Rental housing squeeze leaving racialized renters out in the cold in the GTA

March 17, 2017
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When Temi Marie, a 26-year-old professional of Nigerian descent, started looking for a new place to rent last September, she didn't think that six months later she would still be without somewhere to live. 

"I've been couch-surfing," she says. "Now it's reached a point where I'm pretty much homeless because I can't find a place." 

Marie has encountered everything many would-be renters might expect in Toronto's current climate: unreliable landlords, renters with cash winning out over renters who haven't yet resorted to filling a duffle bag with first and last month's rent, finding the perfect apartment online before realizing it’s already been rented. 

But Marie, a woman of colour, has also had to navigate the "runaround" of thinly veiled discrimination, including requests for several interviews, being told a rent is higher after negotiating down the advertised price and even demands for a criminal background check.

Her experiences reveal the frustrating situation shared by racialized renters. 

"There's no question that being a woman of colour and trying to find a place in Toronto is not going to be easy," Marie says with disturbing equanimity. "It's not something that's new [to me]."

Housing discrimination based on race is indeed nothing new. But Toronto's housing bubble has created a landlord's market, to the disadvantage in particular of Black and South Asian renters. 

Case in point: a blatantly racist ad published on Kijiji in January advertising a vacant two-bedroom condo in Etobicoke: "Clean and tidy Etobicoke condo – NO BLACK TENANTS PLEASE!" It was quickly shared on social media to collective shock before it was removed from Kijiji. 

According to Kijiji's posting policies, ads that deny a person housing based on race, ethnic background or origin "will be removed from the site" and users blocked from using Kijiji's services in future. But similar posts can be published on other platforms.

Another rental ad originally from Kijiji reappeared recently in the Bunz Home Zone, a popular housing group on Facebook, specifying the renter was looking for a "working caucasian [sic] person."

Read more: Rental housing squeeze leaving racialized renters out in the cold in the GTA