There is no doubt that a significant portion of rental units in the GTA are owned by South Asian landlords and there is reason to believe that a good number of them are likely to deny renting out their unit to a person or family who happens to be of certain backgrounds.
Don’t believe me? Check out Kijji or any online platforms featuring basements or apartments for rent.
I was talking to a real estate agent whose business consists mainly of leasing out his own (four rental units) and those of his clients. He ‘advises’ his mostly South Asian clients not to rent to Blacks or Whites if possible. “Stick to our own people, even Chinese are okay,” he added. White people he explained know the laws and can even circumvent it like calling their pet a ‘therapy dog’ when the ad clearly said NO PETS. What he was saying is that it is harder to play rough and dirty with certain Canadians who won’t put up with any nonsense. Nothing like renting to a pliant new immigrant family or international students who are willing to live in substandard housing.
When he gives this sort of advice no one really bats an eyelid or wonders if such discrimination against people based on race goes against laws and can be seen as a human rights violation. His South Asian clients are well aware of these laws which they would use in an instant if they ever were victims of discrimination at the hands of a white person.
The real estate agent tells them how to word their ads and state their preferences, eg: Gujarati, vegetarians preferred, or Punjabi International students, girls only, no pets.
South Asian landlords are very careful not to list undesirable renters.
I have spoken with South Asians who immigrated to countries like Canada and the UK back in the 60s and 70s when immigrants were an oddity in most small towns in parts of many big cities. They would talk about how difficult it was to sometimes find a place on rent.
They would go to see an advertised rental unit and on meeting the landlord or agent, would be told the place was already taken minutes earlier. Deep down they knew just why they were being denied a place to rent.
Today I see my fellow South Asian landlords having no qualms when it comes to such questionable practices. I can well understand that there is a comfort level in having a renter who shares the same background, the same food habits and lifestyle. Renting out a second property or basement is a risk and if renting to someone from the same village or town back home mitigates the risk factor, what’s wrong in that?
Imagine if white landlords in Georgetown or a whiter part of the GTA did the same thing and in their ad said: Prefer people who eat pork. Wouldn’t a white landlord be justified having renters he could talk about baseball and hockey and crack a beer over pulled roast beef sandwiches?
Such ads would immediately exclude most South Asians who eschew pork and beef on religious grounds. If South Asians were denied housing on the basis of their skin tone and religion, you could be quite sure that there would have been an uproar from all elected officials, social activists would be protesting against racism, including the PM who would certainly issue an apology to the community in parliament.
Meanwhile races deemed undesirable can be excluded from housing owned and controlled by South Asians. No questions asked. Is there something wrong with this picture?