Toronto Community Housing Corporation has begun a series of ‘consultations’ around proposed plans to tear down and re-build Lawrence Heights, in a similar way as was done in Regent Park.
There is no question that Lawrence Heights needs repairs and investment from government. However, Lawrence Heights residents should be active and should ask questions to find out how this will TRULY impact working people of Lawrence Heights:
Where will people be moved to?
In the case of Regent Park, residents were given the option of either staying in Regent and moving houses, going to another TCHC property, or getting out of TCHC all together. Some people had to move as far as Hamilton. Where will people be forced to move?
Will TCHC, or another level of government pay for moving expenses?
Moving is a difficult and expensive process. Moving can easily cost a few hundred dollars plus whatever costs are associated with missing work. Will residents have to pay for this out of their own pocket?
Are the number of Rent-Geared to income housing going to be increased?
In Chicago, similar public housing re-developments have lead to a decrease in the real number of RGI units. In Regent, the number of RGI units has stayed the same.
Are families going to have more space in the proposed new development?
The Regent Park redevelopment was expressedly designed to pack people into a tighter space. Since Lawrence Heights is less dense than Regent, is TCHC going to try and do the same at Lawrence Heights?
Are there going to be measures taken to ensure that reconstruction does not have negative affects for the health of the community?
Demolition can release a lot of debris into the air, and with old buildings there may be building materials that can have detrimental affects on the health of people in the community.
Is there guaranteed funding for the reconstruction, and what are the consequences of money being pulled mid way through?
The Federal government has recently made it clear that they will only give half of the $2.2 Billion that they had previous promised the Provincial government for housing. The Provincial government in turn is not releasing any of that money to the City, much of which is earmarked for Regent Park.
What will happen if something similar happens? Will people be pushed out and more space be turned over to condo developers?
Will re-development make TCHC more responsive to the community?
In every TCHC block, working people know about the lack of responsiveness of TCHC when it comes to repairs and security. The TCHC tenant representative organs have little power to influence things so that this continues.
So how will this re-development make Toronto a better landlord?
Many other questions need to be asked about how this may impact the community, and any proposals for re-development have to answer these questions.
The Community also needs local jobs and economic development that can be achieved if plans for re-development incorporate these through measures such as setting up micro-credit investment to give locals first crack at setting up bakeries and other small business.
Working people of Lawrence Heights cannot afford to sleep on this issue. We have to assert ourselves and demand that our needs be addressed, otherwise the so-called ‘consultations’ will be little more than public relations campaigns for the plans that TCHC and others already have.
* Organize the block!
* Demand Better, More affordable housing!
* Make TCHC act on repairs