Use of Rent/Income Ratios
The Board adopts the three-step approach to the issue of prima facie contravention set out in Kearney, and summarized above in this decision. Briefly stated, those three steps are: (1) Does the rent/income ratio constitute a requirement, qualification or factor under s. 11 of the Code? (2) Does the use of the factor result in the exclusion or restriction of a group of persons identified by a prohibited ground of discrimination? (3) Is the Complainant a member of one or more of the groups so excluded or restricted?
With respect to question (1), the Board agrees with the Kearney panel that the use of rent/income ratios constitutes a requirement, qualification or factor under s. 11 of the Code. Consequently, in the event that it answers questions (2) and (3) affirmatively, the Board concludes on the basis of the evidence proffered to it by McIlravey and the analysis in Kearney, that the Respondents have failed to establish that the use of rent/income ratios constitute a reasonable or bona fide business practice, the cessation of which would cause them undue hardship.
There are two specific questions to be addressed under this heading. Do rent/income ratios exclude or restrict “young persons” from access to rental housing? Is the Complainant a “young person”?
In summary, although rent/income ratios disadvantage unattached young persons under 20 years of age, the Complainant was not a member of this disadvantaged group. There was an insufficient evidentiary basis on which the Board might conclude that the age group of which she was a member was an appropriately-drawn one, or that members of this group were disadvantaged vis-à-vis older persons by the application of rent/income ratios.
Once again, the Board must address two questions. Do rent/income ratios disproportionately exclude or restrict a group of persons identified by their sex from access to rental housing? Is the Complainant a member of that group?
The Board follows Kearney in concluding on the basis of Ornstein’s evidence that income distribution is such that unattached women are disadvantaged relative to unattached men where access to rental housing is predicated on the satisfaction of rent/income ratios. Consequently, a group identified by the prohibited ground of sex is restricted in its access to accommodation by the use of such ratios. Notwithstanding that the Complainant herself earned a comfortable income at the time of her Complaint, she is nevertheless a member of that group.