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. Ali v. Peel (Regional Municipality)

In Ali v. Peel (Regional Municipality) (Div Ct, 2021) the Divisional Court in a judicial review application set out a brief sketch of the social housing system in Ontario under the Housing Services Act:
Statutory Scheme

[3] The HSA is the legislation establishing requirements for housing subsidies, also known as rent-geared-to-income. As a municipal “service manager” within the meaning of the HSA, Peel applies the HSA and Regulations while delivering and administering social housing programs. Since the HSA and the Regulation have subsequently been amended, all references are to the statutory scheme in force in September 2016.

[4] Region staff assess applications for subsidized housing to determine eligibility in accordance with statutory requirements. Eligible applicants are placed on a waitlist until a unit is available. The waitlist provides a rationing system for distributing a scarce public resource on a fair basis. In 2016 there were approximately 13,000 households on the waitlist for subsidized housing in the Region, all of whom were accepted as needy and eligible for subsidized housing, but for whom there were no available spaces.

[5] While subsidized housing is made available in accordance with the waitlist, the province has mandated that victims of abuse are to receive priority for social housing: HSA, section 48 and the Regulation. Special priority status allows applicants to move ahead of all other applicants on the waitlist for housing. In 2016 the Region’s wait list for a one-bedroom unit for a single person with special priority status was 1.5 years, compared with 2.9 years for those without.

[6] In order to qualify for special priority, the type of abuse and the relationship between the abuser and abused member of the household must fall within the terms of the Regulation. Section 54(1) of the Regulation provides that an applicant is eligible to be included in the special priority household category if:
(a) The member of the household has been abused by another individual;

(b) The abusing individual is or was living with the abused member or is sponsoring the abused member as an immigrant; and

(c) The abused member intends to live permanently apart from the abusing individual.
[7] “Abuse” is defined to include “controlling behaviour”: Regulation, section 1(1).

[8] Section 1(2) of the Regulation prescribes a list of specific individuals who can be considered abusers for the purpose of the definition of abuse in the regulations. Pursuant to section 1(2) of the Regulation, abuse is done by any of the following persons against an individual:
(a) The individual’s spouse, parent, child or other relative.

(b) A person who is sponsoring the individual as an immigrant.

(c) A person on whom the individual is emotionally, physically or financially dependent.
[9] Here, the applicant argues that she qualified to be included in the special priority category because her employer was the abusing individual; as a live-in caregiver, she was living with her abuser; the controlling behaviour met the definition of abuse; and she was financially dependent on him as an employee.
The legal issue was whether the applicant was in a position of 'special priority status' due to abuse when the allegation of abuse was with a former employer with whom she had a live-in position. The court upheld an administrative decision that the abuse provisions applied within a familial relationship, and that the issue of 'financial dependence' was familial - not one of employment [paras 16-24].


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