Neighbourhood vitality in Toronto's towers

Toronto’s residential towers are flung far across the city’s inner suburbs, tossed over subway lines or sprinkled along ravines and major roadways, further from transit. E R A Architects made the strong case for the renewal of these urban structures, and the City’s (now being re-branded) “Mayor’s Tower Renewal Project” has focused resources on these vertical neighbourhoods.

Wading into the issue soon will be a new United Way Toronto report on housing and neighbourhood vitality, tentatively titled (until the marketers get a hold of it),The Role of Housing in Neighbourhood Vitality: An investigation into the impact of high-rise living on personal well-being and neighbourhood vitality. It will examine the quality of housing in these mainly private marker towers located within the poor neighbourhoods in Toronto’s inner suburbs; it will also measure residents’ satisfaction levels, the impact on health and well-being for themselves and their families, their attachment to the neighbourhood and the experience of various populations groups within this housing stock.

United Way laid the groundwork for this study as part of its Building Strong Neighbourhoods focus. Part of this earlier work was laid out in an exploration of the elements of neighbourhood vitality. That report went so far as to recommend useful data variables which could be drawn from primary and secondary sources.

Scheduled for release sometime in the first half of 2010, the donor-funded report is a rigourous and sweeping undertaking with a total survey interview sample of 2800 tenants and additional focus groups. York University researchers (led by Robert Murdie) are already undertaking to replicate the survey in the Parkdale neighbourhood.

The data collection was completed through the fall with a team of interviewers and 3 field coordinators. Data cleaning and analysis are now underway.

The research is being done in partnership with the

  • Social Housing Services Corporation, looking at the potential of a provincial roll-out
  • Toronto Community Housing, to compare social housing tenants and private market renters
  • Toronto Public Health, to understand the impact of housing on health
  • Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, to inform the new provincial housing strategy
  • City of Toronto, to create a a baseline of knowledge and also test the limitations of the complaints process, and
  • Apartment Association of Greater Toronto, who has provided access to private market rental stock.
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