[URBAN NOTE] “Mixed-income housing one answer for out-of-control home prices”
The Globe and Mail‘s University of Toronto-sponsored article arguing that St. Lawrence Market offers a way forward for affordable housing caught my attention.
Ronny Yaron was one of the first residents to move into the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood in Toronto 37 years ago. A single mother of two, Yaron was tired of moving house and was seeking a sense of community. She knew, going in, that she was taking part in what she describes as “a big experiment, a unique project” that’s “one of a kind.”
St. Lawrence was Canada’s first attempt to develop a deliberately mixed-use, mixed-income neighbourhood, one that integrated market-priced housing with public, non-profit and co-op residences and provided all the services necessary to build a true community — schools, daycare facilities, supermarkets and retail shops. Now, almost 40 years later, St. Lawrence serves as a model for new neighbourhood developments.
“It’s a real mix,” says Yaron, now 72 years old. “A lot of single people, a lot of children, a lot of dogs — and it does work. There’s a real neighbourhood feeling when you go along the Esplanade. Children know each other, there are places where community happens, people organize events. It’s wonderful.”
The idea of mixed-use communities is not a new one. It’s been the reality for hundreds of years, in towns and villages where people lived, worked, shopped, educated their children, cared for their elders, indulged in cultural activities — all within easy reach of residents.
But history and technology are dynamic. Things change. “Since the Second World War, a lot of neighbourhood planning has really been about separation of uses,” says Graeme Stewart, a principal at ERA Architects Inc., in Toronto. “Until the 1990s, that was the orthodoxy. It was all based on the car. ”
It’s an orthodoxy that is shifting. Today’s city planners are moving away from suburban sprawl and — its converse — large public-housing developments.