Sarnia did it in 2010. Then Kitchener in 2012, and Toronto and Smiths Falls in 2014. Now London City Councillors have unanimously agreed to scrap a zoning by-law that discriminates against people with disabilities.
London’s by-law had required that group homes be separated by 250 metres. But as members of Community Living London told members of Council, “there is no reason a Londoner should be excluded from a particular street or part of town” simply because others “like them” lived nearby.
The decision builds on a 2010 campaign by Toronto’s Dream Team, a group of supportive housing residents who had experienced first-hand the impact of discriminatory zoning policies and practices.
Backed by the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Human Rights and Housing, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario and the HomeComing Coalition, the Dream Team took their human rights complaint against separation distances to four Ontario towns and cities. Some cities immediately changed their by-laws when they recognized their discriminatory impact on people with disabilities.
In Toronto’s case. the breakthrough came when the City invited planning and human rights expert Dr. Sandeep Agrawal to review Toronto’s group home by-law. His 2013 report found that separation distances based on personal characteristics of the residents was discriminatory and without merit. Toronto City Council amended its by-laws in June 2014 to remove separation distances for homes for people with disabilities.
Ontario Human Rights Commission, In the zone: Housing, human rights and municipal planning. Page 25 speaks to separation distances.