CERA’s Youth Housing Rights Program

Canada Without Poverty and Away Home Ottawa have developed an ongoing program series focusing on youth homelessness and the right to housing. This month, we’re featuring a series of guest blogs from our partners and youth participants to share their perspectives on the right to housing for young people in Canada. 

It’s an important moment for housing in Canada, and youth need to be engaged in the conversation.

The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) has been fighting for the recognition of housing as a human right since 1987, and since 2011 we have been working with young people in Ontario so that they understand and can claim their rights in the housing system. Our model for youth engagement combines popular education and creative approaches that demystify the laws all of us need to know.

Canada’s first National Housing Strategy, released in 2017, states that Canada is moving towards recognizing housing as a human right. Like many of our allies in the fight for housing equality, we remain cautiously optimistic that this announcement will lead to real change, and to a housing system that meets everyone’s – including Canada’s young people’s – needs.

Over the years, our Youth Housing Rights Program has:

  • Hosted know-your-rights education sessions with hundreds of youth with lived experiences of homelessness and housing discrimination
  • Hired a team of youth to evaluate our educational models and direct services
  • Worked with youth so that they can lead conversations and initiate change in their communities

    CERA’s Youth Housing Rights Ambassadors talk about their experiences and what needs to change.

Together with youth-serving agencies across Ontario, in 2018 it is our goal to build a culture of housing as a right among young people.

This year we are promoting youth housing rights across Ontario, funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy. We are thrilled to be working with the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth, Pauline’s Place in Sault Ste. Marie, the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa, the RAFT in St. Catharines and the Windsor Youth Centre on “Getting It Right – promoting housing and human rights for homeless and at-risk youth.” Our sessions for staff and peer workers trained 78 youth housing rights leaders in 2017, and between now and April we’ll be back to work with youth.

In 2017 we asked 58 youth with experiences of homelessness about rental housing. Experiences of discriminatory treatment and other serious tenancy issues were overwhelmingly common:

  • 47% said they had been denied an apartment for reasons related to their age
  • 74% said they had been refused a place because of their source of income
  • 80% believe they are treated differently because of perceptions landlords hold about young people
  • 42% have faced an eviction
  • 76% faced serious maintenance problems, with 52% having no access vital services (heat, hot water, etc.) at some point during a tenancy
Youth workers across Ontario take part in CERA’s youth housing rights education sessions in 2017

Not only do youth face intersecting forms of discrimination like many other Ontarians – because of their skin colour, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, or other protected identities – but their age is also a barrier to rent. A lack of rental history or credit, or simple assumptions about the behaviour of young people can also result in doors being closed on them by housing providers; and youth are ending up homeless as a result.

We encourage you to support this youth-centered movement towards recognizing housing as a human right. You can support CERA directly, or explore ways that you can start conversations with young people in your community – visit us online. Let’s finally get it right.



Have questions about your housing rights?

Call CERA. Or chat with us online.

It’s free.




This project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy.