Affordable Housing and spectacular design don’t go hand in hand very often. If you have ever seen HBO’s the Wire you know what I am talking about. Tall towers and red brick row houses, a symbol of segregation in a city. The last couple of years Toronto has been making efforts to turn this image around by revitalizing several of its most distressed neighbourhoods. A few months ago, Toronto Community Housing and local real estate developer Tridel have begun a remarkable project to revitalize Alexandra Park into a mixed income neighbourhood.
Why is this special?
First of all, TCH has promised not to forcefully displace any of the tenants, to protect the existing community from dispersal over the city — a common critique of the Regent Park Revitalization. Furthermore, the daring designs Tridel is using in its condominiums really sets it apart from the general glass tower condos of Toronto. White squares that unsystematically stick in and out with lounging spaces on top of them makes you think of Rietveld’s modernist designs from the 1920’s (see photos below).
Impression of the condominiums designed by Tridel (Image Provided by Tridel)
With prices ranging from about $300,000 to $647,000, the neighbourhood will see a diverse influx of new residents which will hopefully create a good functioning mixed income neighbourhood.
Rietveld Schreuder House, built in 1924 - Utrecht, the Netherlands (Source: Centraal Museum)
Will it work?
Although recent studies have shown that mixed income housing might not be the great remedy we once hoped it would be for all a neighbourhood’s problems; it is definitely better than the segregated public housing superblocks we know today. Furthermore, investment in public housing is not only good for tenants but also beneficial for property owners. A large study of New York City’s affordable housing projects showed that public investment in affordable housing has a positive overspill effect on real estate prices in close by neighbourhoods.
Beginning of the revitalization process - 11th of February 2014 (Image provided by Toronto Community Housing)
The public/private collaboration of TCH and Tridel might turn out to be a very powerful one. Futuristic design as well as listening properly to the needs of the existing community could very well be the future of sustainable public housing. Toronto appears to be ahead of its time
Interested? Learn more about pricing, floorplans and designs at the website of Tridel through this link.
For more information about the history and revitalization of Alexandra Park please go to the website of Toronto Community Housing by clicking this link.
Researched and Written by Jan van Deursen recent MSc graduate in Urban Geography and Housing at the University of Amsterdam