/ex/comm/communicationfile-154991.pdf

Motions (City Council)

Motion to Adopt Item (Carried)

Vote (Adopt Item) Jul-19-2022 7:10 PM

Result: Carried Majority Required - EX34.7 - Adopt the Item
Total members that voted Yes: 20 Members that voted Yes are Paul Ainslie, Ana Bail„o, Brad Bradford, Robin Buxton Potts, Shelley Carroll, Mike Colle, Gary Crawford, John Filion, Mark Grimes, Mike Layton, Jennifer McKelvie, Joe Mihevc, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Frances Nunziata (Chair), James Pasternak, Gord Perks, Anthony Perruzza, Jaye Robinson, Michael Thompson, John Tory
Total members that voted No: 1 Members that voted No are Stephen Holyday
Total members that were Absent: 4 Members that were absent are Paula Fletcher, Cynthia Lai, Nick Mantas, Josh Matlow

EX34.7 - Review and Considerations for a Housing Commissioner Role or Function

Decision Type:
ACTION
Status:
Adopted
Wards:
All

Committee Recommendations

The Executive Committee recommends that:  

 

1. City Council direct the City Manager, in consultation with the Deputy City Manager, Community and Social Services and Executive Director, Housing Secretariat to report to City Council by the end of the first quarter of 2023 with a proposed Terms of Reference for a new Council Advisory Committee to support the City's goals set out in the Toronto Housing Charter and HousingTO Plan for the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing, within its jurisdiction.   

 

2. City Council request the Toronto Ombudsman to consider the report and Attachment 1: Crean and Maytree's Report to the report (June 27, 2022) from the City Manager on a Toronto Housing Commissioner, and report to City Council in 2023 with their review and recommendations related to the resources and structure required for their Office to focus on investigations and reports related to systemic housing discrimination and systemic hurdles in the City of Toronto's housing planning and service delivery roles, including consideration of a dedicated Deputy Ombudsman, Housing.

 

3. City Council direct the Deputy City Manager, Community and Social Services, in consultation with the City Manager, Ombudsman and new Council Advisory Committee referenced in Recommendation 1 above, if established, to develop an approach including possible procurement of external expertise, to provide Council with independent assessments of the City’s progressive realization of the right to adequate housing outlined in the HousingTO 2020 – 2030 Action Plan at the halfway and end points of the 10-year Action Plan.

 

4. City Council direct the Executive Director, Housing Secretariat, in consultation with the Deputy City Manager, Community and Social Services, to procure and implement a program of human rights training on housing for senior leaders and policy staff in housing-related City divisions, agencies and corporations listed in Section D of this report to enhance the City’s capacity to apply a human rights lens to housing policy development and service delivery, and support the City's Toronto Housing Charter objectives.

 

5. City Council request the Mayor to send a letter to the Federal Housing Advocate requesting that the impact of federal policies and programs and a review of systemic housing hurdles experienced by Torontonians be a priority focus for that Office.

 

6. City Council direct the Executive Director, Housing Secretariat, in consultation with Chief Executive Officer of Toronto Community Housing Corporation and Chief Executive Officer of Toronto Seniors Housing Corporation, review the role and function of the Office of the Commissioner of Housing Equity during the two-year interim period where the Office of the Commissioner of Housing Equity will report to both housing corporation boards, considering its original mandate when it was created by Toronto Community Housing Corporation, its transformation over time including the creation of the Toronto Seniors Housing Corporation, and report back to City Council and the Boards of Toronto Community Housing Corporation and Toronto Seniors Housing Corporation in 2024 on the results of the review.

Origin

(June 27, 2022) Report from the City Manager

Summary

Housing is a central focus for the City of Toronto as it is for municipalities across Ontario and Canada. With the adoption of the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan ("HousingTO Plan") in 2019, Toronto established a blueprint for action to improve housing outcomes for residents across the housing continuum. From the provision of emergency shelters and homelessness services to managing the social housing system, the City is working with other governments to provide supportive housing and associated wrap-around assistance such as for mental health and addictions, ensure more affordable rental housing development, deliver long-term care and advance other policies and incentives related to improving the quality and affordability of housing.

 

Toronto Housing Charter

 

With the adoption of the updated Housing Charter, and the implementation of the HousingTO Plan in 2019, the City committed to further the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing and to work towards a human rights-based approach to housing. City Council also directed the City Manager to report back with options for the role or function of a Housing Commissioner that would independently assess the implementation of the Charter and the HousingTO Plan and ensure that the City, within its legislative authorities, programs and policies, was taking concrete actions to combat systematic housing discrimination and address systemic hurdles in the housing system.

 

External Experts' Review

 

In response to City Council's direction, the City Manager engaged external expert consultants to inform this report's options and considerations. Fiona Crean, the City's former Ombudsman, and Maytree Foundation were retained to consider the national and international human rights context of the progressive realization of the right to housing, review governance models with consideration of Toronto’s governance and intergovernmental context and consult persons with lived experience on homelessness and housing instability, legal and human rights experts, elected officials, public servants, academics, and housing service providers. The consultants' findings are included as Attachment 1: Crean and Maytree's Report on a Toronto Housing Commissioner.

Crean and Maytree's report summarized their research, community engagement, analysis and findings, and outlined opportunities for the City to establish the role or function of a Housing Commissioner. Their recommendations include:

 

- Create a locus of accountability to advance the progressive realization of housing as a basic human right;

- Focus housing policy development and delivery of services through a human rights lens;

- Ensure evidence-based monitoring, using data that are disaggregated by race, gender, age, income, and other variables to determine the impacts of policies and programs on the rights of residents with lived experience of housing precarity and homelessness;

- Provide advice to Council from experts and community members with lived experience and expertise in a human rights-based approach to housing;

- Enable an “all of government” approach with expertise in a human rights-based approach to housing;

- Create opportunities for intergovernmental dialogue on a human rights-based approach to housing that benefit from expert input;

- Develop systems competencies and performance metrics on the human rights-based approach to housing for the public service; and

- Deliver a robust human rights learning and development program to equip public servants dealing with housing.

 

This report recommends a number of related actions to achieve these objectives and criteria identified by the consultants' review which leverage the assets of Toronto's governance system including the role of Council, the public service, Accountability Officers and City agencies and corporations.

 

Toronto's Accountability Framework and the Federal Housing Advocate

 

In considering Toronto's options, Crean and Maytree reviewed Toronto's Accountability Framework, including the legislative powers provided to Accountability Officers through the City of Toronto Act, 2006 (COTA). Crean and Maytree also reviewed the mandate of the Federal Housing Advocate, named in February 2022, which is to monitor and assess the implementation of the National Housing Strategy, analyze research on systemic housing issues within federal jurisdiction and consult members of vulnerable groups with lived experience of precarious housing.

 

Early engagement and advocacy regarding a Housing Commissioner for Toronto emphasized a role independent of the municipal government, which could only be a position created by the Province, similar to the role of the Ontario Ombudsman for all Ontario municipalities, except Toronto. Later engagement and advocacy focused on the importance of an independent role, which could be similar to the City's Accountability Officers. It is worth noting that the Federal Housing Advocate does not report to Parliament in the manner that accountability roles do, but rather reports directly to a Cabinet Minister, thus is not an independent officer. 

 

Also worth noting is that Crean and Maytree's report found that several informants, stakeholders and advocates have the view that without federal legislative change and corresponding funding and support, the City’s ability to take the kind of action on a human rights-based approach to housing that is desired, is significantly challenged.

 

A Complex Housing System

 

Central to the City Manager's considerations of a Housing Commissioner role or function was a review and analysis of the complexity of the City's context within the broader housing landscape, inclusive of federal, provincial and municipal roles and responsibilities. Toronto's housing system operates in an intricate arrangement of legislative frameworks, authorities and roles for all three governments and for-profit and non-profit sectors. Without the investments and involvement of federal and provincial governments, the City is unable to adequately deliver the diversity of services required to support a growing number of precariously housed and homeless people in Toronto and across the region. Further, the City's ability to achieve its ambitious housing goals, including those in the HousingTO Plan which are estimated to be $27.7 billion to implement over 10 years, is dependent on the support of its intergovernmental partners.

 

Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Housing

 

The City of Toronto is legislatively responsible for ensuring equity of access for the aspects of the housing services that are within its jurisdiction and mandate. However, the City continues to meet the housing needs of residents even where that responsibility is conditional on the funding and policy tools provided by other orders of government.  For example, following the 1990s realignment of provincial-municipal responsibilities, which transferred a number of housing functions to municipal governments, Toronto provided shelter to the precariously housed, maintained social housing units, and created new affordable and supportive housing opportunities without adequate intergovernmental funding. More recently, with an increase in evictions during the pandemic, the City supported Torontonians through the Toronto Rent Bank. Crean and Maytree's report recognized these actions as part of the City's leadership towards furthering the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing.

 

Role or Function of a Housing Commissioner

 

Overall, Crean and Maytree note that a single action, individual or office may not be an effective way to advance Toronto's objectives outlined in the Housing Charter. The City Manager's review of their findings also confirms that a suite of actions delivered in concert with each other is more likely to achieve Council's goals. The City Manager is therefore recommending actions for impact across the City's governance system, including by City Council, City divisions, agencies and corporations, and Accountability Officers, to ensure a robust approach is taken to integrate a human rights-based approach to housing for the City.

 

Crean and Maytree identified that a locus of accountability is required to oversee the recommended actions, and their options include consideration of the appointment of a Housing Commissioner external to the City's Accountability Officers and the public service. The City Manager has identified that an appointment outside the public service could create confusion between the role of the Housing Secretariat to lead housing system planning and the roles of Deputy City Managers and the City Manager to ensure delivery on Council's housing priorities. The City Manager also considered the role of Toronto's Ombudsman who has legislatively enshrined oversight for investigating issues of fairness, including with respect to housing.

 

The City Manager recommends the Deputy City Manager, Community and Social Services serve as the locus of accountability to implement the recommendations in this report that are direct to the public service, and that Council also request the Ombudsman to consider the recommendations in Crean and Maytree's report for further review to make recommendations directly to Council. The City Manager has had preliminary conversations with the Ombudsman, and the Ombudsman has provided a letter to the City Manager which accompanies this report as Attachment 3. 

 

To strengthen the expertise of the public service and support Council's decision-making, it is recommended that Council create a new Council advisory body which could provide direct advice to Council from community members with lived experience of housing instability, as well as academics and advocates with expertise in human rights related to housing. Such a body would be independent of the public service and enable a range of voices and expertise to advise on the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing. Advisory Committees such as Aboriginal Affairs, Confronting Anti-Black Racism, and Accessibility have a strong record of strengthening the City's ability to apply an equity and human rights lens to all aspects of City operations.

 

In addition, as recommended by Crean and Maytree, the City Manager recommends strengthening the City's capacity to achieve its goals by engaging specific training on applying a human rights lens to housing to supplement the existing City human rights training available to staff and management. Training on a human rights-based approach to housing for City staff in divisions, agencies and corporations, as well as the recommended independent assessment of the City's progress on meeting the Toronto Housing Charter principles, will enable the City to continue to be a leader among municipalities when it comes to furthering the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing as recognized in international law. 

 

In summary, the City Manager recommends City Council consider:

 

- Establishment of a new Council advisory committee to provide advice from those with lived experience of housing instability and those with expertise in a human rights-based approach to housing.

- A request to the Toronto Ombudsman to consider the findings of this report and identify resources or structure required for their Office, including a potential role of Deputy Ombudsman, Housing, to focus specifically on housing by leveraging the role of the Office to undertake systemic reviews, investigations and provide independent advice to City Council.

- Ongoing independent evaluation through performance metrics and disaggregated data, leveraging the City's Data for Equity strategy, of the City’s progress towards the Toronto Housing Charter goals and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing.

- Enhanced training for staff involved in housing policy development in relevant City divisions, agencies and corporations on a human rights-based approach to housing, applying a human rights lens to housing policy development and developing a greater understanding of the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing.

- Collaboration with and a request to the Federal Housing Advocate to focus on systemic housing issues in Toronto.

 

Together, these recommendations provide an opportunity for City Council to continue its focus on collaborating with other governments, applying a whole-of-government approach as required by the Toronto Housing Charter, and implementing multiple pathways to achieve the actions identified in Council's request for the City Manager to consider the role or function of a Housing Commissioner. Implementing these recommendations is key to informing the federal policy landscape and ensuring that changes to the housing system considered by the federal government come with adequate funding and appropriate legislative levers required by Canadian municipalities.

Background Information

(June 27, 2022) Report from the City Manager on Review and Considerations for a Housing Commissioner Role or Function
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2022/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-228257.pdf
Attachment 1 - City of Toronto Housing Commissioner Report
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2022/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-228262.pdf
Attachment 2 - Snapshot of the Housing System: A Toronto Perspective
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2022/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-228240.pdf
Attachment 3 - Letter from the Ombudsman to the City Manager, City Manager's Report on a Housing Commissioner
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2022/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-228241.pdf

Communications

(July 11, 2022) Letter from Lynn Medi on behalf of Right to Housing Toronto (EX.Supp)
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2022/ex/comm/communicationfile-155003.pdf
(July 11, 2022) Letter from Bahar Shadpour, Centre for Equality Rights in Acommodation (CERA) (EX.Supp)
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2022/ex/comm/communicationfile-154991.pdf

Speakers

Elizabeth McIsaac, Maytree
Leilani Farha, The Shift
Geordie Dent, Right 2 Housing TO network

Motions

1 - Motion to Adopt Item moved by Councillor Ana Bail„o (Carried)
Source: Toronto City Clerk at www.toronto.ca/council