Regent Park-Specific Articles
August, M. (2008). Social Mix and Canadian Public Housing Redevelopment: Experiences in Toronto. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 17(1), 82-100.
Abstract: The idea of social mix in Western planning thought has fluctuated in popularity since it emerged in Britain in the 1800s. Support resurged after WWII, again in the 1960s and 1970s, and in the 1990s social mix emerged as part of a ‘new’ conventional wisdom in planning thought and practice. Most recently, appeals to social mix tend to justify the redevelopment of low-income communities and public housing projects. I have tried to show that recent applications of social mix ally more with neoliberal strategies of urban governance, and the principles espoused by neoliberal ideology, than they do with the progressive and equality-oriented principles behind historic promotion of the idea. The pursuit of social mix by agencies undertaking public housing restructuring (in Toronto and elsewhere) has successfully deflected criticism of their projects by appealing to this powerful planning ideal.
Keywords: Social Mix; Gentrification; Public Housing; Regent Park; Toronto
August, M. (2014). Challenging the Rhetoric of Stigmatization: The Benefits of Concentrated Poverty in Toronto’s Regent Park. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 46(6), 1317-1333.
Abstract: This paper analyzes the impacts of territorial stigmatization on the experiences and life strategies of residents of Regent Park, Canada’s first and largest public housing estate. It centers on how discourses of isolation, disorganization, and danger (based on imported theories and depictions of life in social housing developed in a very different time and place than the Canadian inner city) have served to justify the state-driven gentrification of public housing via ‘socially mixed’ redevelopment. Drawing on semistructured, in-depth interviews with over thirty tenants, this paper offers a counternarrative documenting the many benefits and advantages of living in an area of ‘concentrated poverty’. It reveals that tenants have deep attachments to Regent Park despite its reputation, and enjoy a strong sense of community; they have access to dense networks of friendship and support, local amenities and convenience, and services and agencies that suit their needs. While these benefits are real, they are counteracted by the impacts of coping with a neglected physical environment resulting from welfare state retrenchment (particularly on the housing front); and coping with safety issues and drug-related activities. Socially mixed redevelopment holds questionable promise for meaningfully addressing these problems and may even diminish some of the benefits of community life.
Keywords: territorial stigma, public housing, gentrification, revitalization, deconcentration, social mix, HOPE VI, Regent Park, Toronto
August, M. (2016a). “It’s all about power and you have none:” The marginalization of tenant resistance to mixed-income social housing redevelopment in Toronto, Canada. Cities, 57, 25-32.
Abstract: Mixed-income redevelopment has become a go-to approach for restructuring post-war public housing in advanced capitalist nations. In Regent Park, Canada's first and largest project, revitalization is underway to create a mixed-use, mixed-income community — with rebuilt public housing, condos, and a redesigned landscape. While tenants face negative impacts related to relocation, displacement and gentrification, there has been a void of organized opposition to the project. This article tells the story of revitalization in Toronto and identifies five inter-connected factors that have worked as barriers to tenant organizing. These include: (1) a successful effort by the public housing authority to build support for revitalization by successfully branding it as tenant-driven, (2) a consultation process designed to limit collective interaction among tenants, (3) the co-optation of some critical voices, (4) fear of reprisal among tenants for speaking out, and (5) an internalized sense of power-less and un-deservingness among tenants. These factors have emerged in a context that does not foster resistance, as tenants are desperate for new housing, forced to come up against a popular revitalization approach, and suffering from attrition in numbers over a long development timeline. Despite these barriers to resistance, the limited opposition that has emerged in Toronto has been surprisingly successful, indicating the political po- tential tenants have to mount a fundamental challenge to mixed-income redevelopment, and to demand investment that is not tied to gentrification and displacement.
Keywords: Housing, social housing, public housing, redevelopment, gentrification, displacement, tenants, resistance, social mix, organizing, community development
August, M. (2016b). Revitalisation gone wrong: Mixed-income public housing redevelopment in Toronto’s Don Mount Court. Urban Studies, 53(16), 3405-3422.
Abstract: This article challenges the presumed benevolence of mixed-income public housing redevelopment, focusing on the first socially-mixed remake of public housing in Canada, at Toronto’s Don Mount Court (now called ‘Rivertowne’). Between 2002 and 2012 the community was demolished and replaced with a re-designed ‘New Urbanist’ landscape, including replacement of public housing (232 units) and 187 new condominium townhouses. While mixed redevelopment is premised on the hope that tenants will benefit from improved design and mixed-income interactions, this research finds that many residents were less satisfied with the quality of their housing, neighbourhood design, and social community post-redevelopment. Drawing on in-depth qualitative interviews and ethnographic participant observation, this article finds that tenant interviewees missed their older, more spacious homes in the former Don Mount, and were upset to find that positive community bonds were dismantled by relocation and redevelopment. Challenging the ‘myth of the benevolent middle class’ at the heart of social mix policy, many residents reported charged social relations in the new Rivertowne. In addition, the neo-traditional redesign of the community – intended to promote safety and inclusivity – had paradoxical impacts. Many tenants felt less safe than in their modernist-style public housing, and the mutual surveillance enabled by New Urbanist redesign fostered tense community relations. These findings serve as a strong caution for cities and public housing authorities considering mixed redevelopment, and call into question the wisdom of funding welfare state provisions with profits from real estate development.
Keywords: gentrification, HOPE VI, new urbanism, planning, redevelopment, revitalisation, social housing
Bradford, N. (2007). Placing Social Policy? Reflections on Canada’s New Deal for Cities and Communities. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 16(2), 1-26.
Abstract: This article analyses the New Deal for Cities and Communities pursued by the federal Liberal government between 2004 and 2006. Situating the initiative in broader urban policy debates about the merits of place-based interventions in tackling problems of poverty and exclusion, it is argued that the New Deal represented a novel attempt at “interscalar policy coordination” within Canadian federalism. Three specific policy tools are identified as central to the New Deal framework—municipal revenue transfers; urban development agreements; and community action research. To understand the New Deal’s impact, the implementation of these tools is explored in the context of the City of Toronto’s concern with distressed neighbourhoods. Finding gaps in the application of the tools to the city’s social development priorities, the article identifies limits in the federal government’s policy vision and highlights four institutional factors impeding progress: jurisdiction; money; machinery; and time. The arrival in power of the Harper Conservative government, adhering to a traditional view of inter-governmental relations, is likely to reduce federal interest in tackling these obstacles to urban social policy.
Keywords: new deal for cities and communities, distressed neighbourhoods, place-based policy, interscalar policy coordination
Brail, S., and Kumar, N. (2017). Community leadership and engagement after the mix: The transformation of Toronto’s Regent Park. Urban Studies, 54(16), 3772-3788.
Abstract: The CAD$1 billion transformation of Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood from Canada’s largest public housing site to a mixed income community is likely to inform the next several decades of public housing redevelopment policy both nationally and internationally. This paper focuses on the process and impacts of large-scale redevelopment, in the context of attempts to build a physically and socially inclusive neighbourhood incorporating non-market and market housing in downtown Toronto. Drawing from in-depth interviews with 32 Regent Park community leaders and other key decision makers, the paper explores how resident engagement and leadership development opportunities impact redevelopment processes in mixed income initiatives. Results focus on three key emerging areas of both strength and concern: (1) efforts to build community alongside the redevelopment as an integral, evolving and place-specific strategy; (2) the impacts and challenges of both a strong institutional environment in Regent Park and a sense of weak institutional memory; and (3) formal and informal leadership and mentorship opportunities and their contribution towards the development of engagement and cohesion in Regent Park. The opportunity for low-income housing initiatives to support knowledge building and learning, preservation of institutional memory and local leadership development is significant in the context of examining physical and social redevelopment.
Keywords: engagement, mixed income, public housing, redevelopment, Regent Park
Brail, S., Mizrokhi, E., and Ralston, S. (2017). Examining the Transformation of Regent Park, Toronto: Prioritizing Hard and Soft Infrastructure. In N. Wise and J. Clark, Urban Transformations: Geographies of Renewal and Creative Change (177-194). London: Routledge.
Abstract: This chapter explores the shifting emphasis on the building of both physical infrastructure, including buildings, roads and community facilities, and 'softer' forms of infrastructure, for example, social networks, and their dual roles in promoting community-building in Regent Park. By analysing the process of large-scale neighbourhood redevelopment, whereby a low-income community undergoes substantial transformation to a mixed-income community, the chapter highlights the ways in which prioritizing different forms of infrastructure can contribute to the development and redevelopment of a community. Regent Park, a neighbourhood in the centre of Toronto, is the site of the largest public housing development in Canada. The redevelopment process, first initiated in the 1990s and ultimately approved by Toronto City Council in 2005, stemmed initially from resident requests for neighbourhood change. Housing and poverty deconcentration policies in the United States have emphasized the redevelopment of public housing sites as mixed-income neighbourhoods.
Brushett, K. (1999). “People and Government Travelling Together”: Community Organization, Urban Planning and the Politics of Post-War Reconstruction in Toronto 1943-1953. Urban History Review, 27(2), 44-58.
Abstract: Most histories of urban planning, urban politics, and the development of the welfare state have largely neglected both the existence and the importance of citizen participation in any period prior to the 1960s. The establishment of the Toronto Reconstruction Council/Civic Advisory Council in 1943, and the Community Council Coordinating Committee (4C's) in 1947, however, illustrates the importance of popular involvement in city and social planning during a crucial period in the history of Toronto and Canada as a whole. Organized by the local state both the Reconstruction Council and the 4C's tried to harness the tremendous surge of local activism and social idealism engendered by Torontonians' own attempts to tackle the social problems caused by a decade and a half of depression and war, as well as by their hopes for post-war reconstruction. Intended in many ways to manufacture consent for civic reconstruction plans, the agenda of these two organizations was often captive to the demands made by ordinary Torontonians out of necessity and self-interest.
This article examines Toronto's unique experiment to harness citizen and community participation in aid of social and urban planning schemes. It argues that the rise and subsequent fall of the community organization movement represented a crucial turning point in citizen participation in urban planning politics. The formation of the TRC/CAC and the 4C's represented a plastic moment in Toronto urban planning politics when the ideals of local democracy and citizen participation seemed achievable. However, the community organization movement foundered on the very divisions it hoped to overcome: class, ethnicity, and most importantly political. Ultimately the failure of these two organizations to incorporate genuine citizen participation in social and urban planning schemes, as the case of the Regent Park slum clearance and public housing project illustrates, haunted city planning politics for the next two decades.
Brushett, K. (2007). “Where will the people go”: Toronto’s Emergency Housing Program and the Limits of Canadian Social Housing Policy, 1944-1057. Journal of Urban History, 33(3), 375-399.
Abstract: In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Canadian cities dealt with a growing housing shortage while the federal and provincial governments argued over who would implement the provisions of the 1944 National Housing Act. This was particularly true in Toronto. As Torontonians celebrated the construction of Regent Park, Canada’s “Premier Slum Clearance and Public Housing Project,” nearly 1,350 Toronto families were housed in dilapidated old army barracks and staff houses. Until Regent Park, the shelters were Toronto’s only rent-geared-to-income housing project. This article challenges the assumptions that Toronto’s homeless were “shiftless welfare bums” and examines the strategies shelter residents used to survive the often brutal conditions in which they lived and how they hoped to escape them. Finally, it argues that the inability of municipalities to replace emergency shelters with decent affordable housing reveals the long-standing reluctance of Canadian governments to develop social-housing programs to eliminate homelessness.
Keywords: homelessness; Canada; Toronto; social housing; emergency shelter
Bucerius, S.M., Thompson, S.K. and Berardi, L. (2017). “They’re Colonizing My Neighbourhood”: (Perceptions of) Social Mix in Canada. City & Community, 16(4), 486-505.
Abstract: In recent years, urban neighborhoods in many Western nations have undergone neighborhood restructuring initiatives, especially in public housing developments. Regent Park, Canada’s oldest and largest public housing development, is a neighborhood currently undergoing ‘neighborhood revitalization’ based on the social mix model. One tenet of this model is the idea that original public housing residents are benefiting from interactions with middle class residents. Based on qualitative interviews and ethnographic observations with original housing residents as well as new middle-class homeowners, we examine whether cross-class interactions actually occur “on the ground” in Regent Park. By examining an iteration of the model that differs with respect to the direction of resident movement—that is, the revitalization of Regent Park involves more advantaged residents buying into the once low-income neighborhood, as opposed to providing lower-income residents with housing vouchers to move out of the community (and into more affluent neighborhoods across the city)—our study provides a unique contribution to the existing research on social mix. In particular, our research examines whether the direction of this resident movement has any distinct or demonstrable impact on: (1) the daily perceptions, attitudes, and actions of original and new residents, and (2) the nature of cross-class interactions. Second, unlike the vast majority of studies done in Europe and the United States, which are conducted “post revitalization,” we examine the effects of neighborhood revitalization as the process unfolds.
Chernos, S. (2004). Pathways to Education [Regent Park, Toronto]. Education Today, 16(2), 15-17.
Abstract: Nevertheless, data gathered so far by Pathways show promise. In the 2000-01 school year, before Pathways started, the neighbourhood's absenteeism rate was 10.76 percent in grade 9 and 17.03 percent in grade 10. By the end of the program's second year, these figures had dropped to 6.18 and 8.81 respectively. Over the same period, the proportion of students showing signs of being the most seriously at risk, through day-to-day absenteeism, was cut in half. And the mean absenteeism rate at Jarvis Collegiate, Central Technical School and Eastern Commerce, the three high schools most attended by Regent Park youth, was significantly lower for grade 9 Pathways students than for the overall grade 9 populations. As well, the number of credits students achieved increased after Pathways was established, and the proportion of students most academically at risk, with five or fewer credits earned in grade 9, dropped substantially.
Pauline McKenzie, principal at Jarvis Collegiate, credits Pathways' multi-component strategy for boosting student success at her school. "Give them some bus tickets so that they can get there even on the worst winter days, have someone at school to check on their attendance and how they're doing and be an extra liaison with the family, provide support right in the community in homework completion, mentoring and building self-image, and you get a 30 percent drop in absenteeism and an increase in credit accumulation." McKenzie says Pathways "has been a gift to the kids and our school because it's building a level playing field. These kids don't have the same advantages that many other kids have."
Dunn, J.R. (2012). “Socially Mixed” Public Housing Redevelopment as a Destigmatization Strategy in Toronto’s Regent Park: A Theoretical Approach and a Research Agenda. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 9(1), 87-105.
Abstract: Over the last two decades decision makers have sought to address problems with large concentrations of poverty and minority ethnoracial groups in the cities of Western Europe and the Anglo-American world that are the direct result of the manner in which public housing was built in the early postwar era. The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia have developed programs that introduce “social mix” into such public housing developments. These initiatives are designed to alter the social dynamics of places with high levels of concentrated poverty and ethnoracial minority groups that are believed to magnify the disadvantages of poverty and marginalization. In this paper, I argue that this is a destigmatization strategy, but not the same kind of destigmatization strategy that has been described in the literature. Using the example of Toronto’s Regent Park, a large public housing development near downtown, I develop a research agenda for understanding the gap between a quasi-state agency’s efforts to destigmatize public housing sites (“place destigmatization”) and the everyday destigmatization practices and experiences of residents (“personal destigmatization”). The paper begins with a review of the putative mechanisms linking socially mixed public housing redevelopment and outcomes for residents, including social capital, social control, role modelling, and changes to the political economy of place. This review finds little evidence of these effects in the literature. Consequently, I argue for an inductive approach to the study of the outcomes of social mix, rather than the common practice of judging such outcomes against the benchmark of close, intimate relationships between new, middle-class residents and existing public housing residents. I further argue that the “normalization” of the built form that is a major part of socially mixed redevelopment is a form of place destigmatization, and may alter both material practices and representational practices related to stigma, which have very real effects on the everyday experience of residents.
Keywords: Public Housing, Concentrated Poverty, Place Destigmatization, Redevelopment, Toronto, Built Form, Material Practices, Representational Practices
Fumia, D. (2010). Divides, high rise and boundaries: a study of Toronto’s downtown east side neighbourhood. Ethnologies, 32(2), 257-289.
Abstract: Acts of domination are not always easy to identify, and in hindsight, the best intentions of post WWII rezoning and "garden city" high-rise developments have not served poor, racialized immigrants well. While the poor in the Downtown East Side of Toronto did not benefit from postwar urban renewal, the middle classes did, but only because they mustered resources in order to block zoning that would allow high rises. As a result, one area of the DTES is one of the most condensed stocks of beautifully preserved Victorian-style homes in Canada. This article interrogates the postwar rationalization of the DTES and the claim, and the resistance to it, that it is "not the right for 3000 poor people to live downtown".
Gianni, B. (2007). Phantom Housing: The Rise and Fall of Public Housing in North America. ARCC Journal, 4(2), 51-58.
Abstract: This paper examines the rise and fall of public housing in North America in order to explore the principle of sustainability. By extension, it addresses the concept of sustainability as it relates to the city. Urbanity is simultaneously the most and least sustainable form of development. While extremely sustainable from the point of view of density (economies of scale, efficient use of infrastructure, etc.), it is highly vulnerable to social, political and economic forces. Such forces can easily trump the environmental sustainability of any building or community. The death and transfiguration of key portions of our public housing stock provides insights into this phenomenon – for which I will use Toronto’s Regent Park as a case study. The redevelopment of this 69-acre parcel aims to transform a failed social vision into a model for sustainable community development.
Greenberg, K. (2004). Toward the green city through revitalizing major obsolescent urban lands. Ekistics, 71(424/425/426), 30-34.
Hyde, Z. (2018). Giving back to get ahead: Altruism as a developer strategy of accumulation through affordable housing policy in Toronto and Vancouver. Geoforum.
Abstract: In recent years local governments in many North American cities have engaged in “land value capture,” which involves state actors exchanging greater density for condominium developers through rezoning as a way to build social housing and affordable rental units. This paper focuses on how these policies are framed and implemented by developers, planners and politicians in two large Canadian cities, Toronto and Vancouver, to address a long-standing but under-theorized question: what is the relationship between altruism and profitability for private development companies? Drawing on concepts from economic and cultural sociology, including Beckert's fictional expectations, Goffman's frame analysis, and Bourdieu's forms of capital, I challenge existing accounts of developers as either following the logic of profit maximization, or “giving back” through charitable acts. Instead, I argue that land value capture policies involve the process of “giving back to get ahead;” through acts of gift-giving developers enhance their symbolic capital, or reputational prestige, leading to new opportunities for profit-making. Thus I show how meaning and symbolism accompany the pursuit of monetary gains and mystify “giving back” as a strategy of accumulation for the private sector. This research holds implications for understanding “condo-ization” as a form of urbanism, as well as the increasing privatization of affordable housing in North America.
Keywords: real estate developers, social and affordable housing, neoliberalism, ethical capitalism, cultural economy, Canada.
Jackson, S.F., Cleverly, S., Poland, B., Burman, D., Edwards, R., and Robertson, A. (2003). Working with Toronto neighbourhoods toward developing indicators of community capacity. Health Promotion International, 18(4), 339-350.
Abstract: Often the goal of health and social development agencies is to assess communities and work with them to improve community capacity. Particularly for health promoters working in community settings and to ensure consistency in the definition of health promotion, the evaluation of health promotion programmes should be based on strengths and assets, yet existing information for planning and evaluation purposes usually focuses on problems and deficits. A model and definition of community capacity, grounded in community experience and focusing on strengths and assets, was developed following a 4-year, multi-site, qualitative, action research project in four Toronto neighbourhoods. There was significant community involvement in the four Community Advisory Committees, one for each study site. Semi-structured, open-ended interviews and focus groups were conducted with 161 residents and agency workers identified by the Community Advisory Committees. The data were analyzed with the assistance of NUDIST software. Thematic analysis was undertaken in two stages: (i) within each site and (ii) across sites, with the latter serving as the basis for the development of indicators of community capacity. This paper presents a summary of the research, the model and the proposed indicators. The model locates talents and skills of community members in a larger context of socioenvironmental conditions, both inside and outside the community, which can act to enable or constrain the expression of these talents and skills. The significance of the indicators of community capacity proposed in the study is that they focus on identifying and measuring the facilitating and constraining socioenvironmental conditions.
Keywords: action research, community capacity, health promotion, indicators
James, R.K. (2010). From ‘slum clearance’ to ‘revitalisation’: Planning, expertise and moral regulation in Toronto’s Regent Park. Planning Perspectives, 25(1), 69-86.
Abstract: This paper addresses the planning and re-planning of Regent Park, Canada’s first large-scale public housing development. Located just outside the commercial and tourist core of Toronto, Regent Park was planned and built in the 1940s and 1950s through a ‘slum clearance’ initiative aimed at safeguarding the morality of its residents. Though it was widely celebrated at first, the project – like many similar developments across North America – was soon deemed a complete failure, and its image as a dilapidated and criminogenic anachronism has intensified over the past six decades. In 2002, the City of Toronto established a ‘participatory planning’ process to elicit the input of Regent Park residents in a plan to radically transform the neighbourhood – the result is a five-step ‘revitalisation’ effort through which Regent Park is being bulldozed and replaced with a mixed-use, mixed income community of public housing, market housing, retail space and amenities. The revitalisation plan is touted as a just, democratic and inclusionary solution to the many problems of Regent Park; this paper critically evaluates these claims by putting them in historical context. By comparing the thinking behind the original planning of Regent Park and the thinking behind the current attempt to ‘revitalise’ it, I aim to illustrate how the revitalisation is guided, to a significant extent, by a concern with the moral regulation of poor and working-class city-dwellers (particularly those who are new Canadians and/or racialised minorities) by altering the built environment in which they live. I aim to illustrate how this concern has been modified and reconfigured from the 1940s to the present alongside the transition to a neoliberal economy in Canada, and through the partial incorporation of postmodernist urbanism within official planning policy.
Keywords: Regent park, Toronto, urban revitalisation, gentrification, postmodernist urbanism, moral regulation
James, R.K. (2015). Urban Redevelopment and Displacement from Regent Park to El Cartucho. Canadian Theatre Review, 161, 17-21.
Abstract: This article addresses the potential for artists and academics to partially redress the erasure of low-income communities caused by urban renewal and displacement. Its origins lie in two presentations at the panamerican ROUTES/RUTAS panamericanas international multiarts festival on human rights, held in Toronto’s Regent Park in March 2014: Mapa Teatro’s Witness to the Ruins, a performance documenting the demolition of Bogotá’s El Cartucho district; and “Urban Displacement and Renewal from Regent Park to El Cartucho,” a panel discussion which included the author of this article. Based primarily on the panel discussion, and on prior experience conducting participant-observation fieldwork in Regent Park, this article addresses how urban redevelopment can yield contingent benefits to poor and working-class city dwellers while leaving the racialized class inequality of neo-liberal capitalism entrenched. It argues that artists and academics working in such contexts would be wise to take cues from low-income residents as to how to navigate this tension between opportunity and displacement, while working to document the nuances of everyday life in communities commonly (and inaccurately) portrayed as hopeless and dangerous. The end result is an oppositional archive that “compensates for loss of urban memory” and “creates new communities of memory for readership,” in panellist Karina Vernon’s words.
Keywords: social mix, urban displacement, collective memory, Regent Park, arts and gentrification, urban ethnography
Jamil, U. (2015). Making Place: Muslims in the Neighbourhood. Contemporary Islam, 9(3), 321-335.
Abstract: Regent Park was built with great optimism in the 1950s as a public housing neighbourhood in Toronto. Over the years, however, it has come to be seen as a failure of this ideal and stigmatized as a poor, crime-ridden, violent neighbourhood with large numbers of visible minorities and immigrants. Recent urban revitalization efforts have aimed to transform the physical space as well as to re-brand the neighbourhood in more positive ways as part of a diverse, multicultural city. This paper critically considers the construction of meaning of Regent Park as a place, between the external representations of the city’s urban developers and the internal, “lived experiences” of its Muslim residents. It analyses the construction of meaning of Regent Park as a Muslim place within the representation of Toronto as a Canadian, multicultural city.
Keywords: Muslims, Toronto, Cities, Place
Jiménez, K. and Fine, E.S. (2009). Safe Walk Home: Cultural Literacy in the Regent Park Community. Vitae Scholasticase, 26(1), 80-97.
Abstract: We address biography through the experiences of a middle school student whose ability to express and act upon her understanding of the needs of her community is strengthened with cultural literacy. A vice principal and social worker at Nelson Mandela Park School in the Regent Park community of Toronto offered alternative space and specialized language to the student who already knew how to think critically but had difficulty being heard. Drawing upon social learning theory, we consider notions of “periphery,” and “shared-repertoire,” and the life stories that motivated each participant to learn through the forging of relationships.
Kelly, S. (2013). The New Normal: The Figure of the Condo Owner in Toronto’s Regent Park. City & Community, 25(2), 173-194.
Abstract: In this paper, I explore the newly emergent figure of the condo owner in Toronto’s Regent Park, Canada’s first and largest government housing project, which is being razed and rebuilt in a $1 billion redevelopment. The revitalized neighborhood will contain a mix of subsidized and condominium housing, and commercial development. Against this backdrop of massive change, the figure of the condo owner is perceived both as a salve and a threat. The redevelopment is premised upon the need to “normalize” Regent Park through the creation of a mixed-income neighborhood, and the figure of the condo owner is deployed as a paragon of this “new normal.” However, the presence of the condo owner also evokes fears of privatization and a diminished voice for low-income residents. Drawing on fieldwork conducted within Regent Park, I examine how the figure of the condo owner is constituted in service to the redemption of a devalorized neighborhood, and how the condo owners negotiate this subject position.
Keywords: urban revitalization, social mix, poverty, gentrification, Toronto
Kipfer, S. and Petrunia, J. (2009). “Recolonization” and Public Housing: A Toronto Case Study. Studies in Political Economy, 83, 111-139.
Abstract: Toronto (Ontario) Mayor David Miller's Third Way politics has added some progressive strands to the previous administration's neoliberalism, thus putting City Hall in tune with Toronto's metropolitan mainstream, a neocorporatist electoral alliance of developers, progressives, environmentalists, labor, & the nonprofit sector. Entrepreneurism moves forward hand in hand with social liberalism, but also with a willingness to crack down on those who hinder progress -- including the homeless, youth of color, & suburban club-goers. The authors present an analysis of a project that exemplifies the seemingly enlightened, but also substantively regressive side of Miller's urban program -- the redevelopment & privatization of the city's largest public housing project, Regent Park, in a new phase of state-managed gentrification. The aim of the redevelopment project, say the authors, is to "recolonize a segregated &long-pathologized, but potentially valuable central city space in the name of diversity & social mixity." They look at the project from the perspectives of Henri Lefebvre's understanding of the urban & Frantz Fanon's "understanding of racism as spatial relation & modality of colonization," complemented by work on the "territorial regulation of capitalism".
Komakech, M.D.C. and Jackson, S.F. (2016). A Study of the Role of Small Ethnic Retail Grocery Stores in Urban Renewal in a Social Housing Project, Toronto, Canada. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 93(3), 414-424.
Abstract: Urban renewal often drives away the original residents, replacing them with higher income residents who can afford the new spaces, leading to gentrification. Urban renewal that takes place over many years can create uncertainties for retailers and residents, exacerbating the gentrification process. This qualitative study explored how the urban renewal process in a multi-cultural social housing neighborhood in Toronto (Regent Park) affected the small ethnic retail grocery stores (SERGS) that supplied ethnic foods and items to the ethnic populations living there. Interviews were conducted with ten SERGS store owners/managers and 16 ethnic residents who lived in Regent Park before renewal and were displaced, or who were displaced and returned. The SERGS stated that they provided culturally familiar items and offered a social credit scheme that recognized existing social relationships and allowed low-income residents to afford food and other amenities in a dignified manner and pay later, without penalty or interest. At the same time, the SERGS were unsupported during the renewal, were excluded from the civic planning processes, could not compete for space in the new buildings, and experienced declining sales and loss of business. The residents stated that the SERGS were trusted, provided a valued cultural social spaces for ethnic identity formation, and ethnic food security but they faced many uncertainties about the role of SERGS in a renewed neighborhood. Based on this study, it is recommended that ethnic retailers be recognized for the role they play in formulating ethnic identities and food security in mixed-use mixed-income communities and that they be included in planning processes during urban renewal. Such recognition may enable more former residents to return and lessen the gentrification.
Keywords: Gentrification, Urban renewal, Ethnic identity, Ethnic food security, Retails, Social housing, Social credit scheme
Kumove, L. (2003). Rethinking public housing. Community Action, 18(6), 1.
Abstract: Toronto's Regent Park is Canada's oldest public housing project. Built in the late 1940's, it is now under consideration for renewal, renovation, or removal. The same is happening to similar public housing projects all over North America. As the senior levels of government reduced their role in social programs over the past decade or more, little new social housing was built in Canada. Today senior governments limit their social housing to funding shelters for homeless people. Inevitably, the number of homeless increased as social housing programs declined. Ontario shifted all of its social housing responsibilities to the municipalities, and Toronto is once-again the sole owner of Regent Park. It also now owns more than 30,000 public housing units spread throughout the city in large and small projects. These projects are aging and need costly repairs. Toronto will come up with a plan to demolish and rebuild Regent Park over a period of ten years. The number of units on the site will more than double, most offered at market rents. To end the physical isolation of Regent Park, former street patterns will be restored and building designs will be more compatible with the adjacent neighborhoods.
Laughlin, D.L., and Johnson, L.C. (2011). Defining and exploring public space: perspectives of young people from Regent Park, Toronto. Children’s Geographies, 9(3-4), 439-456.
Abstract: Inner city public housing figures prominently on the urban regeneration agenda. Regent Park, Toronto, Canada’s largest and oldest public housing development, is in the midst of a 15-year, billion dollar revitalisation plan involving extensive physical and social changes. This paper explores how Regent Park’s young people define and value public space and compares this with the revitalisation plan. Findings reveal that contemporary principles guiding public housing renewal do not match how young people interpret public space. The qualities blamed for public housing failure, like physical and social isolation, are identified as valuable attributes of local public spaces.
Keywords: young people; public space; urban planning; public housing; Regent Park
Marsella, R. (2012). A Community in Mind: The Story of the Regent Park School of Music. The Canadian Music Educator, 54(2), 37-40.
Abstract: I began my journey with the Regent Park School of Music on January 25th 2010. My prior knowledge of the school was limited to witnessing their Choir open up the Toronto Blue Jays season opener a few years prior at the Rogers Centre. In this article I will provide the background of the school, its programs, and the things that I’ve learned to date as its Director.
Marsella, R. and Ulicny, C. (2014). Successes at Regent Park School of Music: Music to our Ears. The Canadian Music Educator, 55(3), 43-46.
Abstract: Regent Park School of Music (RPSM) will turn 15 years old in March 2014.This community music school has grown since 2010 from 300 students to just over 1,000 students across the city of Toronto. In this article the authors celebrate and discuss recent programming successes, such as enabling students to act as the “backing band” for Canadian rock icons at the Toronto Luminato Festival; expanding the Early Childhood Music and Strings Ensemble programs; partnering with a public school; and student songwriting and recording in Jim Creeggan’s home studio.
McLean, H.E. (2014). Cracks in the Creative City: The Contradictions of Community Arts Practice. International Journal of Urban Research, 38(6), 2156-2173.
Abstract: The recent flurry of research about arts-led regeneration initiatives illuminates how contemporary arts festivals can become complicit in the production of urban inequality. But researchers rarely engage with detailed empirical examples that shed light on the contradictory role that artists sometimes play within these spectacularized events. Similar research in performance studies connects the political limits and potential of social practice arts — interventions that encourage artists and non-artists to co-produce work — as civic boosters strive to stage cities in order to attract investment. In this article, I explore the case study of Streetscape: Living Space at Regent Park, a participatory artistic intervention programmed in a public housing neighbourhood that is undergoing redevelopment in Toronto, Canada. Streetscape was part of the Luminato festival, an elite booster coalition-led festival of ‘creativity’. I refer to these arts interventions to demonstrate how artists engaging in social practice arts can become complicit in naturalizing colonial gentrification processes at multiple scales. But I also reveal how artists can leverage heterogeneous arts-led regeneration strategies to make space for ‘radical social praxis’ (Kwon, 2004), interventions that challenge hegemonic regimes. I conclude by interrogating the effectiveness of place-based efforts in unsettling the ‘creative city’.
Mele, C. (2019). The strategic uses of race to legitimize ‘social mix’ urban redevelopment. Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, 25(1), 27-40.
Abstract: This article contends examines how racialization – the strategic employment of racial discourses to both define - and legitimize - specific social and spatial changes – serves as an adaptive and strategic means for city leaders and developers to control, define, plan and implement efforts to reshape impoverished neighborhoods. The deployment of racial tropes and narratives, such as diversity and ‘social mix’, organize and make legible redevelopment and its consequences of displacement for communities of poor minority residents. Urban development initiatives are imagined, worked out, legitimated and reconciled in an urban politics that relies on the deployment of racialized discourses of colorblindness, inclusivity and diversity. Drawing on a case study of redevelopment of Regent Park in Toronto, Canada, the paper examines how minorities are placed in the position of combatting socioeconomic and spatial inequalities, including displacement, on racial terms set by white elites.
Oreopoulos, P., Brown, R.S., and Lavecchia, A.M. (2017). Pathways to Education: An Integrated Approach to Helping At-Risk High School Students. Journal of Political Economy, 125(4), 947-984.
Abstract: Pathways to Education is a comprehensive support program developed to improve academic outcomes of high school students from very poor social-economic backgrounds. The program includes proactive mentoring, daily tutoring, and group activities, combined with intermediate and long-term incentives to reinforce a minimum degree of mandatory participation; it began in 2001 for entering grade 9 students living in Regent Park, the largest public housing project in Toronto. It expanded in 2007 to include two additional Toronto projects. Comparing students from other housing projects before and after the introduction of the program, high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment rates rose dramatically for Pathways-eligible students, in some cases by more than 50 percent.
Purdy, S. (2003a). “It Was Tough on Everybody”: Low-Income Families and Housing Hardship in Post World War II Toronto. Journal of Social History, 37(2), 457-482.
Abstract: This article explores the question of housing need in post-war Toronto by looking at the diverse reasons why families applied to the few public housing projects that were constructed after the war. It identifies a number of often overlapping causes for the housing dilemmas of low income families, including outright inability to pay, landlord intransigence to families with children and evictions, illness, overcrowding, deprived housing conditions, racism and social factors within the family. It aims to make a contribution to a growing body of work that complicates accepted notions of post-war prosperity and the benefits of the welfare state for low-income earners in advanced capitalist countries. The first section is based on adaptations of various statistical indicators of housing hardship generated by researchers for Toronto's public housing administration as well as analyses by social agencies, contemporary observers and recent scholarly research. It briefly looks at pre-World War II developments and then chronicles housing need from the 1940s to the 1990s. Various methods and databases were used in these studies and rarely did they originally attempt to chart processes over time. Nevertheless, we can make a reasonable assumption that this information offers us sound indications, if not exact measures, of the housing difficulties faced by low-income families. The second section of the article elucidates the informative if partial statistical record of housing need by considering various qualitative sources such as oral testimony, tenant correspondence and other documentary voices of low-income families. My interests in exploring this subject emanated from a larger study of Regent Park (RP) in Toronto, Canada's first and largest rent-geared-to-income housing project. The archival records, which contain numerous letters from prospective tenants and rare resident case files, and the interviews I conducted with former tenants of RP, speak directly to the question of housing need. I use the evidence both of families that secured places in RP and of prospective tenants who expressed a need for state assistance. By no means does this exhaust the low-income housing experience in Toronto but it provides readily accessible qualitative evidence to explore the question of housing hardship in the post-war era. The article thus highlights individual accounts of housing hardship, allowing us to put a much-needed human face on those left out of the much-vaunted, post-war "age of prosperity."
Purdy, S. (2003b). “Ripped off” by the System: Housing Policy, Poverty, and Territorial Stigmatization in Regent Park Housing Project, 1951-1991. Labour, 52, 45-108.
Abstract: Canada's oldest and largest public housing project, Regent Park in Toronto, was originally conceived as an ideal community for low-income families in housing hardship. By the 1990s, however, it had become virtually synonymous with socio-economic marginalization and behavioural depravity. Indeed, the broader social identity of Regent Park has become an accumulation and escalation of the stigma of its residents. The first section of this article charts the historical escalation of polarization between Regent Park residents and the Metropolitan Toronto population by comparing a series of broadly illustrative statistical traits over a 40-year period. This long-term historical perspective allows us to scrutinize the development of socio-economic marginalization both before and after the boom period of postwar capitalism from the 1940s to the 1970s. It confirms that Regent's resident population underwent a dramatic process of socio-economic divergence in comparison to the general Metropolitan Toronto population, which began in the mid to late 1960s before the onset of outright assaults on the welfare state. I flesh out the stark statistical portrayal by considering various qualitative sources such as oral testimony, letters to the author by former tenants, rare resident case files, and internal and public documents from the various housing authorities. In the second section, I explain the rise of socio-economic inequality. Contrary to currently popular underclass theories, I directly point the arrow of responsibility for rising poverty and inequality towards state housing policies, including wider urban renewal strategies and internal public housing practices, and neoliberal economic restructuring. Unlike most studies, I centre in a third section on the potently deleterious effects of stereotyping Regent Park as an outcast space. Stigmatizing renderings by external observers were not free-floating ideological representations but real reflections and shapers of spatial and social divisions with concrete economic and social consequences for tenants. I conclude by discussing what residents themselves thought about their homes and how they coped with stigmatization and material deprivation. Sometimes accepting and internalizing negative external representations and/or projecting these labels onto their neighbours and other times resolutely battling against these brutalizing depictions, Regent Park residents were always active players in building a meaningful living space.
Purdy, S. (2004). By the People, for the People: Tenant Organizing in Toronto’s Regent Park Housing Project in the 1960s and 1970s. Journal of Urban History, 30(4), 519-548.
Abstract: This article analyzes tenant political organizing in Canada’s first and largest housing project, Toronto’s Regent Park, in the 1960s and 1970s, detailing the course of tenant organizing on the questions of project maintenance, the rental scale, and tenant management. Tenants organized around economic and political issues as well as for recognition and dignity in the face of social exclusion. Stigmatization of Regent Park has obscured the extent to which its tenants have resisted, rejected, and organized against dominant ideologies and the oppressive practices of state housing authorities. The author locates tenant struggles within the larger oppositional climate of the era and situates successes and failures in the context of shifting government policies and internal obstacles to sustained tenant organization. The struggles of public housing tenants to confront the rigid structures and policies of project management and propose their own alternatives are highlighted.
Keywords: public housing administration; public housing tenants; social movements; Toronto
Purdy, S. (2005). Framing Regent Park: the National Film Board of Canada and the construction of ‘outcast spaces’ in the inner city, 1953 and 1994. Media, Culture & Society, 27(4), 523-549.
Abstract: In 1953 and 1994, the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada produced two documentary films about Toronto’s Regent Park, the country’s first and largest low-income housing project. Farewell to Oak Street charted the dramatic ‘before’ and ‘after’ effects of public housing on the family, social and cultural life of the innercity dwellers whose ‘slum housing’ was demolished in the 1940s and early 1950s to make way for the pioneering housing scheme. In 1994 the NFB made Return to Regent Park. This time round, the film centred on the abject failure of Toronto’s steamrolling urban renewal plans and the efforts of activists to combat drugs, crime and the physical/social stigma of the project. This article argues that both NFB portrayals of the project contributed to the powerful moral and territorial stigmatization of inner-city workers and public housing tenants in the city.
Keywords: documentary, film, inner city, public housing, stigmatization
Rahder, B. and Milgrom, R. (2004). The Uncertain City: Making Space(s) for Difference. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 13(1), 27-45.
Abstract: As Canadian cities become increasingly diverse planners must address social and cultural differences in their practice, but with little knowledge of how to do so fairly. We note the way modernist planning has tended to homogenize urban space and, at the same time, silence many of the users of that space. We argue that communicative planning theory has opened up the issue of voice, but inadequately addressed issues of inter-cultural relations. We suggest going beyond current liberal Western notions of rationality and justice to explore notions of conflicting rationalities and redistributive justice. Examples of planning in Toronto highlight some of the shortcomings in professional practices with respect to diversity. Finally, we make some preliminary suggestions about how planning education might address these issues both to make space(s) for difference and to provide direction for the next generation of practitioners shaping the uncertain city.
Keywords: diversity, equity, justice, communicative theory, professional practice, popular education
Rosa, V. (2018). Social Citizenship and Urban Revitalization in Canada. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 27(2), 25-36.
Abstract: In this article, I trace how urban revitalization is tied to a rearticulation of social citizenship in Canada. While housing policy was framed as a priority under the welfare state, there is a distinct transition whereby concerns about public housing were displaced from federal and provincial agendas. Through reform, the state shifted responsibility for elements of social policy that were previously characterized as a national priority to local governments or the private sector, laying a foundation for neoliberal urban revitalization of public housing. I explore the relationality between the welfare state and neoliberal governance and the subsequent rearticulation of social citizenship in a postindustrial economic context. By providing an overview of key shifts in social/public housing policy in Canada, with particular focus on Toronto, Ontario, I argue that housing policy and the urban revitalization of public housing are tools for a neoliberal rearticulation of social citizenship in Canada.
Keywords: urban revitalization, public housing, social citizenship, neoliberalism
Rosa, V. (2019). Interrogating Multiculturalism and Urban Revitalization: “The Diversity of Diversity” in Toronto’s Regent Park. Journal of Critical Race Inquiry, 6(1), 32-61.
Abstract: This article examines the uses of the term “diversity” in Toronto’s oldest and largest public housing project, Regent Park. The revitalization plan emphasizes a diversity of use, diversity of income, and diversity of culture in the redevelopment of the neighbourhood. I argue the diversity of diversity serves as a legitimizing tool for the revitalization projects and draws from the cachet of Canadian multiculturalism. While both “diversity” and “mix” (mixed income or diversity of incomes, for example) are generally taken for granted terms in planning discourse, promoting more equitable planning practices requires analyzing them more closely in context. My analysis sheds light on tensions between various types of diversity, thereby challenging the potential for the framework to address structural inequality via revitalization.
Keywords: diversity, multiculturalism, Regent Park, Toronto, urban revitalization
Rowe, D.J. & Dunn, J. (2015). Tenure-Mix in Toronto: Resident Attitudes and Experience in the Regent Park Community. Housing Studies, 30(8), 1257-1280.
Abstract: Policies of mixed-tenure redevelopment have been widely adopted and are promoted as a means of attenuating the harmful effects of concentrated urban poverty. In this paper, we examine the case of Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood, the first large-scale mixed-tenure redevelopment of a public housing community in Canada. Using data from 24 qualitative interviews with residents of both tenures, we provide a descriptive account of conditions in the redeveloped portion of the neighbourhood, describe resident experiences and attitudes towards the policy of tenure mix, and assess the proposition that tenure mix can benefit residents of public housing. We find that tenure mix enjoys strong support from residents of both tenures, particularly among a subset of market residents, and find indirect evidence that tenure mix has increased the social capital of some tenants. We conclude that the physical renewal of the neighbourhood is most responsible for improved residential satisfaction.
Keywords: urban regeneration, social housing, neighbourhoods
Snell, K. (2015). A New ‘Mix’ of Classes for Students (or Kids) at Regent Park School of Music. Canadian Music Educator, 55(4), 45.
Thompson, S.K., Bucerius, S.M., and Luguya, M. (2013). Unintended Consequences of Neighbourhood Restructuring: Uncertainty, Disrupted Social Networks and Increased Fear of Violent Victimization among Young Adults. The British Journal of Criminology, 53(5), 924-941.
Abstract: Concerns about high concentrations of poverty, social isolation and neighbourhood safety have made social housing developments the target of various interventions in recent decades. A current housing policy trend in many Western nations aims to de-concentrate poverty and other forms of disadvantage by engineering more socio-economically mixed residential environments. Based on 40 in-depth interviews, this paper examines the impact of neighbourhood 'revitalization' on young adult residents of Regent Park, Canada's largest and oldest social housing project. We find that the large-scale displacement that attends this process has destabilizing effects on the neighbourhood, both in terms of social networks and supports, but also with respect to young people's perceptions of their risk of violent victimization.
Keywords: de-concentrating poverty, urban neighbourhoods, social mix, social networks, violent victimization, uncertainty
Urbanik, M. (2018). Drawing Boundaries or Drawing Weapons? Neighborhood Master Status as Suppressor of Gang Violence. Qualitative Sociology, 41, 497-519.
Abstract: Criminological scholarship on gangs has documented that attempts to take over territory and drug markets under the control of another gang is a primary motivation of inter-gang violence. However, little is known about situations where competition over territory and drug markets comes from within the territory, or about instances where gang competition does not lead to violence between criminal groups. Drawing on over 140 interviews and over nine months of ethnographic fieldwork in Canada’s oldest social housing project—Regent Park—this article describes and analyzes the changing nature of the neighborhood’s gang landscape as a result of neighborhood redevelopment. In particular, it examines why the emergences of a rival gang within Regent did not incite violence as the literature would expect. The article outlines how the emergence of a new rival gang within a territory previously dominated by established criminal groups did not result in the type of violence, in part because the two groups shared a “master status” of being Regent residents, which served to buffer inter-gang violence. Further, it argues that instead of drawing weapons, the established criminal groups expressed their frustration with the loss of their territorial monopoly to emerging groups by morally distinguishing themselves from the new groups. This article concludes by casting a scholarly spotlight on the means through which boundary work develops between criminal groups, and how cultural contexts affect identities and discourses in physical space.
Keywords: Gangs, gang violence, disadvantaged neighborhoods, master status, boundary work
Urbanik, M. and Haggerty, K.D. (2018). ‘#It’sDangerous’: The Online World of Drug Dealers, Rappers and the Street Code. The British Journal of Criminology, 58(6), 1343-1360.
Abstract: As the digital divide has narrowed, the internet and social media have become more accessible to disadvantaged populations, including drug dealers, gang members and street hustlers. These individuals increasingly publicize their activities and associations via social media networks. Little is known, however, about the dangers criminal actors face in using social media, and how they manage those risks. Based on interview data and ethnographic observation of criminally-involved men in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood, we argue that the men both reproduce and reinforce many of the dangers of life on the urban streets, while fostering new strategies for managing those risks through an ongoing process of online impression management. In the process, the code of the street goes virtual; dis-embedded from its originating physical location, it circulates on new media platforms, and occasionally becomes re-embedded onto those same streets, but with different inflexions and implications.
Keywords: gangs, social media, risk, street code, ethnography
Urbanik, M., Thompson, S.K., Bucerius, S.M. (2017). ‘Before There Was Danger But There Was Rules. And Safety in Those Rules’: Effects of Neighbourhood Redevelopment on Criminal Structures. British Journal of Criminology, 57(2), 422-440.
Abstract: Research has shown that ‘street codes’ often govern behaviour and violence in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. However, little is known about what happens to established street codes in a context of massive neighbourhood change. Our research in Regent Park, Canada’s oldest and largest public housing neighbourhood currently undergoing neighbourhood restructuring, suggests that the displacement of ‘major criminal players’ from the neighbourhood has eroded the long-established codes of conduct they enforced and has undermined informal systems of criminal governance in the neighbourhood. As a consequence, young people express concern over what they perceive to be a growing preponderance of violence in the context of a competitive rush to fill a power vacuum created by the displacement of neighbourhood ‘old heads’.
Keywords: street code, public housing, victimization, violence, neighbourhood restructuring, gangs