Today’s blog is co-written with Jennifer Campbell, a law clerk in the Private Client Services group of Fasken LLP.
Recently Durham MPP Lindsey Park tabled a private member’s bill (Bill 69), which looks to amend Ontario’s Planning Act to prevent municipalities from using local bylaws to prohibit seniors from cohabitating.
Bill 69 is inspired by four Port Perry seniors who, in 2016, wanted to move into a house together. After realizing that a retirement home, condo or apartment was not the ideal living arrangement, these four seniors embarked on a new adventure in the world of cohabitating together, determining that there could be major economic and social benefits if they pooled their resources and designed a home that would meet their collective needs.
Their new home would include two caregiver suites, an elevator to accommodate moving about the three-story home effortlessly, and features such as grip bars, that would make living in the home accessible for aging seniors.
However, their dreams of cohabiting almost did not become a reality. The Township of Scugog attempted to use their law making powers to prevent this type of home sharing by seniors. After countless community meetings and appearances before their local municipal council, the Human Rights Commissioner for Ontario intervened. The argument raised by the Commissioner was that preventing this type of living arrangement could be viewed as being discriminatory towards seniors and could be a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code. This argument worked and the “Golden Girls” of Port Perry were free to build their home and commence cohabiting together.
The seniors also sat down and drew up ground rules to avoid conflict. They had a lawyer draft a home sharing agreement setting out the protocols and resolution mechanisms to resolve any disagreements. The rules also dealt with what would happen in the case of death or one of them deciding to move out.
If Bill 69 is successful, amendments to the Planning Act would pave the way to encouraging and permitting home sharing by unrelated seniors. With seniors in Ontario aged 65 and over projected to almost double from about 2.4 million, or 16.7% of the population in 2017, to almost 4.6 million, or 24.8% by 2041, this could be one solution to solving the shortage of housing and accommodation available for seniors. Of interest is that the definition of “senior” being proposed under Bill 69 is “an individual who is 55 or older”.
While Bill 69 still needs to go through two more readings and receive Royal Assent, the concept of seniors cohabitating worked for Blanche, Dorothy, Rose and Sophia – I see no reason why it can’t work here.