The State of the Eviction Ban
The current state of evictions and potential strategies for promoting housing stability after the most recent province-wide lockdown.
East York East Toronto Family Resources (EYET) hosted a Community Conversation on June 9th featuring the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) to gather housing professionals from across Toronto to learn more about the current state of evictions in the City of Toronto and discuss challenges and potential strategies for promoting housing stability after the most recent province-wide lockdown.
Breakout groups were offered space to share services available at their own agencies, to share concerns and identify community needs, and to consider skills and strategies that could support the work of maintaining housing for those impacted most by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The breakout rooms invited conversation around three prompts:
- Eviction Prevention: What have the impacts of Bill 184 been in the work of eviction prevention? What strategies are you using to prevent evictions? Are you supporting the creation of rent arrears repayment plans?
- Eviction Support: How are you strategically preparing to support clients through the anticipated influx of evictions? How have you been supporting clients through online eviction hearings?
- Services and Referrals: What services and supports are you offering, or are you referring your clients to, to better support them in either keeping their housing, or preparing for evictions?
The conversations highlighted some significant challenges that are shared by housing professionals and service users across the City of Toronto, shed some light on the unmet needs of service users in the current economic climate, and identified some strategies and resources that housing professionals have found helpful in the work of housing stability.
Sector Needs and Identified Issues:
Language support for clients:
Participants identified the challenges that tenants who do not speak English as a first language face in fighting evictions and maintaining housing.
- Rental agreements and leases are legal documents that need to be translated and there is limited capacity and budgets for agencies to translate/hire translation services
- Negotiations and mediation with landlords can require translation, and tenants with limited English language proficiency do not have access to translation support to ensure they are fully understanding the terms of the negotiation or mediation
- The Landlord Tenant Board does not offer translation services, and so tenants that must go to the LTB are forced to participate in complex legal proceedings that are conducted in English, limiting their capacity to fully access the proceedings and fully communicate their side
- The changes that Bill 184 have introduced has resulted in some arrear repayment negotiations being pushed by landlords, and some tenants would need those negotiations and the contracts translated, but resources for translation are limited
- There are limited grants, funds, and resources available for translation services within frontline service agencies or within social services systems
- Income supports programs and other systems of support (both governmental and nongovernmental) are provided and presented in English and (sometimes) French; translation services are uncommon
Participants named the strategy of mobilizing internal resources such as staff and volunteers who have offered translation supports for tenants, and identified a need for more funding supports and advocacy for translation services to be offered by governmental bodies, including the LTB as a solution to this challenge.
System Navigation for clients and housing professionals:
Participants identified the challenge that both housing professionals as well as tenants face in navigating processes and procedures within social service systems.
- Inconsistent and conflicting experiences when speaking with representatives from government programs such as ODSP and OW
- A lack of clarity in standard practices in government programs
- The shift to remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a decreased capacity for workers and tenants to connect with government agencies, which has increased risk of losing housing
- Increased requests for support in making applications to receive a subsidy, as a result of reduced employment and prolonged unemployment during the Covid-19 pandemic
- The shift to the Rent Café Portal has caused workers and tenants challenges in needing to learn to navigate a new system on top of an increased workload
- Access to Housing Centralized waitlist applications have increased, while the waitlist length has grown
- People experiencing homelessness have named discomfort at the intrusive questions from Central Intake, which has been traumatizing for some people
- The shelter system remains overwhelmed, and people are staying homeless longer without shelter
- Tenants are reporting a lack of clarity around the eviction processes, and there is a lack of standardized resources to explain the process
- Social housing or RGI subsidies are challenging to navigate; HSF is less challenging, but require the knowledge of how to negotiate with TCH and OW/ODSP Caseworkers
Participants identified a need for clarity in government program procedures and increased accessible and free training for both workers as well as tenants in system navigation.
Financial Support and Budgeting:
Participants identified a major challenge that financial management and budgeting have caused tenants, and the ongoing inadequacy of income support rates as related to the increasingly high market rental rates in Toronto.
- Ensuring that clients are budgeting accordingly to plan for rent payments in the long term
- The need for increased knowledge and training around resources available to ODSP and OW recipients
- More information and free, accessible training on the Covid-19 supports, such as CERB; some tenants had identified the issue of being told they must repay their CERB without having planned for that cost
- A lack of clarity around the eviction ban has resulted in some tenants halting rent payment and now being faced with insurmountable arrears and unrealistic repayment plans
- Bill 184 has resulted in tenants that do not have adequate support negotiating unrealistic repayment plans and being evicted rapidly
- High market rental costs are forcing tenants to withhold rent because they have to choose between rent payment and essential goods like food, medicine, utilities, etc – some tenants would have to choose one or the other and had been alternating, building up arrears over time
- Lack of access to subsidies for the internet, especially as the internet has been crucial to employment since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic
- Budgeting for rent has been challenging and adding arrears repayment plans on top of rent payment is unrealistic for a lot of tenants, and they are at risk of losing their housing
- Many tenants relying on income supports receive monthly payments that are not enough to cover the high costs of rent in Toronto
Participants named creative strategies to support client budgeting such as undertaking annual income reviews to adjust budgets, and negotiating for keeping rent as low as possible, even for tenants that are not on RGI. Participants aim to set tenants up with housing that is the lowest cost possible, and connect them to other subsidies like LEAP or resources like the food banks to make up their needs. Some participants have worked out a pre-payment plan with ODSP or OW to add an extra $50 or $100 to their rent so that arrears are received directly by sending the N4 to the ODSP or OW worker.
Sector Strategies of Support:
Collaborative partnerships for effective referrals:
Participants noted a need for collaboration, connection, and partnership development across the sector to create pathways for support for tenants at risk of losing housing, or unable to secure housing.
Opportunities for collaboration include:
- Advocacy to call for subsidies, increased income supports payments, funding for language services, and continued rent freezes
- Translation supports between housing support service agencies and newcomer support services, and advocating for language supports to be offered by the LTB
- Sharing background information when a client moves out of one catchment area into another
- Housing help centres and legal clinics for easeful referrals and support when facing an eviction notice
- Coordinated service provision
- Coordinated information about THAP and how to access
- Coordinated landlord/housing provider information
- Referral sheets that can be shared across the sector, identifying services in different areas of the city
- Coordinated community mapping
- Connection to municipal standards group to build advocacy and support on the tenant side
Proactive Planning & Early Intervention:
Participants recognized the importance of early intervention and creating proactive plans for mitigating the risk of eviction for a tenant, upon intake.
Some planning and intervention strategies include:
- Preparing a safety plan with clients regarding their options in the case of eviction, before an eviction notice is even served
- In the case of a likely eviction, include a soft-landing strategy that sees clients preparing for accessing a shelter bed before the eviction takes place, in case there is a wait list, to ensure there is no gap between housing and shelter
- Applying for mediation to avoid a hearing and to avoid the sheriff
- Setting up direct payment between income supports and landlord, or setting up a trust with the agency to pay rent and/or arrears on the behalf of a tenant who consents to do so
- Note: there is no pay direct option for tenants on a senior’s income; this is a gap, but they can set up PAP payment from their bank account instead
- Engage in a case management approach from the beginning of the relationship with the client to avoid getting to the place of eviction, where possible
- Walking tenants through CRA documents, Service Canada calls, and other systems for accessing financial resources
- Work towards a realistic repayment plan as soon as the arrears show up
- Ask for tenants to bring all documentation required to receive a subsidy to the intake appointment: notice of assessment from last tax filing year; identification; indication of status in Canada; bank statements; etc. – this will help identify early on what could be missing, and build a tenant’s personal file for any potential applications, streamlining the process
- As a worker, triage clients based on date of eviction notice and severity of case to ensure high workload does not mean people are falling through the cracks
Tenant Education and Support:
Participants named the education of tenants as a huge factor in preparing tenants for successful tenancies and maintaining housing. Gaps to knowledge around housing, rights and responsibilities, and system processes have led to high rates of evictions, and proactive education and support is the most effective eviction prevention tool.
Some strategies for tenant education and support include:
- Education about rights as a tenant, including providing an information sheet upon tenancy, translated to their first language if possible, using clear and accessible language
- Educate tenants that they have a right to demand a standard lease – often tenants are evicted due to the lack of a formal lease, or verbal leases that are easier to be broken
- Providing FAQ sheets that detail some common misconceptions about tenant rights (ie: withholding rent due to maintenance issues; having to move out as soon as an eviction notice is served; the landlord can change your locks)
- Provide “common scenarios in tenancies” to inform tenants about what to avoid and what to watch for if their tenancy is at risk
- Provide tenants with viable options when they cannot make their rent (ie: paying something is better than paying nothing because showing effort will take them further in the case of an LTB hearing or mediation)
- When facing evictions, a detailed step-by-step overview of how the LTB process works so that clients can feel prepared and there are no surprises
- Bearing witness for clients to support their evidence collection in case of an LTB hearing
- Creating a promissory note, if possible, to give to a landlord to avoid eviction in the case of arrears
- Engaging in skill building with tenants around talking to landlords and assertive communication, including role playing a conversation with landlord
- Provide technology on-site, if possible, so that clients can attend LTB virtual hearings if they do not have access to the internet or a computer
- Provide a “virtual hub” accessible to clients where they can access computers to attend hearings, print/sign leases, print/sign documents required
- Ensure tenants understand the reality of market rent, especially tenants who have been in the same unit for several years and are now at risk of eviction
Landlord Engagement and Mediation:
Proactive relationship building between tenants, their landlords, and housing professionals can contribute to housing stability in case of situations where eviction is a risk. Ensuring that landlords know that the tenant is supported can help
Some strategies for engaging with landlord and undertaking mediation include:
- Ensuring that landlords know the tenant is supported by making direct connections to mitigate the risk of a tenant being unfairly treated
- Bear witness for tenants who are experiencing challenges with their landlord or their unit to make sure landlords and property managers are following the rules
- Offer evidence collection support, like photos, email drafting, 311 reporting, in the case of substandard maintenance
- Offer mediation services, where possible, or refer to mediation services between the tenant and the landlord to reach an agreement and negotiate arrears repayment
- Educate landlords about tenant rights, income supports, and resources accessible to tenants who are at risk of eviction, advocating for more time before an eviction notice is served
- Work with Rent Bank or HSF to find funds to make payments in good faith if rent can’t be made or arrears repayment plans are extensively long
- Ensure that any rental agreement is understood by the tenant, and offer translation services or plain-language versions of an agreement, where needed
- Mitigate the power imbalance between landlords and tenants in the case of repayment plans by letting both landlords and tenants know that you will support arrears repayment plans to avoid the landlord offering a plan that is unrealistic, and the tenant feeling pushed to sign and set up for failure
- Encourage tenants to get to know their neighbours in the building and connect around shared experiences, developing community in a shared building can support tenant rights, and connect them to a tenant organizing organization like the Federation of Metro Tenants Association for support
Participants shared the most helpful resources, programs, services, and supports that their clients have accessed in maintaining housing stability after the lifting of the eviction moratorium in Ontario.
|Toronto Rent Bank||Interest-free loans for people facing arrears or other emergency housing costs. Currently operating a grant program offering non-repayable supports to anyone who lives in Toronto, pays market rent in an RTA-covered unit, is low-income but not on OW or ODSP, and meets other requirements.|
|Furniture Bank||Social enterprise redistributing gently-used furniture and housewares to community members in need.|
|Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF)||Financial support for emergency housing needs for people who are recipients of OW or ODSP in Toronto.|
|Neighbourhood Information Post Housing Trusteeship Program||Provides short-term assistance to stabilize housing for eligible community members in Downtown Toronto and Scarborough|
|St. Stephen’s Community House Trustee Program||Provides money management assistance to facilitate an improved, independent lifestyle for community members with a history of substance use and homelessness, through a stated Harm Reduction lens.|
|Trusteeship and Pay Direct, Ontario Works||Information on how to establish a Trusteeship, and access to the Appointment of Trustee form.|
|Legal Aid Ontario: Find a Legal Clinic||Tool to identify catchment area based on postal code for legal clinics in Ontario.|
|Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP)||Grant program for folks struggling to pay past due energy bills.|
|Toronto Subsidized Housing List||List of units and properties that include RGI eligibility and the Commercial Rent Supplement Program.|
|Rent Geared to Income Subsidy||Subsidy from the City of Toronto to make rent affordable, relative to someone’s income rather than market rent value.|
|Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation: Tenant Rights||Resources for tenant education on rights and obligations.|
|Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)||Legal advice, tip sheets, resources, and advocacy around tenant rights in Ontario|
|Duty Counsel Offices Ontario||Free legal advice for people who cannot afford a lawyer or do not have representation|
|Eviction Prevention in the Community (EPIC)||City-provided wrap around eviction prevention services, from Shelter, Support, and Housing Administration (SSHA) EPIC only accepts referrals from specific partner agencies Learn more about the EPIC program in their Pilot Program Evaluation from 2018 here.|
|Shelter and Supportive Housing||Division of the City that oversees social housing, centralized waitlist, emergency shelters and supports, street outreach, and housing stability services.|
|Evelyn Massey Centre for Women||Baby and Me program supporting 15–25-year-old people who are pregnant or parenting to get a rental subsidy, as well as tenant rights information for young mothers Residential program for young mothers 13 years or older during post or pre-natal|
|The Neighbourhood Group||Does referrals to EPIC|
|ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency (ENAGB-IYA)||Indigenous agency serving youth 12-29 years old with cultural, employment, life skills, holistic wellness, and recreational opportunities.|
|City of Toronto Homeless Help Directory||List of active supports available for people experiencing homelessness in Toronto, including shelter diversion program|
|City of Toronto Benefit Finder||A tool to help identify benefits that you may be eligible for if you live in Toronto|
|West Toronto Housing Help Services||Housed within West Toronto Community Legal Services, this housing help centre is a unique program situated within one of the 17 legal clinics in the city.|
|Streets to Homes||City funded program helping people transition from living on the street into permanent housing. Assists with follow up workers for a year after being housed to ensure rent payments, mediation, and other supports.|
|Access Point Toronto||Centralized point of access to apply for mental health support, addictions support, and supportive housing.|
|Federation of Metro Tenants Association (FMTA)||Resources, information, templates, and supports for collaborative organizing and forming tenant associations in multi-unit dwellings.|
|Ve’ahavta||Community agency with case managers offering one-on-one sessions with clients who participate in their training programs. Programs include Essential Skills Training, Expressive Arts, Relief and Referral, and Paid Work Training Placement program.|
|Indigenous Supportive Housing Program (ISHP)||Program from Anishnawbe Health that offers monthly rental subsidies, when available, to make housing affordable for community members with mental health and/or addictions issues, support in accessing other subsidies, and other eviction prevention services.|
|Aboriginal Housing Support Centre||Project developed by Wigwamen Incorporated that supports Indigenous people meet their housing needs.|
|Native Women Portal||Housing Outreach Program provides services for housing stabilization for Indigenous women and girls.|
|North Toronto Support Services||Mental Health and Justice Initiative provides housing support for folks currently or at-risk of homelessness who are involved in the criminal punishment system.|
Click Here to return back to Community Conversations!