When “Just Right” is Not Right: Pushing Back Against Austerity in Toronto

Authors: Mehedi Khan*, York University, Douglas Young, York University
Topics: Canada, Urban and Regional Planning, Social Theory
Keywords: housing, mixed-income, Toronto
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Maryland C, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

“Just right” is how Toronto Mayor John Tory described the City’s 2018 $11- billion operating budget approved by Council in February (Rieti, 2018). In spite of a dire need to invest in decrepit social housing communities, decaying public schools and overcrowded public transit, Tory was determined to craft a budget that would keep property tax increases at or below the rate of inflation. We take a different view and say this budget is “not right” and offer this provocation as an incitement to housing activists to attack the austerity-as-common-sense argument that undergirds urban governance in Toronto today. While the 2008 crisis did not directly affect Canadian housing due to the organization of the banking sector and mortgage lending practices, it did play a significant role in solidifying austerity-as-common-sense as the over-arching frame of neoliberal governance at local, provincial and national scales.

At the local scale in Toronto, “revitalization” of selected social housing communities in partnership with the private sector is being embraced by policymakers, politicians and social service agencies all of whom applaud its utility in transforming neighbourhoods of concentrated poverty into mixed-income communities. However, residents and community groups criticize this form of top-down neoliberal governance of regulating the morality of space. They argue that if neighbourhood revitalization is genuinely to be a path out of poverty to greater social opportunity, residents need to participate in the planning process as equal partners and they need more in the way of tangible results than a new dwelling unit.

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