Poor neighbourhoods growing across Toronto
Middle-class communities disappearing
According to a U of T study, Toronto is undergoing an increase in both poor and rich districts and that means subtle but significant changes to individual neighbourhoods.
U of T analysis of census data shows middle class shrinking, especially in Scarborough, Etobicoke
Feb 08, 2009 04:30 AM
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Toronto's middle class is disappearing.
Since 2001, 15 of the city's middle-income neighbourhoods have vanished, according to a yet-to-be released University of Toronto report. The majority became low-income areas, where individual earnings are 20 to 40 per cent below the city average.
Hardest hit are the suburbs. Declines in Scarborough and north Etobicoke have continued. Falling income is also affecting parts of Brampton, Mississauga and Durham. In 1970, 86 per cent of 905 neighbourhoods were middle class. In 2005, that number had tumbled to 61 per cent.
From 2000 to 2005, the number of city neighbourhoods with very low earnings more than 40 per cent below the Toronto-area average grew by almost 50 per cent. Residents in these neighbourhoods live on welfare-level earnings, says U of T researcher David Hulchanski.
The report, due out this year, is an update of the groundbreaking 2007 The Three Cities within Toronto report by Hulchanski and a team of university researchers.
It analyzed and mapped Statistics Canada census data from 1971 to 2001, finding that not only were middle-class neighbourhoods disappearing, but Toronto was divided into three distinct geographic areas: City 1, which consistently gained income; City 2, which maintained its income but shrunk in size; and City 3, whose residents saw their earnings fall over the 30-year period.
Hulchanski says municipal governments are not to blame.
“The people of Toronto did not do this to themselves. This is a national trend. What we're showing on these maps is the way federal and provincial policies, as well as the economy, have played out in Toronto's neighbourhoods.”
He says policies such as universal health care and social assistance helped build the middle class. Cutbacks, including downloading of social services from the province to cities and a lack of affordable housing and job protection, are leading to its destruction.
“You didn't talk about McJobs in the 1970s, or even part-time jobs without benefits. Whoever heard of a job that wasn't full-time without benefits?” he asks. “That would be shocking 25 years ago. Now it's normal.”
Hulchanski's updated study, with another five years of data from the 2006 census, confirms the decline of the middle class and the continued polarization of rich and poor neighbourhoods. From 2001 to 2006, individual incomes in wealthy areas grew 14 per cent, while residents of low-income neighbourhoods made only modest gains.
During the 1970s, Toronto was a predominantly middle-class city, with 341 of its 520 census tracts neighbourhood areas determined by Statistics Canada so that they have roughly 4,000 residents each in the middle-income category. Poverty was contained in the city's urban core.
Thirty years later, it's a city divided.
Richer residents live along the Yonge St. corridor, close to services and transit. Individual incomes average almost $90,000 a year.
The proliferating poorer communities are located in Toronto's pre-amalgamation suburbs, the middle-class bastion of the 1950s. In 2006 that area included 40 per cent of the city's census tracts. Sixty-one per cent are immigrants. There is little rapid transit and an average income of $26,900.
Sandwiched between the two areas is a shrinking City 2, neighbourhoods with static income where the average income is about $35,700.
Hulchanski began his research in 2005 with a $1 million grant (spread over five years) from the Social Science Humanities Research Council of Canada. He teamed with St. Christopher House, an omnibus social service agency in the city's west end, to examine how gentrification was changing the neighbourhood.
The data was difficult to analyze. Within the 30-year period, census boundaries had changed and some of the information wasn't available electronically. A U of T data analyst took more than a year to get it into shape.
By the time Hulchanski began his work, Toronto and the United Way had completed research showing the city's poverty was highest in 13 priority neighbourhoods.
“The trend line was clearly there. Researchers saw it and the city's work with the United Way was going on,” says Fiona Chapman, manager of social research and analysis for Toronto.
“What David's work has done is absolutely confirmed the concerns. And I think why everybody doffs their cap to David is (that) he's been very good at helping the public understand these concerns.”
BY THE NUMBERS
How the income decline affects the outer suburbs
Average 2005 individual income, all Toronto census districts
Percentage of population comprising immigrants in districts where incomes have declined more than 20 per cent since 1970
Percentage of population comprising whites in such districts
Number of subway stations within 300 metres of such districts, versus 40 for biggest-gaining districts
Percentage of 2005-07 homicides in such districts, versus 12 per cent for biggest-gaining districts
Source: University of Toronto Cities Centre