Regent Park is currently going through a major revitalization, transitioning from being Canada’s largest solely social housing community to being a mixed-income and mixed-use community. The development is managed by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC). The Regent Park TCHC Community Up-Date Meeting, held on Feb 18, 2020 at the Regent Park Community Centre, brought together representatives from Toronto Community Housing (TCH), residents, and other community members to learn what is the status of the newest buildings, discuss the community benefits plan and hear who TCHC short-listed for the final stages of the Regent Park development.
As the final phases of the Regent Park redevelopment are set to unfold, the residents of Regent Park are struggling with the revelation by the TCHC back in 2018 that the Daniels Corporation (the sole builder since 2009) is not slated to complete that last stages. Apparently, the TCHC has known since 2014 that they do not have a contract with Daniels to complete phases 4 and 5, and has neglected to inform community members. At issue is the perception from the residents that the TCHC has been less than transparent, and that the process of procuring a new builder, to fit the redevelopment timelines, will be rushed through. Additionally, the Daniels Corporation over the years has gained the trust of residents, abandoning this much-valued relationship and having to re-establish a new relationship with potentially a new builder, seems to residents counter productive. The TCHC, argues that they are simply following the rules set out by the City of Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration Division, under the Housing Services Act, 2011. To appease resident anger and surprise at the news, TCHC agreed to invite residents to hear developer presentations and to have limited involvement in scoring the developers. This presentation was held in the spring of 2019.
At the Feb 18, 2020, meeting, TCHC announced that the shortlisted developers were Daniels Corporation, Tridel Builders Inc., and Capital Developments, and the final selection process was continuing. At the meeting residents raised the issue of community benefits.
For community members the revitalization process offers opportunities to secure what are called ‘community benefits’ in the form of equitable local economic development for Regent Park residents. The Regent Park Neighbourhood Association (RPNA) along with the Regent Park Coalition and the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) are seeking a more active role in Request for Proposal (RFP) to ensure that the TCHC and the selected developer partner, meet resident identified needs and can be held accountable through a legally binding Community Benefits Agreement.
In responding to requests around resident participation in negotiating a community benefits agreement, TCHC seemed evasive and unwilling to commit to a process for resident engagement. In the end there is little doubt that community members and the TCHC are still quite far apart on how the expectations and goals one group can fit those of the other. The TCHC seems intractably mired in its role of project manager, beset with myriad polices and rigid structural demands. While the residents, for their part struggle to comprehend why a system of housing that was intended to provide support for low-income people is at its core so repressive. Click here to see the TCHC Community Up-Date Meeting, held on Feb 18, 2020.
by Dimitrije Martinovic
Dimitrije is a staff at the FOCUS MEDIA ARTS CENTRE.