What is RentSafe?
RentSafe is a 3-year initiative, led by the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE), to address indoor environmental health risks affecting low-income tenants in both urban and rural communities in Ontario.
With active involvement of public health, legal aid, community health and other stakeholder organizations as well as tenants themselves, we aim to build awareness and capacity in the social services sector so that low-income tenants, when faced with lead, mould, pests, pesticides, radon and other indoor health threats, are better able to get the support they need to achieve healthier living conditions for themselves and their families. The project is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation via a grant to the Environmental Health Institute of Canada, the lead CPCHE partner for the project, and by in-kind contributions from multiple project partners.
Why is RentSafe needed?
A growing body of scientific knowledge underscores the vital role that safe, healthy housing plays in preventing/reducing chronic health effects, supporting healthy child development and fostering physical and mental well-being. Low-income and marginalized tenants in Ontario experience not only housing insecurity but also significant indoor environmental health risks. Children, the elderly and people with existing medical conditions are at the greatest risk. At present, there isinsufficient capacity and coordination in the social services sector to effectively address housing-related health risks in low-income housing.
What does RentSafe aim to achieve?
The primary aim of RentSafe is to improve knowledge, capacity and responsiveness within the social service sector to better address housing-related health risks facing low-income tenants, as an important step towards the goal of creating healthier living conditions in low-income/marginalized communities and reducing housing-related health inequities. Through the coordinated efforts of many organizations and sectors, RentSafe will lead to a more tenant-centred system of support and assistance, increased knowledge and empowerment among low-income tenants, and improved policy and systemic responses.
What will be done through RentSafe?
RentSafe will unfold in three phases. Phase 1, which will culminate in the publication of a baseline report, is focused on gathering and synthesizing knowledge and experience on tenants’ concerns and the existing capacity within the social services sector to respond to such concerns, drawing upon province-wide surveys with the public health and legal aid sectors as well as focus groupswith tenants in two urban and two rural communities.Phase 2 will be the convening of a multi-stakeholder Roundtable aimed at identifying actions and strategies for building social services capacity and responsiveness on indoor environmental health concerns.Phase 3, capacity building and education, will result in a video for educating service providers, medical students and others on the visible and invisible housing conditions that may be affecting their clients’ health, and outreach materials to increase public awareness on housing-related health risks and where/how to seek assistance.
For more information:
Organizations involved in RentSafe implementation include: the Canadian Environmental Law Association (survey of legal aid clinics, review of case law), the Ontario Public Health Association (survey of public health units), South Riverdale Community Health Centre (tenant focus groups), Toronto Public Health (tenant focus groups), theCentre for Environmental Health Equity at Queen’s University (expertise on tenant engagement), Grey Bruce Health Unit (survey of municipal property standards officials; survey of landlords; tenant focus groups), Lanark Renfrew Health and Community Services (tenant focus groups) and McMaster Institute for Healthier Environments (host of the Roundtable). Additional organizations and individuals are involved via the RentSafe Advisory Committee and/or in the various community-based and province-wide efforts being led the above-named organizations.