Toronto is a feudal city, in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, says a widely-publicized report from the Cities Centre of University of Toronto. Weston and Pelmo are among few areas in the whole city that have remained middle class, but growing income disparity threatens all the inner suburbs, the author, J. David Hulchanski, says.
The report, “Three Cities within Toronto” says that poverty has moved from the downtown to the edges of the city, and into the northwestern and northeastern suburbs in particular. The middle class is disappearing: fewer than 1 in 3 households is middle-income, down from 2 in 3 in 1970.
Hulchanski compares the Toronto of 1970 to the Toronto of 2005 and extrapolates into the future. 35 years ago, neighbourhoods were mostly middle class, with a tight spread around the middle income. A few places were richer, and a few were poorer, but there were few large disparities.
The Toronto of 2005 is much different. A few areas have become richer, but the middle class has slipped in comparative income and Toronto has become bifurcated: the rich live in an upside-down T along the subway. The poor live in the rest of the city. The author sees this trend continuing into the future. Much more of the city will become poor; some of it will become rich. Weston, according to the maps, will not be fortunate.
The author’s views should be studied cautiously, of course. First, it is not clear why Weston will fall from middle income to poor. The author does not mention Weston, and none of his clear assumptions seem to apply to our town, even using his own data. His conclusion is based on the the assumption that changes that have occurred will continue. Yet Weston has not yet slipped at all, so it is not clear from his report, why it would begin to do so.
Second, the author is adamant that this is not an inevitable change. Income distribution programs, a more equitable distribution of low-income housing, and policies that foster growth among the poorest classes can slow and reverse the unpleasant scenario he describes.
The author also says “Implementation of the Transit City plan and the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal initiative are also essential for making [the poorer neighbourhood] desirable for both its residents and for a broader socioeconomic mix of households. The segregation of the city by socio-economic status need not continue. It can be slowed and reversed.” Alas, both these programs are threatened by the Ford administration.