(The following is the letter we submitted to Minister Trivers and his office. Some minor details about specific cases have been removed from this public version.)
January 26, 2022
Dear Minister Trivers and Deputy Minister Keedwell*,
BIPOC USHR has witnessed many barriers faced by our community members and clients with regard to housing, including racism, both interpersonal and systemic. Interpersonal racism is the racism they face from individuals, be they landlords or tenants, while the systemic racism comes from institutions and policies which disadvantage BIPOC folks, such as social assistance caps imposed on large families, requiring an established credit history, disproportionately having to work in low-wage jobs, being unaware of housing rights (and that being taken advantage of by landlords), language barriers when dealing with social assistance, etc.
Here are just some of the examples we have seen:**
- young Black and South Asian adults being explicitly told that they will not be rented to because they are not “from here”
- Black students and families given one price for an apartment, but facing sudden price increases shortly after viewing an apartment or after having already signed a lease
We are concerned that BIPOC tenants on PEI are facing large and unique gaps in the system when the racism and discrimination they experience goes unacknowledged. As racism is ultimately about the dehumanization of BIPOC people, it is very concerning to us that BIPOC individuals and families are living in unhealthy and unsafe rentals as the message it sends, to us, is that BIPOC lives do not matter to landlords or policy makers.
Proposals: We publicly propose the Department of Social Development and Housing:
- Work closely with the PEI Human Rights Commission to ensure interpersonal racism in housing is recognized, and that it is swiftly and effectively dealt with such that landlords and fellow tenants who engage in racist actions and behaviours be held accountable so that BIPOC tenants can feel safe and secure in their homes. BIPOC USHR has a meaningful professional relationship with the PEI Human Rights Commission, and we would be happy to facilitate this partnership.
- Hold landlords accountable, through stronger and more nuanced regulation, for discriminatory, racist, and exploitative practices. Without proper regulations too many landlords are harming BIPOC Islanders.
- Invest in social housing through new builds and purchase of existing properties. For example, unsafe housing in which people on social assistance reside.
- Create an independent housing advocate to protect tenants and to help with navigating IRAC.
- Create more diversity of lived experience within IRAC, by including more BIPOC individuals who understand the impacts of racism and poverty as a barrier to adequate and safe housing.
- Restructure working relationships between social assistance and housing so they can work collaboratively in a client-centered, individualized plan approach.
Although these recommendations are suggested to address interpersonal and systemic racism within housing and social assistance systems, they also help address other types of discrimination and exploitation to aid all Islanders.
* Deputy Minister Keedwell is no longer in this position
** Some examples, which were shared in the letter, have been removed from this public post