Improving building standards through accountability and retrofits in Toronto



Toronto ACORN—Tenant Rights Organizing Project

Parent organization

Toronto’s Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Canada (Toronto ACORN)

Grant stream

Community-Based Tenant Initiative Fund


Toronto, Ontario



Living in substandard apartment buildings deeply affects a person’s health and general well-being. While there is a clear connection between poor housing and poor health, ailments such as asthma, heart disease, sleep disturbances and foggy thinking are just the tip of the iceberg. Lower quality, inefficient housing also means higher energy costs, digging a deeper hole for low-income, vulnerable households. Toronto ACORN has a long history of organizing in low- and moderate-income neighbourhoods, helping tenants access their rights while building power in the process. In 2016, they pushed the city to adopt the RentSafeTO program—a first of its kind by-law enforcement program that ensures timely repairs in buildings and, most importantly, landlord accountability. 

However, a meaningful, tenant-focussed strategy is needed as the program is implemented. To help move it forward, the Centre has awarded $48,000 to amplify tenant voices and participation. Toronto ACORN’s Tenant Rights Organizing Project will focus directly on the city’s RentSafeTO program. It will engage roughly 600 people in a city-wide tenant rights committee: led by peer tenants, it will connect them to city decision-makers and policy-makers. In addition, the project will focus on getting important repairs done and building improvements completed to reduce carbon emissions through retrofitting. Overall, the project hopes to promote greater tenant involvement in decisions about “how to create more affordable, livable and sustainable housing.”


Federation of Metro Tenants Association, Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, Maytree Foundation, Toronto Environmental Alliance, local neighbourhood groups and labour unions.


*The photograph in this project highlight was taken in 2011 by Michael Premo in a land far far away… Brooklyn, N.Y. It depicts New York City residents banding together to prevent the eviction of an 82 year-old African American grandmother. Michael Premo documents the mobilization on his Flickr account:

The Centre wishes to thank photographers and artists like Michael who use art not only as a mirror held up to reality, but as a hammer with which to shape it.*

If you know of similar stories in your neighborhood and artists who documented them, please contact   

Awarded projects

Discover a selection of some of the Centre's many approved projects that are transforming the community-housing sector.

Local Projects

Improved services through transformative projects inspiring meaningful change in local communities

Sectoral Impact Projects

Transformative projects bringing more or improved services to housing providers

Community-Based Tenant Initiative

Empowering tenants and their transformative projects by funding housing providers and tenant organizations
Share This