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e-4543 (Civil and human rights)

Initiated by Salvatore Amenta from Stouffville, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons in Parliament assembled

  • Over 22% of Canadians have a disability;
  • Housing policy discriminates against people with disabilities;
  • No building code in Canada mandates that housing be accessible;
  • Thousands are forced out of their dwellings at the most vulnerable time in their lives because their homes are not accessible for them;
  • This results in “hallway medicine” in hospitals, and long waiting lists for nursing homes;
  • Millions of health care dollars could be saved by enabling people to remain in their own accessible homes;
  • Approval and financing of inaccessible housing contravenes the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability; and
  • Universal design is defined by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) as the design of an environment that can be accessed, understood and used by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to:
1. Amend the National Building Code (NBC) to make Universal Design mandatory in all new multi-unit housing developments under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada, consistent with current legislation and conventions;
2. Ensure the Canadian Table for Harmonized Construction Codes Policy, Canadian Board for Harmonized Construction Codes and the CMHC collaborate on defining and illustrating in the NBC what is visitable, adaptable, accessible, barrier-free, and universal design; and
3. Require public funds or concessions for housing conferred on municipalities, developers, or other organizations to be exclusively used for universally designed housing.

Response by the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Chris Bittle

With 22% of Canadians aged 15 and over living with one or more disabilities that limit their daily life, it is vital that we support the development of housing that accommodates the needs of people with disabilities. To support the housing needs of individuals with disabilities, the Government of Canada’s National Housing Strategy (NHS) includes programs that encourage and support the use of Universal Design in housing development. 

In the report, Universal Design: A guide for designers, builders and developers of multi-unit residential buildings, CMHC undertook consultations with industry experts and people with lived experience. The goal of Universal Design is to ensure that spaces do not discriminate and they benefit people regardless of their abilities, needs and cultural preferences. Universal Design is frequently implemented by project owners, particularly those completing new construction, to provide accessible housing. As part of the criteria established to access funding support from the NHS and other Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) programs, all projects must achieve minimum accessibility standards and follow jurisdictional requirements, Universal Design criteria, or other technical requirements. Below are highlights of accessibility criteria from key CMHC housing programs. Additional details can be found at CMHC Housing Solutions.

Apartment Construction Loan Program: At least 10% of project units must meet local codes or the 2015 National Building Code. Additionally, access to the project and all common areas must be barrier-free as regulated by the local codes or the 2015 National Building Code. 

Affordable Housing Fund: For the New Construction stream, 20% of units within the project must meet or exceed accessibility standards and its common areas must be barrier-free OR have full Universal Design applied. For the Repair and Renewal stream, 20% of units within the project must meet or exceed the accessibility standards and its common areas must be barrier-free. 

Mortgage Loan Insurance Select (Outside of the NHS but CMHC-delivered): Access to reduced premiums and longer amortization periods are based on a points system where borrowers earn points depending on their affordability, energy efficiency, and accessibility commitments. For borrowers making an accessibility commitment, there are options for achieving different levels of accessibility, with more ambitious commitments resulting in additional points.

Response by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): THE HON. FRANÇOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE

The Canadian Board for Harmonized Construction Codes (CBHCC), which is made up of representatives from provincial, territorial, and federal governments, is responsible for the development of Canada’s National Model Codes, including the National Building Code (NBC). The CBHCC works under the direction of the Canadian Table for Harmonized Construction Codes Policy which establishes the strategic priority areas that become the focus of code development activities. Accessibility is a priority for the 2030 code development cycle.

The CBHCC and its committees develop Canada’s National Model Codes for building design and construction. The 2025 National Model Codes will include several changes to improve the accessibility of buildings and dwellings. Work is underway for changes targeting the 2025 National Model Codes for improving building access, including for persons with vision loss, and enhancing safety through improved accessibility, by aligning the National Building Code (NBC) Part 9 (applicable to housing and small buildings) with the NBC Part 3 (applicable to large buildings) in areas that include design and geometry requirements for tactile attention indicator surfaces, lighting requirements in public spaces, protruding building elements, and ramp design.

Work is also underway on expanding accessibility requirements to dwelling units, to allow Canadians to easily and affordably adapt their homes to accommodate their changing health needs and to live at home for as long as possible (“adaptability”), as well as visit others in their homes (“visitability”). The CBHCC is working on expanding the application of the National Model Codes’ accessibility objective to include dwelling units and the development of technical requirements for adaptability in dwelling units and visitability in dwelling units in multi-unit residential buildings (MURB). Some of the adaptability measures being developed are wider entrances to accommodate assistive mobility devices, reinforced walls in washrooms for the installation of grab bars, and specific mounting locations for light switches and commonly used electrical outlets that can be reached by a person in a seated position. The CBHCC is also working to improve the visitability of dwelling units in multi-unit residential buildings to include wider paths of travel in the entrance floor living area and washrooms with enough space to maneuver a wheelchair or other assistive mobility device. The proposed additions to the 2025 National Model Codes on adaptable features would apply to most new dwelling units (detached houses, semi-detached houses, houses with a secondary suite, duplexes, triplexes, townhouses, row houses and boarding houses, and units designated by provinces and territories to be adaptable in MURBs), while visitability features would apply to a subset of MURB units that also have adaptable features, as decided upon by authorities having jurisdiction for regulation and related enforcement of construction based on their local needs.

Further development of technical provisions for accessibility has been identified as a priority by the Canadian Table for Harmonized Construction Codes Policy for the 2030 National Model Codes. The CBHCC is currently in the process of developing its detailed work plan for the 2030 Codes.

Open for signature
August 2, 2023, at 3:12 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
November 30, 2023, at 3:12 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Mike Morrice (Kitchener Centre)
December 6, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01973)
Government response tabled
January 29, 2024
Photo - Mike Morrice
Kitchener Centre
Green Party Caucus