Contributed by Walied Khogali Ali, Community Advocate , Toronto Centre. – As spring concludes and we prepare for the hot summer months ahead. Let’s remember that we are living through times of crisis. A pandemic. A global recession. A climate crisis. Also a housing crisis that will deeply impact our future for decades to come.
In regent park, the first phase of development promised a “revitalized” regent park neighbourhood, which was neglected over decades due to austerity measures that did not adequately fund the maintenance of important social housing needs, one of the largest housing interventions in North America also known as Turtle Island.
The start of the project displaced hundreds of families to surrounding neighbourhoods. The promise of the right to return, fought for by residents was won, but many families forced out of their community will need to wait for decades to return.
A social development plan and the succession of a neighbourhood association that will carry the promise of social cohesion and inclusion was being created by neighbours that chose to care.
The same neighbours who realized that the duty to care for their neighbourhood was neglected through false promises and worse results. The promise to allow TCHC tenants and residents to register to own their own home was the most popular, a measure we now refer to as “rent to own”.
However only 17 individuals who were TCHC tenants benefited from home ownership, specifically, accessed home ownership in 2011 when house prices were more affordable.
Hundreds of residents who were city staff, business owners, professionals, elected representatives and friends or relatives of the developer, their agents or sub – contractors benefited too. In fact one city staff recently donated some of the benefits to start a city fund to help the residents of regent park. It seems a conscience does exist in most of us.
What’s alarming, is that hundreds of new market residents that did not have to wake up to security concerns, the impact of poverty, rodents and the harassment by those who swore to serve and protect, had just purchased one of the best investments in their lives, a home, which we all claim is a basic human right.
Over the years, speculation grew of the real – estate value of homes, and prices kept climbing from the three hundreds of thousands to over a million.
Many families were priced out.
Many governments elected soon after, promised to deliver results, not rhetoric. Specifically the return of “rent to own” as a pathway to home ownership for TCHC tenants.
The popular boost and foundational funds funded by governments to incentive and make it accessible for home ownership, was back on the table.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the “rent to own option”, a primary pillar of the liberal party’s solution to the housing crisis in anticipation of the 2021 federal elections.
Many communities supported the agenda, leading to a liberal minority government supported by the NDP led by Jagmeet Singh.
The community priorities continue today, no funding for “rent to own” or other community priorities in the budgets.
What has changed? Our communities became more organized.
Through coalition building in Regent Park, Moss Park and other neighbourhoods across downtown Toronto, we have come to realize that we have more in common, especially now.
We all oppose irresponsible development. We don’t want developers to dictate to us what to build, when and how much of what to build.
We have started the movement to connect as residents to independently develop our own priorities and work collectively as neighbours to accomplish the changes we wanted to see.
We learned that we are stronger together.
Will you join our coalition advocating for change now, not later? Are you invested in real solutions, evidence based solutions, not excuses?
If so, join us to create change together, as neighbours who love our community and believe in accomplishing social cohesion and inclusion.
Walied Khogali Ali