Map 3: Rooming houses in South Parkdale in the context of population change

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Building on the previous entry that documented the change in the number of rooming houses in North Parkdale, let’s also look at South Parkdale (the south of Queen St W). As the maps in the previous entry showed (please click here; the previous entry will open up in a new window), seemingly there is little change between 1997 and 2012. Yet, the total number of rooming houses in South Parkdale increased by 8 from 95 in 1997 to 103 in 2012.

This increase is explained partially by the results of the Parkdale Pilot Project which legalized a number of then-existing bachelorettes in the area that had not been captured in the 1997 data. And of course, the City has discovered more rooming houses that were not documented in the records. It is fair to say, therefore, that the increase is not necessarily new additions.

The following map shows the block-by-block counts of rooming houses in South Parkdale, which actually reveals a complicated picture – some blocks have experienced decreases, and these are concentrated close to Queen St W.

To some extent, the Parkdale Pilot Project may have contributed to this loss through its legalization process, as some landlords did not meet the standards or/and did not participate in the project. But a more reasonable explanation may be that gentrification pressures – manifested as the conversions of rooming houses into single family houses – have become more and more evident in South Parkdale as well. In fact, if you walk around in South Parkdale, it is difficult to miss many renovations and ‘for sale’ signs.

So if we understand the increase of the total number of rooming houses in South Parkdale is not new additions (because they had been there; they were just not counted in the official record), then South Parkdale has also experienced a net loss of rooming houses about 12 from 1997.

The Table below shows the population change from 2001 to 2011 in Parkdale.(Source: City of Toronto’s ward profile; Stats Canada)

The population in South Parkdale has consistently declined since 2001. On the other hand, North Parkdale has seen the population decrease between 2001 and 2006, which is explained partially by the significant rooming house losses, but in 2011, the population in the north has increased again. This population increase has been contributed by new-built condominiums in the north.

(Source: City of Toronto’s ward profile; Stats Canada)

If we look at the population change in Ward 14 that includes other parts in the north of Queen as indicated in the above map, then it is revealed that the population growth has concentrated in the north, as more condo developments have taken place in the north part of Ward 14.

South Parkdale has also started to see development pressures. A new eight storey-residential condominium (66 units) with retail at the ground level is being constructed at Dufferin and Queen St W (1205 Queen St W). The population change in terms of number may not be significant. But, as the staff report suggests “this is the first project proposed for the area west of the rail corridor and represents a form of development that is consistent and compatible with its surroundings” (City of Toronto 2010), this certainly sets up a precedent. It may not be overstating that more development applications would be put forward in the south as development opportunities become ripe.

Map 2: Affordable housing for 780 persons (Rooming houses in Parkdale)

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The second release is the map of “rooming houses and bachelorettes” in Parkdale. These housing types concentrate in Parkdale (there is a long history. Please see for example Tom Slater’s historical review) and they are recognized, both by housing providers, policy makers and academics, as an important affordable housing option for low-income populations.

The map below is the excerpt from Tom Slater’s research on Parkdale (2004) that mapped out rooming houses and bachelorettes. The data was based on the City of Toronto’s 1997 data. Please look at small dots; big dots show high-density apartment buildings.

(Map a: Rooming houses and bachelorettes in Parkdale 1997)

The next map here is the most current version based on 2012 data available from the City of Toronto (including both licenced and applied-for licenced rooming houses).

(Map b: Rooming houses and bachelorettes in Parkdale 2012)

This may come as little surprise to some people, but there is a stark contrast between 1997 map and 2012 map: the number of rooming houses and bachelorettes in North Parkdale (the north of Queen St W) has dramatically declined.

In 1997, there were 72 rooming houses/bachelorettes in the north of Queen St. In 2012, the number declined by 49 to 23. These 23 remaining rooming houses concentrate largely close to Queen St West, or South Parkdale, which still retains a large stock of rooming houses and bachelorettes.

As the study by conducted by SHS Inc for the city of Toronto (2004) shows, the average number of bedrooms  per rooming house is 15.9 bedrooms. If we apply this average number, then it may be reasonable to estimate that for the past 15 years North Parkdale has lost approximately 780 bedrooms (i.e. affordable housing units that could have accommodated 780 persons).

While a very small number of rooming houses have been shifted to housing provided by other institutions such as Habitat Services, a major driving force behind this decline can be explained by the conversions of rooming houses into single family homes – gentrification pressure. There are a few reasons that has fueled gentrification pressure.

First, there are many financial stresses in operating rooming houses – such as difficulties in accessing fair mortgage financing and insurance, high property taxes, increasing complexity of government regulations, income limits of tenants, and significant responsibility for maintenance (SHS Inc, 2004). Second, it is suggested that rooming house operators tend to be an older population; there may be limited interest by the second family generation in taking over the business given the aforementioned financial challenges.

Third, in addition to the supply side challenges, North Parkdale (or Roncesvalles) has become a favourite neighbourhood for potential homeowners to buy single family houses; housing demands have increased. Combined with increasing property values, this is a great incentive for owners to sell their homes in light of difficult circumstances surrounding the economics of rooming house operation.

This is the economic imperative threatening the sustainability of existing rooming house. Conversely – and more importantly – this also demonstrates little housing stability and security for those low-income populations living in the rooming houses and bachelorettes within a broader context of lack of affordable housing in Toronto.

So what are some of the implications for future neighbourhood planning in Parkdale? As the north side of Parkdale has become more gentrified, the pressures may be encroaching into the south. Already, redevelopment pressures have been spilt over from the east side of Parkdale – West Queen West and Liberty Village. In the next map series, we would like to pay closer attention to the changes in South Parkdale, and contextualize these housing dynamics within the population change in Parkdale using the recent 2011 census data.

WEFC Alternative Currency project

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Since its official start of Parkdale People’s Economy project, this blog has somehow focused on the CLT initiative and various activities undertaken by Parkdale Food Network.

The other strand of the PPE key activities is building alternative medium of exchange (such as alternative/local currencies). This initiative is led by the West End Food Co-op. Local currencies gives a platform for wealth accumulation among community members and businesses at the local level while enhacing stronger economic self-sufficiency.

Currently, at Sorauren Farmer’s market, WEFC is using wood nicckes (below )as market currency.


At the market information booth, shoppers can buy coins that can be used with vendors at the farmers’ market. These coins can be also used at the co-op store and for WEFC’s canning workshops.

More updates about Co-op cred and PARC cred programs are coming soon!

Map 1: Change in Parkdale’s Commercial Property Value

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Since the summer 2012, the Parkdale Community Land Trust working group has been conducting a Community Mapping project. The mapping project aims to document spatially 1) trends in neighbourhood change and 2) future opportunities for the Parkdale CLT group. We are looking at a number of characteristics about Parkdale, and planning to release the outcomes of community mapping project, as they get ready (just like Stats Canada releases their census results incrementally).

The first map is the commercial property value change in Parkdale. Change in property value is often used to gauge the degree of neighbourhood change (see for example Smith 1979). We know, although anecdotally, property values in Parkdale are increasing in response to gentrification. But we don’t know to what extent they have been increasing relative to the city average change. To do so, we first looked at the commercial property values along Queen Street West.  Commercial space in Parkdale has experienced a lot of change as Beyond Bread and Butter and other studies have documented. For this analysis, we used the commercial properties along Queen Street West between Dufferin Street and Roncesvalles Ave as a sample (only the north side of Queen St W used for GIS mapping).  

In 2001, the average (median) commercial property value in Parkdale was $223,500; in 2008 the average value increased by 125% to $504,500. On the other hand, in 2001 the city average commercial property value was $374,000; in 2008 it increased by 87% to $700,000. Of course, the Parkdale’s average property value is still lower than the city average. In terms of the degree of change, however, Parkdale has witnessed a higher rate of change in commercial property values than the city.

Two maps below show the spatial disaggregation of commercial property value changes relative to the city average for the years 2001-2005 and the years 2005-2008. Data from the Property Assessment Rolls show that most commercial properties along Queen St W in Parkdale experienced value increase between 2001 and 2005, but, as the map at the top demonstrates, at the lower rates than the city. The rates of change for most blocks along the north side of Queen St W were  below over 20% (highlighted as dark blue) of  the city average.

The map at the bottom shows change in commercial property values between 2005 and 2008. One big difference is that property values of the east side of Lansdowne Ave increased above the city average. Property values of the west side of Lansdowne were still lagging behind the city average rate, but increased at greater rates than years 2001-2005.

Two interesting observations emerge from this spatial and historical disaggregation. First, it is reasonable to say the commercial property value appreciation in Parkdale is a recent event given decades-long residential gentrification (maybe it would be interesting to see “time lag” when we compare with timing of residential property value appreciation). Second, the property value growth took place to a greater extent in the east side of Lansdowne Ave. This may be explained by that the impacts of changes taking place in West Queen West have been approaching into Parkdale.  

The data used for this mapping is based on the current assessed value in 2008 (phased-in over 4 years). As of 2012, we have seen different types of shops and restaurants have emerged in blocks close to Roncesvalles Ave. When the new assessment becomes available, we may see a bit different picture.

For the next map, we will show change in the number of rooming houses and bachelorettes in Parkdale.

Report back: 3rd PFN and Maytree Building Blocks workshop at PCHC

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As part of the Maytree Foundation’s Building Blocks initiative, Parkdale Food Network held its third workshop on civic engagement and food security, “Quest for Healthy Food”. This event was held in partnership with Parkdale Community Health Centre (PCHC) on August 27th Monday from 11am to 2pm, with a focus on “food as social determinant of health”. Many PCHC members participated from the Seniors Program, the Diabetes Program, and the PCCRN (Parkdale Community Crisis Response Network).

Terence Williams, from PARC, who is trained as a Maytree’s community leader, opened up the session by asking what brought participants to this event. While the participants represented a diversity of Parkdale community, their motivation was common: “we want to get more involved in community, want to learn more about issues concerning healthy food, and want to spread good ideas throughout the community to make a positive change together”. To help connect these dots was the very purpose of “Quest for Healthy Food” workshop led by Terence.

The structure of the workshop was similar to the previous two workshops. Terence first provided an overview of how government works, which helped participants demystify some of the different – confusing – responsibilities of each level of government. But the presentation also stimulated a good discussion among the participants on government accountability and transparency. The participants raised concerns such as: community members were not well informed or consulted about decisions behind land use and development in the neighbourhood; it is not only difficult but also costly to access to public information through the Freedom of Information request. They identified these as barriers to prevent – or discourage – community members from participating meaningfully in local politics and decision-making process. Also, the discussion moved beyond the national boundary to the global scale – the role of United Nations in shaping public policy making here in Canada.

This exciting discussion on civic engagement was followed by the presentation by Joel Fridman, a graduate student from Department of Geography at the University of Toronto. His presentation reminded all of us of the importance of addressing food security issues both from food-related aspect and from non-food-related aspect. This point was echoed by the participants: many Parkdale residents are renters, and often rely on social assistances as a main source of income (for details, see neighbourhood data). However, as pointed out by the participants in the first workshop at PARC, current social assistance rates are not keeping pace with the rising costs of food and shelters. Thus, the participants are concerned that as rents and prices for food and other necessities would go up, they feel more squeezed.  

There are, however, emerging opportunities to address such complex issues. Joel shared a number of great initiatives that are taking place both locally and beyond Toronto. West End Food Coop is going to open a co-op grocery store in the basement of PCHC (where this event was held) to make healthy food more accessible to everyone in Parkdale; Toronto Food Policy Council released GrowTO Urban Agriculture Action Plan that identifies key action items to expand urban agriculture; and Food Secure Canada is working toward developing and proposing a national food strategy, which is currently absent in Canada.

With these policy contexts in mind, the workshop moved to a group discussion facilitated by Terence. The participants are very aware of food as a key social determinant of health, and hope to buy and eat healthy, nutritious food. Their hope, however, is not quite the same as their capacity to act on that hope. A primary challenge felt by the participants in accessing healthy and good quality food is the affordability and availability at local grocers and supermarkets. One participant shared her experience at a large chain supermarket in Parkdale: even if we want to buy healthy food such as fresh fruits from a local supermarket, quality of foods available at the shelf is very bad, and fruits do not even have ‘fresh smell’.

Further, almost all participants identified prices as a primary factor that determines their choices of food. And sometimes some people search for sales at different locations beyond Parkdale, but they need to take transportation which adds up additional costs. These costs are not factored into calculating social assistance benefits. In addition, from convenience, affordability or mental condition, some people eat processed food or snacks to ‘feel filled’.

“What changes do you want to make and see in local food access and shopping?”, asked Terence.  A very prompt response from audience was “less processed food in the neighbourhood”. One participant brought our attention to a recent motion by the Federal government to ‘streamline’ food inspection (please also see Globe and Mail article). The motion would propose larger fines for those who fail to comply with food safety and health standards, while reducing the number of inspectors. He, however, raised his concern about possible ramifications on consumers such as food safety from less food inspection, less food label monitoring, and less public  capacity with enforcement: “what can I trust to find out whether food is safe or not?”.  

The participants also mentioned they want to see more availability of affordable, good quality, and healthy food in Parkdale. Many ideas were also suggested to make this happen: increasing local opportunities of food education – how to handle it properly, where it comes from, etc; increasing local food production through urban agriculture using green space (for garden but cannot be safe for ever) and rooftop garden; promoting YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) in Parkdale by connecting unused backyards with passionate gardeners; and supporting West End Food Co-op.  

After people got excited to take local action and influence politics, Terence provided the second part of his presentation: how policy is made and how we can influence policy making. Using Local Food Act, which is being proposed by Sustain Ontario, he explained how the bill becomes law. Also he touched on tactics such as making a deputation, and writing a letter to local politicians and ministers’ office.

Terence reflected on the event, “The neighbourhood participants were really engaged with the civic governance training, with lots of inspiration and passion emulating in and from the group. Most of all I believe by seeing what unfolded in the group training is… people becoming more engaged with the governments and politics. It turned out to be a great event.”

*Many thanks to all of people and partners who made this first event great: PCHC staff for accommodating this event; Om Restaurant for preparation and delivery of delicious lunch, and generous support from Maytree Foundation and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Parkdale CLT newsletter launched!

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Parkdale CLT initiative has lauchned its own newsletter. As many individuals and organizations have shown great interests, we think this newsletter will help keep you updated about what is happening with PCLT while sharing exciting news and interesting resources related to CLT from elsewhere!

A Community Land Trust model is attracting renewed interests beyond its classic application to affordable housing provision, as social and economic issues facing our cities are becoming more and more complex, and require different approaches. This newsletter, we hope, helps spread such an innovative idea and practice.

If you are interested in signing up for the newsletter, please do so from here!

Report Back: 2nd PFN and Maytree Building Blocks workshop at Greenest City

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Parkdale Food Network organized its 2nd workshop on civic engagement and food security as part of Maytree Foundation’s Building Blocks. This is a report-back by Terence Williams, Community Leader of Maytree civic engagement training.

On Monday afternoon on August 21 Parkdale Food Network in partnership with Maytree Foundation and Citizenship and Immigration Canada held its second civic engagement training workshop with Greenest City in the Youth Garden in Parkdale. As the Greenest City was a partner for this workshop, our specific focus was on urban agriculture.

PARC’s Executive Director, Victor Willis, gave an introduction to those participants that came together sitting on benches and tree stumps. He spoke about the food initiatives that the Parkdale Food Network has been leading in the Parkdale community and how these initiatives could assist with the access, availability and affordability of healthy food for all people living in the Parkdale neighbourhood.  He then handed the group over to Terence Williams.

Terence then proceeded to facilitate the civic engagement training for the community members, giving a good overview of the different levels of government in Canada, and explaining their makeup and how all three levels of government function, including their areas of responsibility.

After a brief break for refreshments, Joel Fridman, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, then did an excellent and well received presentation on food security. The group participants then took part in a discussion of what had been presented around issues of food security and what could be done to engage and work with the government.  We had the discussion in an intimate way with the participants sitting in a circle in a lovely open community garden setting. One participant reiterated a statement made by Terence during the session: “We need to speak as One Voice”.

A couple of other topics came up in the training. Victor Willis asked if there was a government ministry of food (there is a Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs at the provincial level – Ontario and a Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food at the federal level – Canada). The issue of GMOs (genetically modified food) was brought to the conversation as well as using land and crops for bio-fuel.  Most of all there was discussion on the possibilities of urban agriculture in the city, where what, and how it could proceed, done, and maintained and the benefits accruing from it for its inhabitants and the environment.

PARC would like to thank Greenest City for hosting the Maytree Civic Engagement Training in its Youth Garden within the Community Garden in Parkdale. What better way to present and hold a session on food security and civic governance than in a garden vibrant and full of leafy vegetation, just like the Agora (gathering place/place of assembly) in the Ancient Greek City States. Food for thought, the spirit, and the body, all in a garden.

Bike-a-thon 2012: Ride 4 Real Food 4 All

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September 16 Sunday, West End Food Co-op together with PARC is organizing their 2nd Bike-a-thon 2012 that will take riders from the City to the Farm, gathering pledges along the way to raise funds. Raised funds will contribute to WEFC and PARC’s food programing and to make healthy foods more accessible to everyone. 

For this year, the funds will go specifically to the PARC Coop Cred program, or a food security accessibility tool created in partnership with the West End Food Coop so that PARC members can participate in the health benefits of local, organic sustainable food.

Details about Bike-a-thon 2012 and registration is here.

New CRA Guidline has a CLT section

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As community economic development groups have responded (such as Centre for Social Innovation), Canada Revenue Agency recently released the new guideline for Community Economic Development activities in relation to charitable status (see the guideline from here).

As BC Centre for Social Enterpise points out, the previous guideline only dealt with Community Land Trust as a postscript. Often time, the CLT’s applications for the charitable status were evaluated on a case-by-case basis. But the recent guideline has its separate section about CLT (two paragraphs).

Report Back: 1st PFN and Maytree Building Blocks workshop at PARC

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On July 23, in partnership with Maytree Foundation’s Building Blocks, Parkdale Food Network and PARC hosted an event on civic engagement and food security. This event brought together community members largely from PARC and representatives from all three levels of government representative offices for Parkdale-HighPark (City Councilor Gord Perks, MPP Cheri DiNovo, and MP Peggy Nash). The event provided opportunities for people to learn fundamentals of governments and policy issues related to food (in)security while identifying opportunities for neighbourhood improvement.

Terence Williams from PARC, who is trained as Maytree’s community leader,  shared the key information and knowledge about how governments make decisions – civic literacy– with community members. For most of community members, complicated processes of policy making are sometimes a barrier to their participation. Unpacking this complexity was a central purpose of Terence’s presentation. His presentation covered the roles and responsibilities of different levels of government, the policy development process, and the key tactics for influencing policy making processes. The presentation can be downloaded from here.

A key goal of this Building Blocks initiative is “connecting civic participation with the goal of reducing inequality”. For Parkdale, one of such key issues related to inequality is food insecurity.

To bridge civic literacy with food insecurity, Joel Fridman, a graduate student from Department of Geography at the University of Toronto, discussed food system and key policy issues that affect the access and affordability of healthy food in Parkdale. These issues include: non-food related policy issues – housing and income support – are increasingly affecting people’s abilities to access healthy food; Nutritious Food Basket is updated occasionally, but it is not factored into setting up social assistance rates; and almost 78% of the retail market is controlled by the three large private companies, where we often do local food shopping. 

Taken together, two presentations helped the participants connect policy issues with their day-to-day experience. Why is Nutritious Food Basket   disconnected with how social assistance rates are set up (also see the city’s report)? Current social assistance rates are not keeping pace with increasing costs of food as well as housing: a key concern raised by the participants. This concern was connected back with the presentations by Terence and Joel. The rates for social assistant programs – Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program – are set up by the provincial government. Further, housing is also a key responsibility for the provincial government. To bring provincial government’s attention, participants were encouraged to use tactics they have learned from the event such as writing a letter to MPP and Ministry offices; participating ongoing networks and campaigns like Put Food in the Budget campaign. Also, one participant shared a creative response: “how to make a healthy meal on a limited budget”, which is Facebook page where people share receipts with limited budget.  

The community discussion stimulated some of the strategies that we can do to make changes happen in the neighbourhood. For example, various community food programs are available in Parkdale, but there is no mechanism for sharing program information – when, where, and what time. As a result, community members have to always look up information by themselves; community program coordinators have to respond to unexpected changes because some programs may close temporarily for some reason. This gap may be what Parkdale Food Network may be able to fill by creating a website where community members can find up-to-date information about each program.   

Another strategy is promoting urban agriculture as one way to increase neighbourhood-based food accessibility from the production perspective. A challenge is, however, how to secure a land for urban agriculture as there may be limited opportunities in Parkdale.  Yet, some opportunities are coming. The Toronto Food Policy Council will launch the Toronto Urban Agriculture Action Plan that identifies available public lands in the city and promotes their use for urban agriculture. The plan will be officially launched at the Urban Agriculture Summit, where practitioners and community groups both from Toronto and elsewhere come to share innovative urban agriculture strategies.  In addition, Parkdale Food Network/Parkdale People Economy project’s Community Land Trust group is undertaking a community mapping exercise to identify possible land and properties for community use including urban agriculture.

Victor Willis, Executive Director of PARC, concluded the session with an announcement that we will have the second meeting with Greenest City on August 21 (the third meeting is still TBD). Victor called for participants to come back in September after we finish all three community events; PFN will host an event to preset what we hear from community members through these three events. This event will be a unique opportunity to solidify ongoing food security activities by Parkdale Food Network while identifying key issues for policy advocacy.

*Many thanks to all of people and partners who made this first event great: PARC Kitchen, Drop-in and maintenance staff for accommodating this event; Brendon Goodmurphy from City of Toronto’s Toronto Food Strategy and Sara Corey  from Toronto Food Policy Council for providing invaluable assistance; and generous support from Maytree Foundation and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.