1. A “grass-roots, largely women-driven project”. Really? There’s an old saying that goes something like “He who pays the piper picks the tune..” Seems to me that that’s what has happened with Micaleff’s piece for the Metcalfe Foundation. Last time I checked, there still is a conceptual distinction between PR and journalism, although that line is getting more and more blurred.
    As someone who actually knows some people who lived at Regent Park, I can say that people were extremely unhappy that Toronto Community Housing basically let the place fall into a state of utter disrepair. For many of those folks, the problem with Regent Park was not the design (as Hume and other gentrifying apologists often claim), but the fact that the landlord (first the Province, then the City) was criminally negligent in doing basic maintenance and repairs. In fact, many suspected (and still do) that the place was allowed to fall apart so that the City could force through a redevelopment agenda that involved hiving off public land for a condo development. Essentially, this was the strategy that Harris-era Education Minister John Snobelen described when he talked about the importance of “creating a crisis” in order to push through one’s change agenda.
    As someone, who knows folks at Regent Park, I can also say that residents were less than uniformly positive (to put it mildly) about the massive disruption to their lives and community that took place during the redevelopment – with some being moved out permanently. Many were/are less than convinced that redevelopment was done to benefit them. And many felt that the process was rife with
    “consultation opportunities” that basically tried to obscure that the City and its housing agency were going to do what they wanted to do. For these folks, there was nothing consultative or “grass-roots” about this initiative.
    As for the “worldwide” attention that the Regent Park redevelopment, someone might say that what looks good from faraway, often doesn’t look so good when you are very up close. I wonder if those looking from afar are aware of how the redevelopment, according to one extensive report, seems to have, despite its intentions, worsened the crime situation in the area by destabilizing social networks (see: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2012/06/16/regent_park_revitalization_has_it_created_an_us_versus_them_dynamic.html).
    I also wonder about whether those looking at the project from afar as well as locally, are aware that there are many who saw the tendering of this project as somewhat suspect. I know some folks in the construction industry, and apparently there were FOUR phases that were supposed to go to tender. What apparently happened was that only the first tender took place, with the winner of that tender being kept on for the later phases.
    Sorry if despite Shawn’s piece, that I still have my doubts as to whether this redevelopment was above board, both in terms of how the residents were treated and how the development unfolded. I realize this is a long post, but their is much in this item that rubs me the wrong way.

  2. Samg> My report was based on many interviews, many of those women, who live and still live in the community and were there in 1995. These are their words and recollections.

    In a massive billion dollar project like this, there will be people who aren’t happy with it – they’ve had a lot of focus in the media. Here’s another view.

    On your conspiracy theory on letting it decay – well, you’re questioning the integrity of a lot of people who must of been in on the conspiracy. A lot of people. Unless you provide actual proof, will file this along side the Birthers.

    What I found in working on this project for many months is that people on the left and right wanted and want it to fail. On the right for usual anti-public housing reasons (and the irony of complaining about government running something like ….. a business) – on the left because it doesn’t follow the usual orthodoxy and has a public-private mix. I stand by what I wrote about these people, dragging this project through this hostile territory, is quite a feat.

  3. Shawn,
    Your comments are quite dismissive and, respectfully, I feel I should be entitled to respond. So I trust this will be posted, particularly since I don’t want my criticisms of your item and of this project to be interpreted as a criticism of “mixed housing”.
    First off, I didn’t use the word “conspiracy” and I didn’t allege there was a conspiracy. Things don’t need to be a “conspiracy” in order for things to go wrong. What I say is that many residents living at Regent Park during the 90s felt that the landlord was intentionally letting the place fall apart. People who know about this redevelopment know this — and you can find reference to it in an archive of news items about Regent Park. I’m not saying there was or wasn’t a conspiracy, but whether through intention or neglect, a landlord that ignores residents’ concerns about basic repairs and allows a place to become run-down, as happened at Regent Park, then the landlord can be seen as acting in a way that is profoundly DISRESPECTFUL of the tenants. Many Regent Park tenants interpreted the Landlord’s (first the province then City) inattentiveness to their concerns regarding how stuff was falling apart as DISREGARD for their concerns. I recognize that some tenants took an active interest in the redevelopment.. but many did not because they felt their voices would not be heard by a Landlord who had a record of DISREGARDING THEIR CONCERNS. Whether individuals were right or wrong about a “conspiracy”, they were not wrong in their view that their landlord had a record of ignoring many of their concerns. It is a basic principle of consultation that many people don’t participate with people/organizations that they feel don’t feel respected by. As one writing on such matters, you should be aware of this.

    As an outsider (albeit as one who knew some RP residents), I was initially very supportive of the redevelopment. I was still supportive of the project even though the residents I knew there were generally not supportive and deeply resented the disruption that the redevelopment had caused for them. I started having doubts when I learned that while the project was described as “mixed-income”, it was not “mixed-income” in the way that myself and understand that term. When many people think of “mixed income” such as the project near St. Lawrence market to the south, they think of people of various income levels living side by side. That’s a way of breaking down barriers between classes. In the Regent Park redevelopment however, you have the condo owners and the social housing tenants SEGREGATED BY BUILDINGS. That may qualify as “mixed income” but only under the loosest of definitions. This physical separation of classes has the potential to reinforce an “US/THEM” division which “mixed income” developments are supposed to help overcome. In my view, the Regent Park redevelopment is no more “mixed income” than any number of condo projects that are put up a stone’s throw from a social housing complex. My views about the Regent Park redevelopment changed when I learned that the project was not “mixed income” in the way of the St. Lawrence site, but rather reinforced the physical separation of different classes of tenants.

    You may want to see a “good news” story here and that is your right. But please don’t pretend that the concerns about the project that have been voiced whether by residents or outsiders are not legitimate. And please don’t pretend that some researchers looking at this redevelopment have not also voiced concerns over some negative unintended consequences. (Again, I will point you to the work of Thompson and Bucerius http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2012/06/16/regent_park_revitalization_has_it_created_an_us_versus_them_dynamic.html).

  4. This report is about the Social Development Plan, not the buildings. All of what you said, SAMG, is actually moot on this point.

  5. Re: Joanne’s comment about the report being on the “Social Development Plan”… Sorry, but I don’t see my comments as solely concerned with the “buildings”. The project and the physical infrastructure that resulted had a marked impact on the community and its revitalization — or lack thereof. Also, while the “social development plan” (whatever that is) may be conceptually distinct from the physical infrastructure that went up, I disagree that analyzing the status of the “social development plan” can be done without consideration of the Regent Park redevelopment as a whole. Shawn’s opening story refers to the “Regent Park Revitalization”. Do you mean to suggest that the “revitalization” is completely independent of the “redevelopment”? If so, please explain. Again, I trust this comment will be posted.

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