Comment 33305

By AnnonObserver (anonymous) | Posted September 09, 2009 at 10:58:13

"The question, of course, is whether the Connaught deal does this. History suggests that we should be deeply skeptical. "

It isn't just the fact that the developer may renege on the mixed use plan we need to worry about. We also have to be concerned with middle income earners not wanting to be part of a mixed-income complex, which would lead to the same result.

I used to work for a private company that did home inspections, technical auditing and reserve fund planning for condominiums and government subsidized housing projects. If we ever did work for a mixed income project you would often see one of two patterns.

The first is what I call the Optimistic Case, the lower income families took pride in their new homes, the neighbourhood as a whole functioned well and was kept clean and safe. There would be very few for sale signs and most of the neighbours had been there for years and were friendly with eachother.

The second, Pessimistic case is basically the exact opposite. The lower income families didn't keep their homes in good repair which detracted from the community as a whole. (Usually this neglect was coupled with a general attitude of not caring about anything.) This led to arguments between the neighbours who did keep their homes in good shape and who's property values were now declining. They would then try their best to move away, usually selling to new people who just didn't care (since they were the only ones who'd want to move in), which just perpetuated the cycle.

What I'm trying to illustrate with these anecdotes is that its not enough for a government or builder to create a mixed income building or neighbourhood and then walk away. They need to create a rule structure and enforce it to the letter to make sure anyone who turns out to be dealing drugs or allowing their home to bring down the rest of the community can be removed, to allow those who want to rise up out of their situation to live in a safe place that won't enter the vicious cycle into a ghetto.

One solution would be to set up the mixed income building like a condominium, with an elected board of owners (and in the case of subsidized housing perhaps someone from the city) which can pass bylaws, put liens on noncompliant owners, and deal with the small issues before they escalate. It would also give the owners a united voice in case of problems with the city or the building owner.

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