Calling all landlords: London organization offering sensitivity training

A program that provides rental owners with tools to bridge the gap between landlords and immigrant tenants will continue until 2025.

LUSO Community Services is offering the program for free until 2025

Cultural sensitivity training can help landlords better understand tenants from outside of Canada who have different customs, said the program's coordinator. (Submitted by Luso Community Services)

A program that provides rental owners with tools to bridge the gap between landlords and immigrant and refugee tenants will be able to continue providing free support, after a boost from the federal government. 

LUSO Community Services, a multicultural resource centre, created the Cultural Sensitivity Training and Tools for Housing Sector program back in 2016, in response to hundreds of Syrian refugees who were settling in the city. At the time, that local funding came from the United Way. 

The program was developed based on feedback and consultation with the housing sector in an effort to help city landlords, supervisors and building managers better understand immigrant tenants both in terms of language and cultural differences.

"Integration is a two way street," said Meineka Kulasinghe, the program's coordinator. 

"A program like this shows that despite all of the negativity that could exist for our local newcomers, the burden isn't on them," she said.

The translation cards offered by LUSO Community Services come in Arabic, Spanish and Mandarin. The resource centre also developed a non-verbal communication booklet to assist tenants who speak different languages. (Submitted by LUSO Community Services)

After receiving a federal funding commitment of about $100,000 annually from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the program will continue free of charge until 2025.

Kulasinghe said the program offers a variety of resources from training sessions to language tools for landlords depending on their needs.

"Some corporations really want to have in their minds the cultural differences, like gender differences or hierarchies, or social differences that you might not be aware of because you're growing in your own culture and when you meet someone of a new culture, you might not understand why they're acting differently," she said. 

Kulasinghe added that other corporations are looking for specific tools to help landlords and tenants to communicate better, which is why they've developed translation cards with specific phrases, such as 'We didn't get your rent money' or 'If you see bugs in your building, please let us know.'

While the translation cards are currently offered in Arabic, Spanish and Mandarin, Kulasinghe said they've also developed a non-verbal communication booklet, which includes pictures that can help tenants and landlords communicate basic needs regardless of what language they speak. 

So far, the program has worked with 24 companies including Sifton properties and Old Oak Properties but they're hoping to expand their reach and connect with more landlords looking for these tools. 

"After being burdened for so long, with so many expectations and orientations and getting used to a new culture, it's important that [newcomers] know that it's not just an 'us' but a 'we' when [adapting in a new country].'"