What is the role of the Deputy Ombudsman (Housing)?

The Deputy Ombudsman (Housing)'s role is to monitor and assess the fairness of the planning and delivery of the City of Toronto's housing policies and programs. They will lead a new unit within the Ombudsman Toronto office that will:
  • Conduct structural reviews and systemic investigations into Toronto's housing system and report on the City's progress in achieving its 10-year housing plan, which among other things, aims to establish housing as a human right.
  • Undertake research and assess best practices.
  • Engage regularly with the broader community of both housing experts and those with lived experience of being unhoused or facing housing precarity.
This is not a new model – other Ombudsman offices around the world have created similar units.

Is this the same as having a Housing Commissioner?

No, a Housing Commissioner is an advocate who does not have the powers or independence of a Deputy Ombudsman. Unlike a Housing Commissioner, the Deputy Ombudsman:
  • Can compel the testimony and the production of documents from City staff.
  • Is independent of the City administration and reports directly to City Council through the Ombudsman.
To give similar powers and independence to a Housing Commissioner, the Province of Ontario would have to change the City of Toronto Act.

Will the Deputy Ombudsman (Housing) investigate complaints?

Ombudsman Toronto already investigates individual housing complaints. We dealt with close to 1,400 complaints about housing in 2022, including concerns about the clearing of encampments from City parks. This will continue to be the case, and we encourage members of the public to contact us if they have a complaint about any City-related housing matter.
The Deputy Ombudsman (Housing) will focus exclusively on systemic reviews and investigations into the City's housing policies and programs. They will work closely with the rest of our team at Ombudsman Toronto and monitor data about individual housing complaints to see if there are any systemic patterns.

Will the Deputy Ombudsman (Housing) launch their own reviews and investigations, absent specific complaints?

When an issue points to potential unfairness or a violation of policy and procedure, the office can launch an investigation or program review, without a complaint. That will be the case with this unit, as well.

Will the Deputy Ombudsman (Housing) fix the housing crisis?

Both the independent Crean and Maytree Report and the City Manager's report concluded that the most effective response to the City's housing crisis is not a single action or office, but instead a suite of actions delivered in concert with one another. This will require political will, money, and strong policy efforts from all levels of governments.

Will the creation of a Deputy Ombudsman (Housing) delay the City's efforts to build more housing?

The creation of the new housing unit will not stop or delay existing City plans or projects. Instead, it will address any unfairness in the current systems.

Will the Deputy Ombudsman (Housing) look at shelters, rooming houses, warming centres, etc.?

The Deputy Ombudsman (Housing) will focus on investigations and program reviews about housing discrimination and systemic hurdles in the planning and delivery of the City of Toronto’s housing services. The Deputy Ombudsman (Housing) will decide what to start with, but the City’s policies and programs on housing are the central focus of the unit.

Does the Deputy Ombudsman (Housing) have the jurisdiction to investigate private landlords?

The work of the Deputy Ombudsman (Housing) will be focused on housing that is within the City’s control. Under its current legislative provisions, Ombudsman Toronto does not have jurisdiction over private property, the provision of housing by private owners, or landlord and tenant issues, such as private agreements and leases.