The Housing Action Committee (HAC) evolved out of the Halton Tenant School, a public legal education initiative by Halton Community Legal Services assisted by volunteers from Voices for Change.

The purpose of the HAC is for members of Voices for Change to engage in mutually agreed upon strategic action to assist low-income Halton residents looking for fair and affordable housing options and to provide guidance in navigating the housing system.

Improving the Accessibility of Rental Apartments

Could private landlords and property management companies be encouraged to get "ahead of the curve" and address minor barriers to accessibility now, using simple, low-cost, effective solutions (where feasible)?

Private landlords in Burlington do NOT appear to be interested in making any changes to enhance the accessibility of their buildings. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) does not require them (yet) to retrofit their existing buildings to improve accessibility.

In my calls to management companies, my impression is that – in general – the people I talked with did NOT(currently) have an interest in making their buildings more accessible. They often appear to be more interested in highlighting (and retaining) the barriers- even if minor - and discouraging those physically challenged from becoming tenants.

Why is this? - Do they feel that disabled tenants will not pay their rent on time? Will make greater demands on them? Will upset their neighbours? Are more likely to sue them? Or is it just the cost of any changes? If they feel that disabled tenants are less desirable than the (apparently) able-bodied, then why do they think this? How can they be made aware of the positive traits that persons with visible challenges offer as potential tenants (e.g. reliability, courtesy, community support, empathy, appreciation, etc.)?

Typical Minor Accessibility Issues

Example: A high-rise rental apartment building in Burlington has good-sized elevators and apartments with reasonably wide doorways and one-level living. BUT one small step down inside the back door of the building and no automatic opener to the back door, combine to make access into the building difficult for those with strollers, those carrying groceries, or persons using mobility devices.

The simple answer: provide a small removable ramp and a suitable wedge to hold the door open for short periods (<$100)

For a better solution: change the step to a sloping ramp, install a key-operated power door opener to the parking-lot door (probably <$2,500?)

One man with a motorized scooter has it all worked out. He uses a home-made wooden ramp to manoeuvre up and down the step, and uses his cane to prop the door open temporarily. When the ramp is safely and securely in place, it’s time to drive slowly in (or out). 

Providing Encouragement

The Burlington Accessibility Advisory Committee (BAAC) already has an award program (The "Annual Accessibility Awards" - see:

http://cms.burlington.ca/Page13618.aspx) for individuals and organizations that improve accessibility.

There is an existing award category for "Built Environment - A building, interior or outdoor space designed or renovated to eliminate barriers and/or enhance access for people with disabilities." AND we are invited to "nominate someone today" (since nominations for this, the 3rd. "Annual Accessibility Awards" closes on April 18, 2014).

Consider if a bunch of us volunteer to partner with BAAC to contact private landlords and property management companies and encourage them to set in motion plans to improve accessibility to and inside their buildings? Would that start to make a change?

Potentially, those individuals and organizations who respond positively and improve access could ultimately qualify for an accessibility award from the City of Burlington, and receive positive publicity for their efforts.

Hopefully the positive responses from private landlords and increased understanding of accessibility issues could eventually reduce or eliminate any pre-conceived ideas of disabled residents as being ‘unattractive’ renters for private landlords.

What do YOU think can and should be done to increase the number of accessible private rental units in our community?

Thank you for your time and attention to this issue. All ideas on how to make a positive difference are greatly appreciated.

Paul Benson

VFCH Member

Connecting Renters and Landlords to Housing Supports!

Halton Housing Help is a new service that provides a central access point to housing supports and services in Halton.

You can connect with Halton Housing Help to:

• Access community resources

• Search or post rental listings

• Discuss housing needs

• Resolve tenant/landlord issues

This service is offered online (www.halton.ca/housinghelp), by phone and in-person for complex needs that require more intensive support.


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