Calgary

Alberta repeals housing regulation for people with disabilities after human rights complaint

The government has repealed provincial housing rules for people with severe disabilities, after it sparked complaints to the Human Rights Commission and led to a backlash from the community.

New recommendations expected within six months

Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir says he hopes to have new recommendations within six months. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

The Alberta government has repealed provincial housing rules for people with severe disabilities, after it sparked complaints to the Human Rights Commission and led to a backlash from the community.

The Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) Safety Standards Regulation — introduced by the previous PC government two years ago — was meant to improve the safety of people in their home.

But Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir acknowledged that the rules were "confusing and caused undue stress in the community."

"[Community] feedback told us that safety is important, but that the current regulation is not the solution," said Sabir.

The chair of the public consultation team, John te Linde, said requirements such as sprinkler systems, firewalls, and water regulators were costly requirements that many landlords were not prepared to make. 

As a result, some people with disabilities were facing eviction.

"Participants identified a number of serious concerns about the current regulations including costs and perceived discrimination," said te Linde.

New recommendations coming

Sabir says a second phase of consultation is underway, and new recommendations will be presented within six months.

"We have heard the disability community loud and clear, and we will continue working to ensure we get this right," he added.

Disability advocates had warned that the standards would severely limit housing options for many of those receiving government support.

In one case, a woman was left with nowhere to go but the Alberta Hospital after inspectors deemed a window in her home an improper emergency exit.

Similarly, a landlord gave two 20-year residents notice rather than make upgrades.

Agencies warn housing requirements for many PDD clients will lead to evictions from homes like these, and shrink housing options within the community. (CBC)

The regulation stemmed from a fatality inquiry into the death of a woman with Down syndrome in a 2007 house fire in Edmonton.

Under the rules, service providers had to show housing had passed several inspections and complied with municipal codes and bylaws by April 1, 2015.

While service providers are still required to meet accreditation standards, none of the other safety standards introduced in the legislation now applies, Sabir said.

Inspectors will only visit homes if a specific complaint is lodged, but will no longer proactively inspect people's homes.

With files from Colleen Underwood

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