Just south of Dundas East on Sherbourne, you will find a community in Toronto’s Garden District that is facing imminent threat of gentrification – a threat Torontonians know far too well.
On Wednesday, July 18, residents and community members arrived at City Hall to meet with the Mayor and discuss the purchase of 214-230 Sherbourne by KingSett Capital. The week prior was Mayor Olivia Chow’s first official day, when the 230 Fightback coalition delivered a letter calling for this meeting to discuss ways to implement social housing in place of yet another high-rise luxury condo. The scale? A whopping 47 stories of expensive shoeboxes, of which many will be unaffordable for the average working-class Torontonian.
Working people can’t afford to lose more housing
We must save our city from losing vital housing capacity in underserved neighbourhoods. While the neighbouring communities may continue to be gentrified, it is essential that we protect our existing housing capacity and create new projects that address the root causes of housing insecurity.
The purchase of this property by KingSett will result in disastrous impacts on the city’s most vulnerable: long-term displacement, long waiting times for adequate housing, and cost of living increases for the neighborhood. We have seen endless Torontonians be cast onto the street to fend for themselves due to luxury condo developments, and we cannot afford to lose more lives as this cycle continues.
Learning from the “Battle of Bleecker Street”
Toronto has protected vulnerable residents in the past.
In the early 1970s, the infamous “Battle of Bleecker Street” included violence that was disastrous to countless residents. Some residents chained themselves to radiators in order to prevent the properties from being revoked and demolished by developer Meridian. In the end, Toronto residents won back this land and the City created new co-ops in place of previously demolished homes. Creating social housing from the aftermath of this battle between tenants and a developer was a pivotal point in Toronto’s housing history.
Properties have been purchased by the city in the past to stop such gentrification. In order to enact meaningful change, we must strive to be brave and employ any means possible to provide the housing that is needed. We can no longer rely on market-based solutions.
We leave people behind when we tiptoe around the change we know needs to be taken. We need to demand that our city not just catch up to where we need to be, but to take dramatic steps forward that tackle poverty at its root. Purchasing these properties to bring forth new public housing measures is a vital opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.
After decades of austerity politics, we can amplify the momentum that comes with the election of a new mayor, and shift the housing landscape to truly serve community members.
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