Toronto’s geographic concentration of poverty continues to grow – and with that comes greater inequality, more precarious housing and poorer health for people and communities. Vertical Poverty, a new report from the United Way Toronto (UWT), provides powerful new evidence that poverty is increasingly concentrated in the city’s 1,000 high-rise buildings – many of them scattered through the inner suburbs of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough. The latest research builds on a growing body of work from UWT, including Poverty by Postal Code – an examination of deepening neighbourhood poverty that spurred the City of Toronto to designate 13 ‘priority neighbourhoods’ for action initiatives.
Throughout the Greater Toronto Area, more than one million people live in more than 2,000 high-rise towers. For the first time, with the release of Vertical Poverty, we have an important statistical portrait of issues and opportunities in these buildings. The National Film Board’s Kat Cizek has created an amazing on-line and interactive site called Highrise that offers an inside look into life in vertical neighbourhoods in Toronto and around the world.
“When we looked at housing conditions and community life in high-rise apartment buildings, our findings show a clear connection between high-poverty levels and worsening housing conditions, but the findings also reveal many reasons to be hopeful,” said Susan MacIsaac, President and CEO of United Way Toronto, in releasing the latest research. “Toronto’s high-rise apartments are tremendous potential community assets, especially to low- and moderate-income families. The bonds of community are strong in many of these apartment buildings; and a majority of people surveyed believe that their neighbourhoods are good places to live and to raise a family.”
In addition to giving the most detailed snapshot to date of the real housing and other living conditions in Toronto’s vertical neighbourhoods, Vertical Poverty sets out 22 specific recommendations ranging from the urgent need for a national housing strategy to the value of mandatory inclusionary housing policies as part of local zoning / planning rules. The UWT report is a valuable compansion to the Wellesley Institute’s Precarious Housing in Canada 2010, which provides the most detailed current overview of housing and homelessness issues across Canada.
There is a large body of evidence on inequality in Toronto and Canada, and its impact on the health of individuals and communities. Vertical Poverty makes an important new contribution to this research.