Negotiating Social Mix in Toronto’s First Public Housing Redevelopment: Power, Space and Social Control in Don Mount Court


This article examines the experience of social interaction in Toronto’s Don Mount Court community, the first socially mixed public‐housing redevelopment site in Canada. Similar to the American HOPE VI program, redevelopment involved the demolition and mixed‐income reconstruction of the community to include both public housing and new market condominiums with a neo‐traditional redesign. Based on participant observation, this article describes four struggles that emerged over the course of a series of mixed‐income community governance meetings intended to promote social inclusion. These struggles related to (1) unequal power relations in shaping local priorities; (2) the power to brand the community and define its aesthetic characteristics; (3) the power to define and use public space; and (4) power over modes of surveillance and exclusion. The findings challenge the myth that the ‘benevolent’ middle class will use their political influence and social capital to the benefit of their low‐income neighbors in mixed neighbourhoods. Instead, the research found that public‐housing tenants were often on the receiving end of antagonism. It is argued that policymakers intent on ameliorating problems related to residence in disadvantaged communities should focus on funding for social programs and transformative change, rather than on public‐housing demolition and state‐driven gentrification via mixed‐income redevelopment.