6 Women On The Reality Of Renting While Black In Canada

Designed by Yazmin Butcher.
“You’ve probably heard this one before…” That’s how a friend of mine started our conversation about her experience with racism as a renter in Toronto. She shared the time she applied for a place, showed up for the viewing, and was met with inexplicable insolence from the prospective landlord — a tone that was completely different from their email correspondence. The landlord then told my friend, a Black woman, that the apartment was no longer available. But when she went home, she checked the listing and asked her white partner to call and inquire about it. The place was still very much available. It’s a horrible story, but she’s right, I have heard it before. In fact, this story is so common, I know Black people who preemptively send white friends or significant others to viewings in their place just in case the landlord is a racist.  
Discrimination in housing in Canada — especially in the Greater Toronto Area — is not just an open secret in the Black community, it’s a very real issue plaguing Black renters who are just trying to find somewhere to live. Studies in Canada and the U.S. have shown an “outrageously high” amount of racism occurs towards Black renters — white applicants statistically have an easier time finding housing. The race-based data on renting, like so many other areas in Canada, is mostly a decade old and way less expansive than it should be, but one report from 2009 showed that one in four Black single parents will face discrimination while attempting to rent in Toronto.
 
Housing should not be a privilege, but when access to a roof over your head is barred by the prejudices of landlords, that’s what it becomes. Officially, the Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits landlords from discrimination based on race, but enforcing the code is complicated, lengthy, and rarely happens. In Toronto's traditionally competitive renters' market, it's also hard to prove that the reason someone didn’t approve your rental application is because you’re Black.  
“There’s always going to be those ambiguities where you wonder whether you were turned down or whether you were not called back because you showed up and you look different than they expected,” writer Andray Domise told Global News in June. That article cited a 2008 case that went before the Ontario Human Rights Commission where the Housing Help Centre, an organization which helps prospective renters found that “people of African descent have difficulty finding housing because landlords believe they are criminals or have too many children.” In the same case, there were other damaging stereotypes perpetuated by landlords like the notion that Black people do drugs or are violent. The Black Housing Directory Facebook group called “Renting While Black” was created to offset how difficult the rental market is to navigate for Black people and serves as a safe space where renters can share their experiences.
The stories behind the stats show that this issue is urgent, real, and still very much persists. Here, Black Canadian women share their harrowing experiences renting while Black and offer solutions to stop anti-Black discrimination in housing. 
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
If you are renting while Black in Ontario and in need of resources, please visit these websites:
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