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Equity and Homelessness

  • Andy Yu

Abstract

I argue that homelessness calls for equitable intervention. The motivation for such intervention involves the state’s provision of the system of property rights. This will be one that is responsible for but can also solve homelessness. The nature of the equitable interest responds to this motivation. There is a negative equitable right for the state not to exercise its right to exclude people from state-owned property against homeless people. There is also a positive equitable right for the state to provide housing to the homeless, or at least take steps towards doing so.

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Thanks to Christopher Essert, as well as Manish Oza and an anonymous referee, for helpful feedback and discussion. Thanks also to the editors for generous support.

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1. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c11 [Charter].

2. See Stephen Gaetz, Erin Dej, Tim Richter & Melanie Redman, “The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016” (2016) Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press at 5.

3. See Ben Spurr, “Five Homeless Youth Share Their Stories” Toronto Star (15 October 2015); Gladys Fonfield-Ayinla, “My Experience Parenting While Homeless” (2009) Canadian Observatory on Homelessness; Ronzig, “My Girlfriend Introduced Me to Crack Cocaine and That Was the Beginning of My Downfall” (2009) Canadian Observatory on Homelessness; Laura M Gillis, “Finding Her Voice” (2007) Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.

4. See Terry Skolnik, “Homelessness and the Impossibility to Obey the Law” (2016) 43 Fordham Urb LJ 741. The idea is not so much that homeless people are necessarily bound to break the law. Rather, it is the more qualified idea that, given the cumulative effect of various laws—governing public behaviour, property, and quality of life—and their discretionary enforcement, homeless people are much more likely to break the law.

5. See Stephen Gaetz, Carolann Barr, Anita Friesen, Bradley Harris, Charlie Hill, Kathy Kovacs-Burns, Bernie Pauly, Bruce Pearce, Alina Turner & Allyson Marsolais, “Canadian Definition of Homelessness” (2017) Canadian Homelessness Research Network; Peter Somerville, “Understanding Homelessness” (2013) 30:4 Housing, Theory and Society 384 at 384; Deborah K Padgett, “There’s No Place Like (a) Home: Ontological Security Among Persons with Serious Mental Illness in the United States” (2007) 64:9 Social Science & Medicine 1925 at 1926 [Padgett]; D Benjamin Barros, “Home as a Legal Concept” (2006) 46:2 Santa Clara L Rev 255 at 255.

6. See Peter Somerville, “Homelessness and the Meaning of Home: Rooflessness or Rootlessness?” (1992) 16:4 Int’l J Urb & Regional Research 529 at 532-34 and Padgett, ibid.

7. See Christopher Essert, “Property and Homelessness” (2016) 44:4 Philosophy & Public Affairs 265 at 276-77; Jane B Baron, “Homelessness as a Property Problem” (2004) 36:2 Urb Law 273 at 278; Jane B Baron, “Property and ‘No Property’” (2006) 42:5 Hous L Rev 142 at 1443. While Essert and Baron might not have exactly the same view, they both advocate versions of the view that homelessness consists in the lack of property rights.

8. See Arthur Ripstein, Force and Freedom: Kant’s Legal and Political Philosophy (Harvard University Press, 2009); Philip Pettit, On the People’s Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2013); Jeremy Waldron, “Homelessness and the Issue of Freedom” (1991) 39 UCLA L Rev 295 [Waldron, “Homelessness”]; Essert, ibid at 276-77.

9. See Waldron, “Homelessness,” ibid at 296, 320-21 and Terry Skolnik, “How and Why Homeless People Are Regulated Differently” (2018) 43:2 Queen’s LJ 297.

10. Essert, supra note 7 at 265.

11. Victoria (City) v Adams, 2009 BCCA 563 [Adams], aff’g 2008 BCSC 1363.

12. Ibid at 102-31.

13. Ibid at 90-01.

14. Ibid at 166.

15. Ibid at 132, 156, 162-66.

16. Ibid at 160. See also Johnston v Victoria (City), 2011 BCCA 400.

17. Tanudjaja v Canada (AG), 2014 ONCA 852 at paras 9-15 [Tanudjaja CA], aff’g 2013 ONSC 4510 [Tanudjaja SC], leave to appeal to SCC refused, 2015 CarswellOnt 9613.

18. Tanudjaja CA, ibid at paras 19-21.

19. Ibid at paras 22-28; PHS Community Services Society v Canada (AG), 2011 SCC 44 [Insite]; Chaoulli c Québec (Procureur général), 2005 SCC 35.

20. Tanudjaja CA, supra note 17 at paras 30, 37.

21. Ibid at para 40-44, 86-89.

22. Ibid at paras 75-85.

23. Ibid at paras 51-74; Gosselin c Québec (Procureur général), 2002 SCC 84.

24. See also Abbotsford (City) v Shantz, 2015 BCSC 1909 [Shantz].

25. Adams, supra note 11 at 161-62.

26. Tanudjaja SC, supra note 17 at para 82.

27. Ibid at para 103.

28. Ibid at paras 122-37.

29. For related criticism of Adams and Tanudjaja, see Margot E Young, “Case Comment: Rights, the Homeless, and Social Change: Reflections on Victoria (City) v Adams (BCSC)” (2009) 164 BC Studies 103 and Margot E Young, “Charter Eviction: Litigating Out of House and Home” (2015) 24 JL & Soc Pol’y 46. For more general discussion of Charter-based approaches to protecting vulnerable groups, see Jennifer Koshan, “Redressing Harms of Government (In)Action: A Section 7 Versus Section 15 Charter Showdown” (2013) 22:Const Forum Const 31 and Scott McAlpine, “More Than Wishful Thinking: Recent Developments in Recognizing the ‘Right to Housing’ Under S 7 of the Charter” (2017) 38:1 Windsor Rev Legal Soc Issues 1.

30. On the courts’ reluctance to recognize homelessness as an analogous ground, see also R v Banks, 2007 ONCA 19 at paras 98-105, leave to appeal to SCC refused, 2007 CarswellOnt 5670; Shantz, supra note 24 at para 231 and Terry Skolnik, “Homelessness as an Analogous Ground of Discrimination” (2019) 15 JL & Equality 69.

31. Essert, supra note 7.

32. Ibid at 266.

33. Ibid at 266, 277-80.

34. Ibid at 274-76.

35. Ibid at 266-67.

36. Ibid at 267, 281, 289-95.

37. See Sarah Worthington, Equity, 2nd ed (Oxford University Press, 2003) at 8-13 [Worthington].

38. See, e.g., Courts of Justice Act, RSO 1990, c C.43, ss 11(2), 96(1).

39. Alastair Hudson, Principles of Equity and Trusts (Routledge, 2016) at 13-16 [Hudson].

40. See Soulos v Korkontzilas, [1997] 2 SCR 217 at 232-33; Dudley v Dudley (1705) 24 ER 118, 119 (Ch); The Earl of Oxford’s Case, (1615) 1 Ch Rep 4; Irit Samet, Equity: Conscience Goes to Market (Oxford University Press, 2019); Hudson, supra note 39 at 8; Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, revised ed by JL Ackrill & JO Urmson, translated by David Ross (Oxford University Press, 1980) at 132-34.

41. Worthington, supra note 37 at 13-17.

42. Ibid at 224-26.

43. See Ben McFarlane & Robert Stevens, “The Nature of Equitable Property” (2010) 4:1 J Equity and Lionel Smith, “Trust and Patrimony” (2014) 38 RGD 379.

44. See, e.g., Courts of Justice Act, RSO 1990, c C43, s 96(2).

45. See Paul Miller, “Equity as Supplemental Law” in Dennis Klimchuk, Irit Samet & Henry E Smith, eds, Philosophical Foundations of the Law of Equity (Oxford University Press) [forthcoming]; Alan Brudner, The Unity of the Common Law, 2nd ed (Oxford University Press, 2014) at 30, 143; FW Maitland, Equity (Cambridge University Press, 1929) at 18-19.

46. See Withler v Canada (AG), 2011 SCC 12 at para 62 and Andrews v Law Society (British Columbia), [1989] 1 SCR 143 at paras 8, 19. In Tanudjaja SC, Lederer J considered such section 15 arguments involving the legislative scheme rather than the system of property rights. However, he rejected them on the grounds that section 15 does not ground positive rights and that homelessness is not an analogous ground: supra note 17 at paras 91-137.

47. Thus, this benefit, which I later explain corresponds to a burden, is not the legislative scheme for addressing homelessness, which Lederer J in Tanudjaja SC found did not engage section 15: supra note 17 at paras 97-121.

48. See Larissa M Katz, “Property’s Sovereignty” (2017) 18:2 Theor L 299 and Larissa M Katz, “Exclusion and Exclusivity in Property Law” (2008) 58:3 UTLJ 275.

49. Waldron, “Homelessness,” supra note 8 at 322.

50. Eldridge v British Columbia (AG), [1997] 3 SCR 624 at paras 73, 78 [Eldridge]. See also Quebec (Attorney General) v Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux, 2018 SCC 17 at para 42.

51. Eldridge, supra note 50. See also Vriend v Alberta, [1998] 1 SCR 493 at paras 55-64.

52. See Charter, supra note 1, s 32; Hill v Church of Scientology of Toronto, [1995] 2 SCR 1130; Dolphin Delivery Ltd v RWDSU, Local 580 [1986] 2 SCR 573.

53. See Larissa M Katz, “Ownership and Social Solidarity” (2011) 17 Legal Theory 119.

54. See Worthington, supra note 37 at 199-202.

55. For this kind of suggestion, see Brudner, supra note 45 at 235, 355.

56. See Jeremy Waldron, “Community and Property: For Those Who Have Neither” (2009) 10:1 Theor Inq L 161 at 165-67, 171.

57. Essert, supra note 7 at 266, 277-80.

58. Ibid at 277-81.

59. See Re Rose, [1952] EWCA Civ 4.

60. See Henry E Smith, “Property, Equity, and the Rule of Law” (2014) in Lisa M Austin & Dennis Klimchuk, eds, Private Law and the Rule of Law (Oxford University Press, 2014) 244.

61. See Miller, supra note 45.

62. David J Seipp, “Trust and Fiduciary Duty in the Early Common Law” (2011) 91 BU L Rev 1011 at 1016-18.

63. See Carl Callaway, “Enforcement of Restrictive Covenants in Tract Developments” (1951) 3:1 Hastings LJ 50 at 52-53; Noble v Alley, [1951] SCR 64 at paras 15, 17, 31; Tulk v Moxhay, [1848] EWHC Ch J34.

64. See Hudson, supra note 39 at 19.

65. Thus, the decision in British Columbia v Adamson, 2016 BCSC 584 is correct.

66. See Southwark London Borough Council v Williams et al, [1971] Ch 734 at 179.

67. Adams, supra note 11 at para 100.

68. For this kind of argument based on the relativity of title, see Hunter v Canary Wharf Ltd, [1998] 30 HLR 409; Ben McFarlane, The Structure of Property Law (Hart, 2008) at 5-14.

69. See Larissa M Katz, “The Concept of Ownership and the Relativity of Title” (2011) 2:1 Jurisprudence 191 at 199 and Larissa M Katz, “Relativity of Title and Causa Possessionis” in Henry Smith & James E Penner, eds, The Philosophical Foundations of Property Law (Oxford University Press, 2013).

70. Another illustration involves proprietary estoppel. See Worthington, supra note 37 at 226-27.

71. Albert H Oosterhoff, Robert Chambers & Mitchell McInnes, 8th ed, Oosterhoff on Trusts: Text, Commentary and Materials (Carswell, 2014) at 19.

72. See Vancouver (City of) v Burchill, [1932] SCR 620 at 625; The Committee of the Commonwealth of Canada v Canada, [1991] 1 SCR 139 [Commonwealth]; Sarah E Hamill, “Private Rights to Public Property: The Evolution of Common Property in Canada” (2012) 58:2 McGill LJ 365 at 390-91; Sarah E Hamill, “Private Property Rights and Public Responsibility: Leaving Room for the Homeless” (2011) 30 Windsor Rev Legal Soc Issues 91. See also CB Macpherson, “The Meaning of Property” in CB Macpherson, ed, Property: Mainstream and Critical Positions (University of Toronto Press, 1978) at 4-11.

73. See Commonwealth, ibid. Adams, supra note 11; Vancouver (City of) v Zhang, 2010 BCCA 450; Batty v Toronto (City of), 2011 ONSC 6862.

74. See Guerin v R, [1984] 2 SCR 335.

75. See José E Alvarez, “The Human Right of Property” (2018) 72 U Miami L Rev 580 and UN General Assembly, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living, and on the Right to Non-Discrimination in this Context” (15 Jan 2018) A/HRC/37/53.

76. See, generally, Housing Services Act, 2011, SO 2011, c 6, Sched 1; Matthew Desmond & Monica Bell, “Housing, Poverty, and the Law” (2015) 11 Ann Rev L Soc Sci 11-15; Alex Schwartz, “Public Housing and Vouchers” in Daniel Béland, Kimberly J Morgan & Christopher Howard, eds, Oxford Handbook of US Social Policy (Oxford University Press, 2014). On subsidized housing projects, see Robert C Ellickson, “The False Promise of the Mixed-Income Housing Project” (2010) 57:5 UCLA L Rev 983. On rent control, see Margaret Jane Radin, “Residential Rent Control” (1986) 15:4 Philosophy & Public Affairs 350. On vouchers, see Robert C Ellickson, “The Homelessness Muddle” (1990) 99 Pub Interest 45.

77. See Essert, supra note 7 at 281-86, 289-95.

78. For a proposal dubbed “lease rights,” see Katy Wells, “The Right to Housing” 67:2 Political Studies [forthcoming].

79. Canada, “Canada’s National Housing Strategy.”

80. See Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, SO 2006, c 17, s 83(1)(a); Tenant Protection Act, 1997, SO 1997, c 24, s 84(1)(a), as repealed and Landlord and Tenant Act, RSO 1980, c 232, s 121(2)(a), as repealed.

81. See, e.g., Jaffer v Sachdev, 1989 CarswellOnt 589; File No SWL-47347-SA (Re), [2003] ORHTD No 105; TNL-63022 (Re), [2005] ORHTD No 83; Caputo v Newberg, [2009] O.J No 2659; TEL-42868-13 (Re), 2014 LNONLTB 504.

82. File No EAT-05672 (Re), [2004] ORHTD No 41.

83. Ibid at paras 5-6.

84. See Toronto Community Housing, “Eviction Prevention Policy for Non-payment of Rent (Arrears)” (July 2014); Toronto Community Housing, “Evictions for Cause Policy” (1 May 2015).

85. See Elizabeth Anderson, “What is the Point of Equality?” (1999) 109:2 Ethics 287.

86. Canada (Prime Minister) v Khadr, 2010 SCC 3.

87. Lord Denning, “The Need for a New Equity” (1952) 5 Current Leg Probs 1 at 10 and Kevin Gray, “Equitable Property” (1994) 47:2 Current Leg Probs 157 at 163. See also Hudson, supra note 39 at 557.

88. Gray, supra note 87 at 171-72.

89. Ibid at 214.

Thanks to Christopher Essert, as well as Manish Oza and an anonymous referee, for helpful feedback and discussion. Thanks also to the editors for generous support.

Equity and Homelessness

  • Andy Yu

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