OK, kiddo! Here are all the fantastically amazing posts tagged with Housing
Rental Diva, an unlicensed rental agency in Brampton Ontario, is likely to face a human rights tribunal after turning away clients because they’re gay.
Thiago Derucio and Christ Prentice called Juliet Stewart—operator of Rental Diva—about a basement suite, but were promptly told they could not rent the property because the landlord had indicated that they did not wish to accommodate gays. (What, she has a database field for that sort of thing?)
This seems pretty open-and-shut to me. Not only is Rental Diva violating Ontario’s human rights code (with a rather lengthy chain of precedent against her favour), but she’s operating without a license. That’s pretty serious, and I can’t imagine this business will be around much longer.
Still, there are unanswered questions. For example, how is it possible that an agency called “Rental Diva” isn’t set up specifically to cater to gay apartment hunters? That would be like me setting up a business called “Christian Biblical Lodgings for Jesus” and then refusing to accommodate anyone wearing a crucifix.
I swear, these cases are getting weirder and weirder by the day.
Housing discrimination has always been a little difficult to measure. Yet, even in a city as diverse and vibrant as Vancouver, it’s reported to happen. While it’s illegal to deny a gay couple housing simply because of their sexual orientation anywhere in Canada, proving this kind of discrimination is not easy; landlords don’t normally admit to such prejudice. (At least, not the cowardly ones.)
This is what makes a recent experiment conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia so interesting.
Two professors and 34 students designed an experiment around some housing application letters. The letters were all identical except for a small detail. Some letters indicated a heterosexual couple was interested in the property, while others indicated a gay male couple, a single parent, or a lesbian couple. The letters were then sent to 1,700 different landlords in the Vancouver area.
The results are unfortunate.
Letters that were from the gay male partners were 25% more likely to be rejected than letters from the straight couples—more than any other group. The next-most discriminated group, single parents, were 15% more likely to be rejected.
The results, naturally, depended on the neighbourhood in which the property was located. Vancouver’s West End, for example, which has traditionally been an area favoured by gays, had a much higher acceptance rate of all family types than elsewhere in the city.
Now, considering that Vancouver is a pretty a diverse city, it probably exhibits less discrimination than elsewhere in Canada. In this sense, 25% is a pretty worrying statistic, wouldn’t you say?
The results of the study have been published in the August edition of the academic journal Social Problems.
William Goertzen, a landlord from Yellowknife who refused occupancy to a gay couple because he felt homosexuality was “unnatural,” has been fined for his actions.
Goertzen had already signed a one-year lease with Scott Robertson and Richard Anthony, but refused to honor the legal agreement when he found out they were a gay couple. He then kept their $1,125 security deposit and wouldn’t pay it back until he was ordered to by the rental court.
The couple finally took Goertzen to the Human Rights Tribunal, where he argued that his personal religious beliefs exempted him from recognising the couple’s legal rights. Homosexuality, Goertzen claimed, was “unnatural and against nature,” adding that his religion “warned against being associated with such wickedness.” (His religion had no strong opinions against forcing people onto the street and stealing $1,125 in damage deposits, of course.)
Luckily for everyone, religious freedom doesn’t mean you get to ignore your legal responsibilities. Goertzen was fined $13,400 in injury and punitive damages.
- Gay couple awarded $13.4K for rental refusal [CBC News]
Will Goertzen, a landlord in Yellowknife, signed a one-year apartment lease for a young gay couple last year. Three weeks before the couple was set to move in, Goertzen discovered they were gay. He re-listed the property without notifying the couple, rented it to a different family, stole the couple’s $1,150 damage deposit, and left them for homeless.
Scott Robertson and Richard Anthony had to stay with various friends and keep all of their belongings scattered about different locations until they secured a new apartment. They got their damage deposit back only after taking Goertzen to rental court. Now the case is before the Northwest Territories Human Rights Commission.
Astonishingly, Goertzen is outright admitting that he denied housing, stole the damage deposit, and left the couple homeless because they were gay, saying that he recognizes the “supremacy of God over the Charter or Rights and Freedoms.” “[Homosexuality] isn’t natural and it’s a crime against nature,” Goertzen told an adjudicator at a human rights commission last week, “I can definitely not have a part in it.”
Religious freedoms exist in Canada, but all that means is that the government cannot dictate which deity or deities you are allowed to worship; it does not—and has never—granted the power to circumvent Canada’s laws or our Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Both of which, indeed, explicitly forbid housing discrimination based on sexual orientation).
I’m not surprised some people are under a different impression, mind you. Saskatchewan has proposed a law that lets civil marriage commissioners refuse their public services for gay couples, and Alberta has just enacted a law that forces teachers to halt any discussions of sexual orientation until they receive parental permission from each parent, lest it offend their personal religious beliefs. Religious freedom is fast becoming a convenient carte blanche; a way to eschew personal responsibility, ignore or erase the rights of gay people, and nullify Canada’s guarantees of equality. Goertzen’s despicable behaviour is just a natural extension of this.
It’s time for mainstream religious people who realize that what Goertzen has done is wrong both in the legal and moral sense to stand up and say this is not acceptable.
Or, if this whole thing turns out differently, I could just start a religion of my own…
- Yellowknife landlord says he tore up gay couple’s lease over fear of God [Winnipeg Free Press]
- Gay couple left in cold by landlord [CBC News]
Edmund Bro and Keith Scott, two gay, physically disabled, HIV-positive tenants in West Vancouver, have won their case with the Human Rights Tribunal over an abusive and homophobic landlord. Each tenant was awarded $15,000 to compensate for their year-and-a-half of relentless harassment from Michael John Moody and his son, Guy.
The Human Rights Code in British Columbia forbids, among other things, discrimination based on disability, sexual orientation, and source of income. Moody, being the sampling type it appears, decided to violate as many of these as possible. In addition to constant verbal harassment, he physically assaulted the two disabled men, demeaned their reliance on disability benefits, and even refused to conduct repairs on the property.
Bro and Scott moved out, of course, leaving Moody free to rebuild his property as a summer spot for anti-gay lobbyists.
- Gay tenants win B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint [Straight.com]
The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has agreed to hear a case from a lesbian couple who claims they were refused a house because they’re gay. Although the couple had signed an offer for the property, they say that the seller, Alexander Berry, backed out once he discovered they were lesbians. Berry said he didn’t know the two women were a couple and changed his mind because of the short time limit on their agreement. The property was sold to a young family two days after the gay couple had signed the offer.
While the case isn’t scheduled to be heard until the 15th, Berry tried to get the complaint dismissed, arguing that he didn’t fall under B.C. human rights jurisdictions because he’s Albertan. The tribunal rejected his request.
So, knowing how these things normally work, I think we can expect a decision to come as early as November, 2014.
- Rights body will hear pair’s case [The Province]
- Man refuses to sell Vancouver home to gays, couple alleges [Xtra]