The St Lawrence Neighbourhood is by many measures a great success. That success comes from a combination of community and political will power. What the article misses is that Ronny Yaron and many others like her have spent countless hours working with neighbours and local organizations and holding political representatives accountable. As a neighbour of hers for over 20 years, I saw her do all this while raising a family and gently engaging and helping others.
Much of the spirit and involvement comes from the many housing co-operatives in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, including Woodsworth where Ronny lives. In these co-ops, which contain a significant number of rent-geared-to-income units, member responsibilities and rights are equal. Members elect Boards who are responsible for leading community life and for economic sustainability. And they get involved.
St. Lawrence was created from spent railroad and industrial lands. Mayors Crombie and Sewall with countless other urban activists led the move to create this new kind of community. Did the city learn anything? Your answer is right around the CN Tower.
Where is today’s political will to bank land and provide resources for genuine mixed income housing? Mixed-use condo and public services is a very small step. Subsidizing rent is another step. The outcomes may give the politically acceptable impression of “from the outside, you won’t know which is which.” The truly bold step would be another St. Lawrence-type initiativel
Current measures in Regent Park and Lawrence Heights promote social mix. That mix comes at the personal cost of thousand of families being disrupted, resettled, and most never to return. What about the neighbourhoods, development projects and public institutions where not even this limited social mix really applies?
Meanwhile affordability forces those with less income to move into the near urban suburbs and beyond.
To build the type of truly mixed community where people are listened to, where children know each other, where families thrive and where seniors can continue contributing comes when residents have a formal say in how their community works; where infrastructure like schools, libraries and support services receive proper funding. These communities attract people like Ronny for whom public service is for public good, not for business relationships, not for for votes. They are the community builders.