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New Rules Make Rent Geared to Income Housing More Accessible for Victims of Abuse and Trafficking

By: Anne-Marie Langan*


One of the greatest challenges reported by those experiencing abuse to leaving those situations is finding safe and affordable housing. Normally there are very long waiting lists for rent geared to income (RGI) housing in Ontario no matter where you reside. However, special priority can be given to applicants who have experienced abuse and/or human trafficking.



This blog summarizes the new guidelines in Ontario for giving special priority to those who have experienced abuse and human trafficking (OMMH SPG, 2024). These guidelines seek to expand and better define who is eligible for special priority and reduce the barriers many vulnerable people experience when applying for RGI housing (OMMH SPG, 2024).

Who Qualifies for "Special Priority" Status?

To be eligible for Special Priority status you must have experienced abuse or been the target of human trafficking. The new guidelines define abuse widely to include any physical or sexual violence, coercive control, forcible confinement, child abuse, intentional damage to property and threats(OMMH SPG, 2024). The target of the abuse could be a partner, a child or an older person who lives with the abuser. The abuse could have been perpetrated by any person in the applicant's household, with whom they are in an intimate relationship, or a sponsor for immigration purposes, particularly if they are dependent on that individual in some way(OMMH SPG, 2024). The policy defines human trafficking as "one or more incidents of recruitment, transportation, transfer harbouring or receipt of a person by improper means for an illegal purpose including the sexual exploitation or forced labour"(OMMH SPG, 2024).

What other eligibility requirements rre there for RGI Housing?

Some other criteria have to be met to be eligible for RGI housing including:

  • Have to apply within 3 months of having experienced the abuse or trafficking

  • able to live independently.

  • are over 16 years old.

  • Canadian Citizen, permanent resident or refugee claimant.

  • not under a removal order to leave Canada.

  • do not owe money to any social housing provider in Ontario

  • have not been found guilty in the last 2 years of an offense related to RGI assistance.

  • Your household income is within the allowable limits (HAP, 2024).

There are also financial eligibility requirements which are set by each Municipality (HAP 2024).

Are there any exceptions to these eligibility requirements?

For those who qualify for special priority exceptions can be made for most of the eligibility requirements in extenuating circumstances (OMMH SPG, 2024). For example, if the person has arrears of rent owed to an RGI provider that is somehow related to the abuse they suffered, an exception can be made. As well, if arrears are owed an exception can be made if the person agrees to a payment arrangement (OMMH SPG, 2024). The guidelines provide many examples of what could constitute extenuating circumstances for most eligibility requirements.

How can you prove you have been abused or trafficked?

The RGI service provider may request that you provide a statement from a professional who is familiar with your situation to confirm that you qualify for Special Priority consideration. A long list of qualifying professionals is included in the guideline including counsellors, doctors, police officers, victim services workers, lawyers, elders etc..

This statement must include all of the following:

• that the verifier has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is/was

abused or trafficked

• a description of the circumstances which indicate that the person is/was abused or

trafficked

• the name of the survivor

• the verifier’s name, occupation and any professional designations

• the date the record was prepared (OMMH SPG, 2024)

Where can I get help?

The City of Peterborough's Social Services department has a website called Affordable housing rental help with information about RGI housing and other housing affordability programs. The RGI application form can also be found on the City of Peterborough's website. The Housing Resource Centre in Peterborough offers a drop-in clinic for anyone experiencing housing issues. The Peterborough Community Legal Centre can also provide you with summary legal advice about your housing situation and in completing the Application through the Your Way Forward project.


References:

Housing Access Peterborough. (2024.). Rent-geared-to-income (RGI) housing application. City of Peterborough. https://www.ptbohousingcorp.ca/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Rent-Geared-To-Income-Application.pdf ("HAP 2024")

Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Special Priority Policy Guide for Rent-Geared-to-Income Assistance (2024). Ontario. ("OMMH SPG")


*Anne-Marie Langan B.A., B.S.W., LL.B., LL.M. is the project lead for the sexual violence projects at Peterborough Community Legal Centre, including the SHAPE project which provides legal advice and education for those experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace and the Your Way Forward project which provides support for those who have experienced intimate partner sexual violence. These projects are both sponsored by the government of Canada's Justice Department. She can be reached directly at anne-marie.langan@ptbo-nogo.clcj.ca.


Disclaimer: This post contains general legal information as of March 6, 2024, that may or may not apply in a particular situation. It is important to note that the law, government policies and available programs can change and this blog will not be updated to reflect these changes. It is highly recommended to seek legal advice from a lawyer about your particular situation.

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