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Social Housing (Ontario) Legal Guide
(23 November 2021)

Ch.8 - Special Needs

  1. Overview
  2. Excepted Rules
  3. Eligibility
    (a) General
    (b) Cessation of Eligibility for Failure to Notify of Changes
    (c) Cessation of Eligibility for Failure to Provide Information on a Periodic Review
  4. Special Needs Application and Notice of Decision
    (a) General
    (b) What May Not Be Required in the Application
    (c) Application Procedure
    (d) Notices of Decision
  5. Special Needs Household Selection System
    (a) Overview
    (b) Special Needs Waiting List
    (c) Special Needs Unit Selection Rules
    (d) Special Needs Housing Provider Policy Selection Rules
  6. Special Needs Priority Ranking
  7. Periodic Special Needs Reviews
  8. Local Rules, Form and Information Available to the Public
    (a) Overview
    (b) Service Manager Duties
    (c) Housing Provider Duties
    (d) Service Manager Duties



1. Overview

'Special needs' housing means "housing intended for use by a household with one or more members who require accessibility modifications or provincially funded support services in order to live independently in the community" [HSA 38]. In other words, housing for handicapped people who require special physical accomodation or the availability of supportive services.

'Special needs' is not termed as a priority 'category' in the HSA (unlike 'special priority' [Ch.6]), but it has much in common with special priority in that some minor priorities (eg. transfers) do not apply to it - that is, transfer applications cannot have placement priority over special needs applicants. Also unique is that special needs as a category has separate waiting lists by special needs housing provider, and that applicants who are both 'special needs' and 'special priority' do exist.

A 'special needs housing administrator' (hereafter 'administrator' or 'local administrator') is either the local service manager (municipality or DSAAB), or the housing provider if they are listed here: Schedule 3, HSA General Reg [HSA 38; Genl Reg 17].

A household already in special needs housing (ie. market rent) shall be selected for RGI assistance upon the service manager determining that the household is RGI-eligible [Genl Reg 51(2)].


2. Excepted Rules

A local selection system must provide that none of the following rules shall apply with respect to special needs housing [Genl Reg 51(1)]:
  • Transfers [see Ch.5, s.5(b) "Transfer Priority"] [Genl Reg 47];

  • Market-rent Transfers [see Ch.5, s.5(c): "Selection from Market-Rent Tenants Within Same Housing Provider"] [Genl Reg 48];

  • Alternative Housing Mandate Refusals [see Ch.5, s.9: "Alternative Housing Provider Mandate/Policy Refusal"] [Genl Reg 49]

  • Housing Provider Financial Risk Refusals [see Ch.5, s.9: "Alternative Housing Provider Mandate/Policy Refusal"] [Genl Reg 50].

3. Eligibility

(a) General

Eligibility for special needs housing is only subject to provincial rules [HSA 59; Genl Reg 68-71] (ie. no local rules).

The 'need' requirement for a household to be eligible for special needs housing is that "at least one member of the household must require accessibility modifications or provincially funded support services in order to live independently in the community" [Genl Reg 69(1)].

If a special needs household with member/s who initially required provincially funded support services no longer require it, the household remains eligible for special needs "unless all such members have permanently recovered from the condition that necessitated the provision of those services" [HSA 69(2)].

(b) Cessation of Eligibility for Failure to Notify of Changes

A household loses special needs eligibility if it fails to notify the administrator of any change in information or document that the household previously provided for determining the household’s eligibility or continued eligibility [Genl Reg 70(1,2)].

Such change notification must be given to the administrator within 30 days after the change, or within such longer period after the change as the local administrator may establish [Genl Reg 70(3)], and the administrator "may extend the period of time for notifying the administrator, either before or after the period has expired" [Genl Reg 70(4)].

The method of change notification shall be [Genl Reg 70(5)]:
. for a change to a document, by providing a copy of the changed document; and

. for a change to information, by providing a notice setting out the change.
An administrator may determine that the household remains eligible under these provisions if they are satisfied that there are extenuating circumstances [Genl Reg 70(6)].

(c) Cessation of Eligibility for Failure to Provide Information on a Periodic Review

A household loses special needs eligibility if "the household fails to provide information requested by the administrator" for the purpose of determining [Genl Reg 71(1)]:
. a periodic review of continued eligibility [under HSA 65(1)], or

. a periodic waiting list review of continued eligibility [under Genl Reg 75(1)5].
An administrator may determine that the household remains eligible for special needs accomodation under these provisions if they are satisfied that there are extenuating circumstances [Genl Reg 71(2)].


4. Special Needs Application and Notice of Decision

(a) General

A member of a household may apply, on behalf of the household, to the administrator for special needs housing [HSA 60(1-3)], in the form authorized by the administrator [HSA 60(4)].

(b) What May Not Be Required in the Application

When making such an application the administrator may not require the following [Genl Reg 72]:
  • Where Unable to Supply Information or Documents

    The administrator shall not require a person to provide information or documents if the administrator is satisfied that the person is unable to do so.

  • Where Application Includes Special Priority Request re Abuse and Risk of Abuse

    The administrator shall not require information or documents that includes a request for inclusion in the special priority household category that relates to the abuse, other than trafficking, of a member of the household, if the member of the household making the request believes that he or she or any other member of the household will be at risk of abuse if he or she attempts to obtain the information or documents.

  • Where Application Includes Special Priority Request re Trafficking and Risk of Abuse

    The administrator shall not require information or documents that includes a request for inclusion in the special priority household category that relates to the trafficking of a member of the household, if the member of the household making the request believes that he or she or any other member of the household will be at risk of abuse if he or she attempts to obtain the information or documents.
(c) Application Procedure

The determination of whether a household eligible for special needs housing is made by the special needs housing administrator [HSA 61(1)]. The determination shall be made under the special needs eligibility rules [(b) above] and the following requirements [HSA 61(2); Genl Reg 73]:
  • If Application Incomplete, an Advisory

    If the special needs housing administrator determines that an application is not complete, the administrator shall notify the household, without delay, of what is necessary to complete the application.

  • Where Application Incomplete and Request for Special Priority

    If the application includes a request for special priority, the administrator shall notify only the member of the household who made the application but not any other member of the household.

    If, after making reasonable efforts to contact the member the administrator is unable to contact them, and the member has authorized the administrator to contact an identified individual [see Ch.6, s.6(b): "Authorization for Third-Party Contact"; Genl Reg 56.1(1)], the administrator:
    . shall make reasonable efforts to contact the individual,

    . shall request only that the individual advise the member to contact the administrator, and

    . shall not provide to the individual any other information regarding the circumstances.
  • When Application Complete, Determination

    Once an application is complete, the administrator shall determine, without delay, whether the household is eligible for special needs housing.

  • Where Application Requests Special Priority, 14 Days to Determine

    Where applications include a request for special priority, the administrator shall determine, within 14 days of completion, whether the special priority request will be granted and also whether the household is eligible for special needs housing.
(d) Notices of Decision

On determination of the following issues, the special needs administrator shall give the household written Notices of Decision as follows [HSA 53(1,2]:
  • Eligibility for Special Needs Housing

    A determination, [under HSA 61(1): "Determination of eligibility"] whether the household is eligible for special needs. Notice given to the household.

    A negative decision of this is reviewable by the household [under HSA 156]. [see Ch.11: "Reviews (Appeals)"]

  • Priority Categorization

    A determination [under HSA s.63(1): "Determination of priority"] whether the household is included in a category given priority over other categories. Notice given to the household.

    With respect to the household, if a decision relates to the special priority household category, a notice shall be given only to the member of the household who made the request [Genl Reg 82(4)].

    If, after making reasonable efforts to contact the member, the administrator is unable to contact them and the member has authorized the administrator to contact an identified individual [see Ch.6 Priority Ranking, s.6(b): "Authorization for Third-Party Contact"; Genl Reg 56.1(1)], the administrator shall [Genl Reg 82(5)]:
    . make reasonable efforts to contact the individual:

    . request only that the individual advise the member to contact the administrator; and

    . shall not provide to the individual any other information regarding the circumstances.
    A negative decision of this is reviewable by the household [under HSA 156]. [see Ch.11: "Reviews (Appeals)"]

  • Ineligibility on Periodic Review

    A determination on review [under HSA 65(1): "Review of continued eligibility"] that the household is no longer eligible for special needs housing. Notice given to the household by the administrator, and if the administrator is also the service manager then to the housing provider as well [HSA 66(2)].

    A negative decision of this is reviewable by the household [under HSA 156], see Ch.11: "Reviews (Appeals)"]
A notice of a decision shall be given within seven business days after the decision is made, or within such other time period after the decision is made as the local special needs administrator may establish [Genl Reg 82(2)].

The notice of a decision must include the following [Genl Reg 82(3)]:
  • a statement of the date of the decision;

  • whether a review of the decision may be requested [under HSA 156]:
    . a statement that a member of the household may request a review,

    . information about how to request a review and what the deadline is for doing so, and

    . a statement of the reasons for the decision.
  • if a Review of the decision may not be requested [under HSA 156], a statement that a review may not be requested.

5. Special Needs Household Selection System

(a) Overview

The special needs housing administrator shall have a system for selecting households (the 'special needs system') from those waiting for special needs housing [HSA 62(1,2); Genl Reg 74].

The special needs household selection 'system' is established by the administrator (and provincial rules), but applied by the housing provider day-to-day [HSA 64].

(b) Special Needs Waiting List

The special needs 'system' shall have a waiting list for each housing project that is capable of housing special needs households, and it must include the following rules [Genl Reg 75(1)]:
  • Once Special Needs Eligible, then Added to Waiting Lists Where Preference

    Upon the administrator determining that a household is eligible for special needs housing, the household shall be added to the waiting list for each project for which the household has indicated a preference.

  • Also Added to Waiting List Where Occupying Special Needs Unit and Transfer Sought

    A household shall also be added to a list if the household:
    . is occupying special needs housing in the administrator’s housing projects (ie. market-rent tenants), and

    . has applied to be added to the list because the household wishes to be transferred to a unit in the housing project to which the list relates.
    A transfer application shall be made to the administrator and must include the information and documents, and be made in a form authorized by the administrator.

  • Removal From Waiting List

    A household shall be removed from the list if the household (1) requests to be removed, (2) ceases to be eligible for special needs housing, or (3) has accepted an offer of special needs housing in the administrator’s housing projects.

  • Periodic Special Needs Eligibility Review

    The administrator shall determine, from time to time, whether a household that is on the list is still eligible for special needs housing.
(c) Special Needs Unit Selection Rules

An administrator’s system for selecting households must be selected from the waiting list for the housing project (as immediately above), and include vacancy selection rules as follows [Genl Reg 76(1)]:
  1. If Provincially Funded Support Services Provided by the Housing Provider, Must Select a Household that Needs Them

    If the housing provider provides provincially funded support services in respect of the unit, the housing provider must select a household that requires those services.

  2. If Accessibility Modifications Provided by the Housing Provider, Must Select a Household that Needs Them

    If the unit has accessibility modifications, the housing provider must select a household that requires those modifications.

  3. If Unit Provides Both, Must Select a Household that Needs Both

    If the housing provider provides provincially funded support services in respect of the unit and the unit has accessibility modifications, the housing provider must select a household that requires both those services and those modifications.
The selection above shall be made in accordance with the 'determination of priority' (below) [under HSA 63] [Genl Reg 76(1)5-8,(2)], either:
  • Highest Priority

    By selecting the highest priority household from among the relevant households (and have not accepted within a reasonable time).

  • Highest Priority That 'Express Interest With the Specified Time Period'

    After information about the vacancy has been made available to the relevant households, by selecting the highest priority household from among the relevant households that express interest within the specified time period (and have not accepted within a reasonable time).

    Note: The above provision may be moot with the 'one offer only' change brought about by the 01 Jan 2021 amendments [see Ch.5, s.2(e)].
(d) Special Needs Housing Provider Policy Selection Rules

. Policy Refusals

An administrator’s system for selecting households must include rules that permit a housing provider, despite any other rule, to refuse to offer a household a unit in any of the following circumstances [Genl Reg 77(1)]:
  • Contrary to Mandate

    The housing provider has a mandate [under HSA 76: "Mandates under former Act"] and offering the unit to the household would be contrary to that mandate.

  • Poor Rent Risk

    The housing provider has reasonable grounds to believe, based on the household’s rental history, that the household may fail to fulfil its obligations to pay rent for the unit in the amount and at the times the rent is due.

  • Refusal or Doubt re Non-profit Co-op Responsibilities

    The housing provider is a non-profit housing co-operative and the household does not agree to accept its responsibilities as a member of the housing provider or the housing provider has reasonable grounds to believe that the household will not accept or will be unable to accept those responsibilities.

  • Sharing Would Be Unreasonable

    The unit is one in which individuals will reside in a shared living situation and the housing provider has reasonable grounds to believe that it is unreasonable for the household to reside in the shared accommodation.

  • Certain Past Legal Actions

    All of the following apply to a member of the household:

    • Illegal Acts Tenancy Termination of Member in Last Five Years (see below for specific illegal acts that apply)

      Within the past five years:
      . the tenancy of a member of the household was ordered terminated by the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) based on a notice of termination for illegal acts [RTA 61], or

      . the occupancy of a member of the household in a member unit of a non-profit housing co-operative was ordered terminated by the Landlord and Tenant Board based on a notice of termination for illegal acts [RTA 94.2(5)].
    • Termination was in a Designated Housing Project

      The tenancy or occupancy that was ordered terminated was in a designated housing project: see for your service area Reg 368/11: Designated Housing Projects - s.68 of the Act [Genl Reg 50(2)].

    • No Reversal of Termination

      The order terminating the tenancy or occupancy has not been cancelled by an LTB review [under SPPA 21.2] or overturned by a Divisional Court appeal [under RTA 210].

    • Specific Illegal Act Required

      The order terminating the tenancy or occupancy was grounded on an illegal act, trade, business or occupation involving one or more of the following:
      . An illegal act, trade, business or occupation involving drug offences [under RTA 61(2)(a) or RTA 94.4(4)(a)].

      . The illegal production, distribution or sale of cannabis.

      . The trafficking of persons.

      . The use or attempted use of physical violence against another person.

      . Physical harm, attempted physical harm, or a risk of physical harm to another person.

      . The use of threats to, intimidation of, or harassment of another person.
  • Support Services Available Are Disproportionate

    The level of support services that are provided in respect of the unit is significantly greater or significantly less than the level of support services required by the household.
. Remedies If Breach by Housing Provider

The local system for selecting households must include the following rules that provide for breach of the above provisions by a housing provider [Genl Reg 77(2)]:
  • the housing provider shall notify the household of the refusal;

  • if the household so requests, the housing provider shall review the decision to refuse to make the offer;

    These breach rules apply only to the first refusal by a housing provider to make an offer to a household and not to subsequent refusals by the housing provider with respect to the same household.

6. Special Needs Priority Ranking

The special priority (abuse and human trafficking) rule operates within special needs households. It is essentially the same as set out in Ch.6: "Special Priority" [HSA 63. Genl Reg 78].

All references in that chapter to the 'service manager' shall be read as 'special needs housing administrator', and references to 'RGI assistance' shall be read as references to 'special needs housing'[Genl Reg 79].


7. Periodic Special Needs Reviews
Note: The term 'review' is used more than once in the HSA. In Ch.11: ["Reviews (Appeals)"] it refers to an appeal-type procedure to challenge service managers decisions against the household or housing provider. Here however it refers to administrative eligibility 'check-ups' (ie. 'periodic reviews') to see whether a tenant household is still special needs eligible.
Every 12 months after a household first receives special needs housing, or at such other times as the special needs administrator considers appropriate, the administrator shall determine whether the households continue to be eligible for it [HSA 65(1-3); Genl Reg 80].

The following limitations apply to such periodic reviews [Genl Reg 81]:
  • Inability to Provide

    The administrator shall not require a person to provide information or documents if the administrator is satisfied that the person is unable to do so.

  • Where Prior Information or Documents Still Adequate

    The administrator shall not require a person to provide information or documents if the administrator is satisfied that the information and documents previously provided are adequate to determine that the household continues to be eligible for special needs housing.

  • No Review Requests Where Abuse Victim has Belief of Risk

    The administrator shall not require information or documents where the household was in the special priority 'abuse' category at the beginning of their special needs housing, and where "a member of the household believes that he or she or any other member of the household will be at risk of abuse if he or she attempts to obtain the information or documents".

  • No Review Requests Where Trafficking Victim has Belief of Risk

    The administrator shall not require information or documents where the household was in the special priority 'trafficking' category at the beginning of their special needs housing, and where "a member of the household believes that he or she or any other member of the household will be at risk of abuse if he or she attempts to obtain the information or documents".

8. Local Rules, Form and Information Available to the Public

(a) Overview

Similar public disclosure duties of rules, form and information apply to special needs housing [HSA 67, Genl Reg 83-85] as apply to other HSA categories [for which see Ch.9 "Advocacy"].

(b) Special Needs Administrator Duties

The following rules, forms and information shall be made available to the public by the special needs administrator [HSA 67(1)]:
  • Special Needs Applications (Local)

    The administrator’s procedures for applications for special needs housing, including what information and documents the administrator requires for an application [under HSA 60(2)(b): "Contents of application"] and the form authorized [under HSA 60(4): "Form of application"] [see Ch.X, s.4: "Special Needs Applications and Notices of Decision"].

  • Local System Rules for Selecting Households

    The rules [under HSA 62: "System for selecting waiting households"], in the administrator's system for selecting households [see Ch.8, s.5: "Special Needs Household Selection System"].

  • Information on Local Special Needs Housing

    Information on the housing projects in the administrator’s service area where there is special needs housing.

    If the special needs housing administrator for a housing project is the service manager, the housing providers shall provide such information as the administrator requests for the purposes of complying with this duty [HSA 67(2)].

  • Information on Special Needs Provincial Rules

    Information about the provincial special needs eligibility rules [prescribed under HSA 59: "Eligibility rules (provincial)"] [see Ch.8, s.3(a): "Eligibility: General"].

  • Information on Special Needs Provincial Priority Rules

    Information about the provincial special needs priority rules [prescribed under HSA 63(2): "Rules guiding determination (provincial)"] [see Ch.8, s.6 : "Special Needs Priority Ranking"].
The information, documents and such (above) shall be made available by [Genl Reg 83]:
. allowing members of the public, during normal business hours, to inspect and copy them at their own expense; and

. if the administrator is the service manager, by posting them on the Internet.
(c) Housing Provider Duties

In a separate, but related, duty the HSA places near-identical disclosure duties on housing providers [HSA 67(4)].

A housing provider (at least one that operates a Part V housing project) shall make the same 'rules, forms and information' [set out in (b) above, for special needs administrators] available to the public themselves [HSA 67(3); Genl Reg 85(1)].

The only variation is that the housing provider need only provide "information about the housing projects operated by the housing provider" - ie. only for it's own housing projects [HSA 67(1)(5), Genl Reg 85(3)].

Such disclosure by housing providers shall "shall be made available by allowing members of the public, during normal business hours, to inspect and copy them at their own expense" [Genl Reg 85(2)].

(d) Service Manager Duties

To the extent that a service manager has the duties of the special needs administrator, they have the same public disclosure of information and documents as the administrator in (a) above [Genl Reg 84(1)].

The information, documents and such (above) shall be made available by [Genl Reg 84(2)]:
. allowing members of the public, during normal business hours, to inspect and copy them at their own expense; and

. by posting them on the Internet.


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