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

Ch.6 - Priority Ranking (Special Priority)


  1. Overview
  2. Main (Provincial) Priority Rules
  3. 'Abuse' Special Priority Eligibility
    (a) 'Abuse' Defined
    (b) 'Abuse' Special Priority Criteria
    (c) Additional Conditions Where Abuser and Victim No Longer Live Together
  4. 'Trafficking' Special Priority Eligibility
    (a) 'Trafficking' Defined
    (b) 'Trafficking' Special Priority Criteria
    (c) Additional Conditions Where Trafficker is No Longer Being Trafficked
  5. Limits on Reconsideration of Special Priority Category
  6. Special Priority Request Requirements
    (a) Requirements of Request
    (b) Authorization for Third-Party Contact
  7. Special Priority Verification
    (a) Limits on Verification
    (b) Abuse Verification
    (c) Trafficking Verification




1. Overview

The local service manager (municipality or DSSAB) shall determine both RGI prioritizing - and "whether a household is included in a category given priority over other categories". This prioritization is part of the service manager's 'system' of household selection [see Ch.5: "Selection System"] [HSA 48(1,2), 47(2)(b)] - though I address it here in this separate chapter due to the unique nature of the 'special priority' category. The 'special priority' category is in fact the main prioritization category, involving households where a member (or members) has been the victim of abuse or human trafficking. Most of this section relates to this category [Genl Reg 52-58.1].

Like most areas of HSA law, priority ranking is the usual annoying and hard-to-convey mixture of provincial and local rules, the latter of which can be quite varied. In the event of a conflict between provincial rules and local rules, the provincial rules govern - unless the provincial ones expressly allow for local dominance [HSA 48(3)].

Different service managers shall cooperate in sharing household information across each other's service areas, with the household's consent, for priority determination [HSA 48(4)].


2. Main (Provincial) Priority Rules

The following provincial rules are the main priority rules [HSA 48(2), Genl Reg 52(1)]:
  • Special Priority Dominant

    A household in the special priority household category has priority over a household that is not in the special priority household category (ie. a 'regular household').

  • Special Priority Counts from Date of Written Request

    Special priority household priority is determined by the date of the written request [under Genl Reg 56, below] to be included as special priority, whether or not the request met all the requirements of that section at the time it was made.

  • Regular Priority

    In contrast, regular priority is determined by the date a household’s application for RGI assistance was complete.

    Regular priority ranking may be excepted if a local priority rule "provides that the amount of time a household has been on the centralized waiting list ... is a factor in determining the relative priorities of households that are not in the special priority household category" [Genl Reg 52(2)].

3. 'Abuse' Special Priority Eligibility

(a) 'Abuse' Defined

"Abuse" means, any of the following against a household member by a (below) specified individual [Genl Reg 1(1)]:
  • one or more incidents of:
    . physical or sexual violence,

    . controlling behaviour, or

    . intentional destruction of or intentional injury to property, or
  • words, actions or gestures that threaten the member or lead the member to fear for his or her safety.
As well, 'abuse' means "trafficking of the member done by any individual" (see below).

For these purposes, the person who commits the abuse (the 'abuser') can be [Genl Reg 1(2)]:
  • a relative of the member or any other member of the household;

  • a person who has been in an intimate partner relationship with the member or any other member of the household;

  • a person with whom the member or any other member of the household is emotionally, physically or financially dependent;

  • a person who is emotionally, physically or financially dependent on the member or any other member of the household;

    or

  • an individual sponsoring the member or any other member of the household as an immigrant.
(b) 'Abuse' Special Priority Criteria

The 'abuse' special priority criteria are that [Genl Reg 54(1)]:
  • a member of the household has been abused by another individual;

  • the abusing individual is or was living with the abused member or is sponsoring the abused member as an immigrant;

    and

  • the abused member intends to live permanently apart from the abusing individual.
(c) Additional Conditions Where Abuser and Victim No Longer Live Together

Additionally, if "the abused member and the abusing individual used to live together but no longer do", special priority eligibility requires [Genl Reg 54(2)]:
  • Written Request Made Three Months After Separation, Even If Request Non-Compliant

    The written request to be included in the special priority household category was made within three months after the abused member and the abusing individual ceased to live together, regardless of whether or not the request requirements were met [see s.6 "Special Priority Request Requirements", below; Genl Reg 56] at the time it was made.

  • Abuse Continuing When Request Made, Even If Request Non-Compliant

    The service manager is satisfied that the abuse is ongoing at the time a written request to be included in the special priority household category was made, regardless of whether or not the request met the all requirements [see s.6 "Special Priority Request Requirements", below; Genl Reg 56] at the time it was made.

  • Late Request (After Three Months) Allowable If Appropriate

    The service manager determines that it is appropriate to include the household in the special priority household category despite a written request to be included not being made within three months.

    In determining whether a late request for inclusion in the special priority category is appropriate the service manager shall consider [Genl Reg 54(3)]:

    • any member of the household knew that he or she could request that the household be included in the special priority household category;

    • any member of the household knew of the need to submit a request within three months;

    • the abused member is at risk of further abuse from the abusing individual;

    • the abused member is at risk of resuming living with the abusing individual due to financial hardship which could be alleviated by the provision of RGI assistance;

    • the abused member is in need of RGI assistance to alleviate financial hardship arising from legal proceedings in relation to the previous abuse;

    • the abused member is attempting to use the provision of RGI assistance as part of an overall program of recovery and re-establishment of a safe and normal life;

    • the abused member is,

      . living in an emergency shelter, or

      . living in temporary housing and receiving treatment or counselling; or

    • there are any other extenuating circumstances.

4. 'Trafficking' Special Priority Eligibility

(a) 'Trafficking' Defined

"Trafficking means, with respect to a member of a household, one or more incidents of recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of the member by improper means, including force, abduction, fraud, coercion, deception and repeated provision of a controlled substance, for an illegal purpose, including sexual exploitation or forced labour" [Genl Reg 1(1)].

(b) 'Trafficking' Special Priority Criteria

The trafficking special priority criteria are that "a member of the household is being or has been trafficked" [Genl Reg 54.1(1)].

(c) Additional Conditions Where Trafficker is No Longer Being Trafficked

Additionally, "(i)f the trafficked member is no longer being trafficked", special priority eligibility requires [Genl Reg 54.1(2)]:
  • Written Request Made Three Months After Trafficking Stops, Even If Request Non-Compliant

    A written request to be included in the special priority household category was made within three months after the trafficking stopped, regardless of whether or not the request requirements [see s.6 "Special Priority Request Requirements", below; Genl Reg 56] were met at the time it was made.

  • Late Request (After Three Months) Allowable If Appropriate

    The service manager determines that it is appropriate to include the household in the special priority household category despite a written request to be included not being made within three months.
In determining whether a late request for inclusion in the special priority category is appropriate the service manager shall consider [Genl Reg 54.1(3)]:
  • any member of the household knew that he or she could request that the household be included in the special priority household category;

  • any member of the household knew of the need to submit a request within three months;

  • the trafficked member is at risk of further abuse from the trafficking individual, including risk due to financial hardship which could be alleviated by the provision of RGI assistance;

  • the trafficked member is in need of RGI assistance to alleviate financial hardship arising from legal proceedings in relation to the trafficking;

  • the trafficked member is attempting to use the provision of RGI assistance as part of an overall program of recovery and re-establishment of a safe and normal life;

  • the trafficked member is:

    . living in an emergency shelter, or

    . living in temporary housing and receiving treatment or counselling; or

  • there are any other extenuating circumstances.

5. Limits on Reconsideration of Special Priority Category

It's the nature of their situation that if a member of a household has been categorized as 'special priority" (either a victim of abuse or trafficking), that the service manager may reconsider it in future (ie. if it changes). However, to provide the household with some sense of security over what must be a traumatic past (and potentially still a 'present') the HSA limits the factors that the service manager may consider in such a 'reconsideration' [Genl Reg 55(1)].

The service manager may not reverse the special priority categorization, except if [Genl Reg 55(2)]:
  • Victim Wants Abuser to Co-reside, or Abuser Has Died

    The request was based on abuse (not trafficking) and the member who made the request notifies the service manager:

    . that he or she wants the abusing individual to be part of the member’s household for the purposes of the member’s application for RGI assistance, or

    . that the abusing individual is deceased;

  • Victim Wants Trafficker to Co-reside, or Trafficker Has Died

    The request was based on trafficking and the member who made the request notifies the service manager:

    . that he or she wants a trafficking individual to be part of the member’s household for the purposes of the member’s application for RGI assistance, or

    . where only one individual is or was engaged in the trafficking, that the individual is deceased; or

  • Acceptance of RGI Offer

    The household accepts an offer of (regular) RGI assistance, whether or not that offer comes from a housing provider within the service area of the service manager.

6. Special Priority Request Requirements

(a) Requirements of Request

Making a specific request for special priority status when filing an RGI application is integral to the special priority categorization, and non-compliant requests can still be effective in some circumstances [see s.3 and 4, above].

A proper special priority request however requires the following [Genl Reg 56]:
  • In Writing

    It be made in writing.

  • 16 years or Older

    It be made by a member of the household who is 16 years old or older.

  • Consent to Disclose Evidence of Abuse

    If the request relates to the abuse (not trafficking) it must include a written consent from the abused member or a person authorized to consent on their behalf, consenting to the disclosure to the service manager of information and documents to verify the abuse.

  • Consent to Disclose Evidence of Trafficking and Request

    If the request relates to trafficking, it must include a written consent from the trafficked member, or a person authorized to consent on their behalf, to:
    . the disclosure to the service manager of information and documents to verify the trafficking, and

    . if applicable, verification that "(a) written request to be included in the special priority household category was made within three months after the trafficking stopped".
(b) Authorization for Third-Party Contact

When the request for special priority status is made, the service manager shall ask the applying member for [Genl Reg 56.1(1,2)]:
. authorization to contact, for the sole purpose of requesting that the individual advise the member to contact the service manager, an individual identified by the member, in circumstances where the service manager is unable to contact the member; and

. if the member so authorizes the service manager, the contact information of the individual.

7. Special Priority Verification

(a) Limits on Verification

A service manager is limited with respect to the information and documents that they can "require to determine whether a household should be included in the special priority household category", as follows [Genl Reg 57]:
  • Inability to Provide

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

  • Evidence Limitations Where Risk or Legal Proceedings (Abuse)

    The service manager:
    . shall not require a household member to provide information or documents if the member believes that they or any other member of the household will be at risk of abuse if he or she attempts to obtain the information or documents, and

    . shall not require information as to whether the member making the request for inclusion or the abused member has commenced legal proceedings against the abusing individual and shall not require information or documents relating to such proceedings.
  • Evidence Limitations Where Risk or Legal Proceedings (Trafficking)

    The service manager:
    . shall not require a household memberto provide information or documents if the member believes that they or any other member of the household will be at risk of abuse if he or she attempts to obtain the information or documents, and

    . shall not require information as to whether the member making the request for inclusion or the trafficked member has commenced legal proceedings against an individual engaged in trafficking and shall not require information or documents relating to such proceedings.
(b) Abuse Verification

A 'record' (with the below contents) shall be conclusive proof that a member of the household has been abused, and this "may not be verified by any other method" [Genl Reg 58(1,2,2.1)]:
  • the name of the abused member;

  • a statement by the person preparing the record that they have reasonable grounds to believe that the member is being or has been abused by an individual who is listed as a potential abuser [see s.3(a) above; Genl Reg 1(2)];

  • a description of the circumstances that indicate that the member is being or has been abused;

  • information about the person who prepared the record, including his or her name, occupation and any professional designations; and

  • the date the record was prepared.
The record must be in writing unless the service manager is satisfied that [Genl Reg 58(3)]:
. a member of the household will be at risk of being abused by the abusing individual if any member of the household attempts to obtain the record in writing;

. the person preparing the record will be at risk of being abused by the abusing individual if the person produces the record in writing; or

. a written record should not be required because of extenuating circumstances.
The record must be prepared by [Genl Reg 58(4,5)]:
  • A Professional

    Prepared, in his or her professional capacity, by:

    . a doctor.
    . a registered nurse or a registered practical nurse.
    . a lawyer.
    . a law enforcement officer.
    . a minister of religion authorized under provincial law to perform marriages.
    . a registered early childhood educator.
    . a teacher.
    . a guidance counsellor.
    . an individual in a managerial or administrative position with a housing provider.
    . an Indigenous Elder, Indigenous Traditional Person or Indigenous Knowledge Keeper.
    . a member of the College of Midwives of Ontario.
    . an aboriginal person who provides traditional midwifery services.
    . a registered social worker.
    . a registered social service worker.
    . a psychotherapist, registered psychotherapist or registered mental health therapist.

  • A Social Service Worker, with Verification

    Prepared, in his or her professional capacity, by a person employed by an agency or organization that provides social support services in the community and must be signed by the person who prepared the record and by a person who has the authority to bind the agency or organization; or

  • A Person Familiar With the Abuse, Sworn if Required

    Prepared by a person who is familiar with the abuse if the record is accompanied, if required by the service manager, by a declaration of the truth of the record administered by a commissioner for taking affidavits.
(c) Trafficking Verification

A 'record' (with the below contents) shall be conclusive proof that a member of the household has been trafficked, and this "may not be verified by any other method" [Genl Reg 58.1(1-3)]:
  • the name of the trafficked member;

  • a statement by the person preparing the record that they have reasonable grounds to believe that the member is being or has been trafficked;

  • a description of the circumstances that indicate that the member is being or has been trafficked;

  • information about the person who prepared the record, including his or her name, occupation and any professional designations; and

  • the date the record was prepared.
The record must be in writing unless the service manager is satisfied that [Genl Reg 58.1(4)]:
. a member of the household will be at risk of being from an individual engaged in trafficking if any member of the household attempts to obtain the record in writing;

. the person preparing the record will be at risk from an individual engaged in trafficking if the person produces the record in writing; or

. a written record should not be required because of extenuating circumstances.
The record must be prepared by [Genl Reg 58.1(5,6)]:
  • A Professional

    Prepared, in his or her professional capacity, by:

    . a doctor.
    . a registered nurse or a registered practical nurse.
    . a lawyer.
    . a law enforcement officer.
    . a minister of religion authorized under provincial law to perform marriages.
    . a registered early childhood educator.
    . a teacher.
    . a guidance counsellor.
    . an individual in a managerial or administrative position with a housing provider.
    . an Indigenous Elder, Indigenous Traditional Person or Indigenous Knowledge Keeper.
    . a member of the College of Midwives of Ontario.
    . an aboriginal person who provides traditional midwifery services.
    . a registered social worker.
    . a registered social service worker.
    . a psychotherapist, registered psychotherapist or registered mental health therapist.

  • A Social Service Worker, with Verification

    Prepared, in his or her professional capacity, by a person employed by an agency or organization that provides social support services in the community and must be signed by the person who prepared the record and by a person who has the authority to bind the agency or organization; or

  • A Person Familiar With the Abuse, Sworn if Required

    Prepared by a person who is familiar with the trafficking if the record is accompanied, if required by the service manager, by a declaration of the truth of the record administered by a commissioner for taking affidavits.




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