Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered


  1. re: Toronto Housing’s “miracles”

    Hume fails to recognize that the reason TCHC “gets things done” is because it’s not a democratically run organization. It is a top-down organization where Ballantyne barks directions from the top, and the rest of the organization has no choice but to fall into place. TCHC is only accountable to its Board of Directors, and only has to get the approval of its Board to make big decisions. The Board only seems to happy to sign on the dotted line whenever its approval is required.

    So, the lesson here is if you want a city to “get things done,” then we should do away with democracy and let the Mayor be a dictator who makes decisions without having to be accountable to the public. Slowness is the price we pay for having a democratic system where the public has a voice in decision-making (at least in theory).

    Ballantyne’s “revitalization” theories, are just that: theories. Although similar initiatives have failed in other cities, he is convinced that he is doing something different in Toronto which will have a better result. However this is still an experiment–it has yet to be proven as successful, yet this experiment is being rolled out across the city in much the same way that the now-failed housing developments were decades ago.

    Sure, Ballantyne is getting things done, but the things he’s getting done are highly controversial, have not yet been proven to be successful, have not been well-received by the tenants who are being affected in many cases, AND have not required any public approval to proceed.

    It is most inappropriate, problematic, and perhaps even irresponsible to celebrate TCHC’s accomplishments while criticizing the city’s bureaucracy without addressing these important facts.

  2. OK, let’s address those facts. But these new communities are based off an experiment influenced by Jane Jacobs back in the 1970s. It’s called the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, and it has been enjoying a good reputation. How is this still an experiment?

  3. Hume has to be one of the most facile, puerile commentators about Toronto that the Star has. Frequently skimpy on the facts — and never one to let logic stand in the way of any of his positions. His constant denigration of ordinary residents who might be less than pleased with any particular project he wants to trumpet as short-sighted and “NIMBYist” kind of leads me to believe that he’d no doubt be among those who were so effusive in their praise of Mussolini — because afterall, he at got the trains to run on schedule.

    As for why St. Lawrence area works and many public housing projects don’t, this probably has little to do with any design features and more to do with the class/economic mix of each particular neighborhood. Hume mentions the importance of economic-mix but doesn’t quite spell it out. With an economically-mixed community you get a core of advocates who those in power are more likely to listen to. I’m not saying that poor people are not good advocates for themselves — but rather that bureaucrats and government officials typically find the concerns of the poor and the working class quite easy to ignore…which is one reason why TCHC is the NUMBER #1 slum landlord in this city.

    I think some of the TCHC revitalization projects are a step in the right direction (providing the units for the poor aren’t reduced). But I’d be a lot more convinced of Ballantyne’s brilliance if he took steps to address the backlog of work orders in TCHC’s housing stock rather than just letting properties deteriorate further. But of course, since it’s only poor folks who live in these units, there’s really no need for him to start moving on these concerns any time soon.

  4. Sam, there’s now $75 million earmarked for TCHC repairs from the sale of a subsidiary of Hydro. That the $75 million would go to TCHC instead of to road repairs or public transit or parks or any number of other things is evidence of Ballantyne’s abilities. That’s not to say that the state of public housing isn’t one of the greatest embarrassments this city collectively shares but to say Ballentyne’s not doing anything about it isn’t truthful.

  5. Adam>

    I think you’re devaluing the work that tenants have been doing to direct the media spotlight and public concern towards their plight, and the work that other social activists and NGOs have doing as well. You’re assuming that it was Ballantyne who put the issue on the City’s agenda, and I think that you might be wrong about that.

  6. Melissa, I absolutely agree that activists have played a vital role in keeping social housing repairs on the political agenda and are due a great deal of credit and appreciation for their work.

    My point was more that the claim Ballentyne has done nothing to try to address the repair backlog is unfair. He’s been an outspoken advocate for funding TCHC repairs and he’s also developed a capital repair plan that has won the backing of the TCHC’s political masters.

    On their own, neither Ballentyne’s nor the activists’ work would be enough to create meaningful change but together they’re improving the state of Toronto’s social housing.

  7. Adam,
    Thank you for bringing up the matter of the $75m…As to whether the fact that this money is going to help address the TCHC repairs speaks to Ballantyne’s abilities, I’m not so sure. I think it has more to do with the fact that this administration has been talking about boosting the number of THCH units — even though a substantial percentage of current units have fallen into a woeful state of disrepair. Now some people might argue that it might make more sense to first demonstrate you are able to adequately manage the units you currently have before trying to increase your holdings. But what do they know.