“SOCIALLY MIXED” PUBLIC HOUSING REDEVELOPMENT AS A DESTIGMATIZATION STRATEGY IN TORONTO'S REGENT PARK Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • AbstractOver the last two decades decision makers have sought to address problems with large concentrations of poverty and minority ethnoracial groups in the cities of Western Europe and the Anglo-American world that are the direct result of the manner in which public housing was built in the early postwar era. The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia have developed programs that introduce “social mix” into such public housing developments. These initiatives are designed to alter the social dynamics of places with high levels of concentrated poverty and ethnoracial minority groups that are believed to magnify the disadvantages of poverty and marginalization. In this paper, I argue that this is a destigmatization strategy, but not the same kind of destigmatization strategy that has been described in the literature. Using the example of Toronto's Regent Park, a large public housing development near downtown, I develop a research agenda for understanding the gap between a quasi-state agency's efforts to destigmatize public housing sites (“place destigmatization”) and the everyday destigmatization practices and experiences of residents (“personal destigmatization”). The paper begins with a review of the putative mechanisms linking socially mixed public housing redevelopment and outcomes for residents, including social capital, social control, role modelling, and changes to the political economy of place. This review finds little evidence of these effects in the literature. Consequently, I argue for an inductive approach to the study of the outcomes of social mix, rather than the common practice of judging such outcomes against the benchmark of close, intimate relationships between new, middle-class residents and existing public housing residents. I further argue that the “normalization” of the built form that is a major part of socially mixed redevelopment is a form of place destigmatization, and may alter both material practices and representational practices related to stigma, which have very real effects on the everyday experience of residents.

publication date

  • 2012