Media Releases

Whose city? Gentrification, inequaility, and the future of Toronto

January 20, 2012

TORONTO, ON – The fourth lecture in the popular Toronto in Question Lecture Series hosted by UofT’s Cities Centre will focus on the extremely uneven changes in housing and land costs in Toronto’s neighbourhoods.  The event will take place on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto, 230 College Street, Room 103.

Speakers David Hulchanski (Associate Director for Research, Cities Centre, UofT) and David Miller (Mayor of Toronto 2003-2010) will discuss the challenges of current trends and examine proposals to create a better future. Richard M. Sommer (Dean, Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, UofT) will act as guest moderator.

Housing and land costs are far outpacing inflation while a majority of Torontonians have not seen a real increase in income for more than a decade. Residents of neighbourhoods in almost half the city, mainly the inner suburbs, lack adequate transit and social services. Together with government budget cuts and the continued neglect of physical and social infrastructure investment, these trends are creating a divided city, both structurally and geographically. Half of Toronto’s households are renters, with half of all renters living in the clusters of high-rise apartment buildings that are now approaching fifty years old. Many of these buildings are occupied by large numbers of recent immigrants, most with limited financial resources. The 20% of the city where resident’s incomes are increasing is receiving most of the investment—private rehabilitation of older housing stock and new condominiums, primarily in the inner city. Meanwhile, accommodation costs are driving more and more people out of the city core, including those who work downtown. Whose city is this? Who will be able to afford to live here? Will we have one Toronto or several? What will happen to our quality of life? Given the uncertainty of political support what is the likelihood of proposed strategies for enhanced public transportation, affordable housing, high-rise apartment revitalization and various community-building initiatives coming to fruition?

Questions and discussion will follow the presentations.

David Miller is Counsel, International Business and Sustainability, at Aird & Berlis LLP, and the former mayor of Toronto (2003-2010). Since leaving office, he has been appointed as an advisor to the World Bank and the OECD, and is affiliated with the Club de Madrid (the International organization of former Presidents and Prime Ministers).

David Hulchanski is a professor of housing and community development at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. He heads up the Cities Centre research team that is analyzing socio-economic and ethno-cultural inequality and polarization trends in Canadian cities. He is the author of “The Three Cities Within Toronto” (2010).

Richard M. Sommer is an Architect, Professor, and Dean of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto. His professional and academic experience is diverse and includes serving as a faculty member, and Director of the Urban Design Program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design for a decade before joining the Daniels Faculty. Sommer’s research, writings and projects have been published in publications such as Perspecta, Metropolis, JAE, Harvard Design Magazine, and in the books Fast Forward Urbanism, Shaping the City, and The Democratic Monument in America: A Twentieth Century Topography. His work has been supported by the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, The Tozzier Fund, The Wheelwright Fellowship, University of Ulster’s O’Hare Chair in Design and Development, and The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

The City of Toronto is over 175 years old, and over the years it has gone through many changes and responded to many challenges. In the 1990s there was the challenge of amalgamation, and the resultant absorption of six municipalities (Toronto, Etobicoke, York, North York, Scarborough and East York) into a single one-tier city.  In the first decade of the millennium, the new City of Toronto grew into a world-renowned metropolis, and became a focus for international tourism, a flourishing film and media industry, medical and other hi-tech developments, and many other new and related fields. Now, the City is being challenged to justify and explain itself, in the face of major funding issues and concerns about policy and governance.

To discuss some of these important questions, the Cities Centre has organized six events, all open to the public. Each event features an urban “practitioner” and an academic associated with Cities Centre. Under the overall rubric, “Toronto in Question?,” Cities Centre will host most events at John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto, 230 College Street, Room 103, from 6:30 to 8:30 in the evening.

Coming events in the series include:

  1.  “Who Governs? City Hall and Citizen Participation” Speakers: Adam Vaughan and Dr. Richard Stren. February 28.
  2. “Who Needs Arts and Culture in Toronto?” Speakers: John Ralston Saul and Dr. Mark Kingwell. March 27. (Venue TBA)


WHAT:     Whose City? Gentrification, Inequality and the Future of Toronto

WHEN:     Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

WHERE:   John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto, 230 College Street, Room 103, just east of Spadina.

For more information, or for media RSVPs, please contact:

Richard Stren
Professor Emeritus, Political Science and Senior Advisor, Cities Centre
(416) 817-1330 (cell)