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GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS - Social services and programs - Services and programs - Housing - Community placement residences

Friday, July 28, 2017 @ 7:09 AM  

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Appeal by the Rankin Inlet Housing Association (RIHA) from a decision on judicial review declaring a decision of its Board of Directors invalid. The RIHA administered public housing in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. The respondent, Tatty, applied for housing in 2012. At the time of her application, she resided in Rankin Inlet and had done so for more than 12 months as required by the bylaws. Her application was accepted and she was placed on the waiting list. She and her children stayed with friends and in emergency shelters while waiting for a permanent home. In 2013, the respondent went to Churchill Manitoba to take a course. While there, she learned housing was readily available. She returned to Rankin Inlet and advised the RIHA that she would be moving to Churchill. The respondent was told she would lose her place if she moved, that she would have to re-apply and that she would be ineligible for consideration for 12 months. At no time did the respondent indicate that her move would be temporary. After the respondent relocated to Churchill, she was removed from the waiting list. When she returned to Rankin Inlet a few months later, she re-applied for housing. Her application was rejected because she did not meet the 12-month residency requirement. The respondent appealed the decision to the Board, arguing that her move was only intended to be temporary and that she had always intended to live in Rankin Inlet. She also argued that the Board lacked the authority to remove her from the list, among other things. The Board upheld the decision to reject the respondent’s application and she applied for judicial review. The Chambers Judge found that the Board had the authority to remove applicants from the list, as long as it did so reasonably and transparently. He concluded that the Board’s decision that the respondent had lost her place on the waiting list by relocating to and signing a lease in Churchill was unreasonable. He concluded that the respondent’s move to Churchill was intended as a temporary measure and therefore she remained resident in Rankin Inlet. The judge declared the Board’s decision invalid and directed that the respondent be placed back on the waiting list in a position consistent with her original application. The RIHA appealed, arguing that the judge applied an incorrect standard of review and that he erred in finding that the decision was unreasonable.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The appropriate standard of review was reasonableness. While the judge identified reasonableness as the standard of review, the way he applied it was problematic and led to an incorrect conclusion. The judge did not review the Board’s finding that the respondent was no longer residing in Rankin Inlet through the reasonableness lens. He made his finding of fact on the issue without exploring first whether the conclusion the Board reached was intelligible, transparent and fell within a range of possible, acceptable outcomes. The Board’s decision was reasonable. Despite the respondent’s intentions and community connections, there was evidence that she signed a lease in Churchill and it was reasonable to conclude, based on that evidence, that she was living there. Having found that the respondent was no longer living in Rankin Inlet, there was a reasonable foundation for the Board to conclude that she no longer met the definition of “applicant” and to remove her from the waiting list. The Board correctly concluded that RIHA must have the authority to manage its own housing list and as such, must have the authority to remove names from the list when those individuals are no longer residing in Rankin Inlet, and therefore no longer qualify as applicants for housing. To determine otherwise would lead to an absurd result where non-residents of Rankin Inlet would hold spots on the waiting list and would be entitled housing before individuals in need of housing who were actually residing in Rankin Inlet. This was not the intention of the bylaw, nor the intention of the management agreement, which specified that housing was to be allocated based on need.

Rankin Inlet Housing Assn. v. Tatty, [2017] Nu.J. No. 12, Nunavut Court of Appeal, Shaner, S.H. Smallwood and Greckoll JJ.A., June 13, 2017. Digest No. TLD-July242017013