When “Just Right” Is Not Right

Pushing back against austerity in Toronto

Mehedi Khan and Douglas Young

Published in Issue 1.1 // Updates

Keywords: Toronto; austerity; social housing; revitalization; multi-scalar


In Toronto, selected social housing communities are being ‘revitalized’ in partnership with the private sector. This move is widely embraced by policymakers, politicians and social service agencies all of whom applaud its utility in transforming neighbourhoods of concentrated poverty into mixed-income communities. However, residents and community groups criticize this form of top-down neoliberal governance as regulating the morality of space. We explore here the met and unmet demands of residents of three social housing communities targeted for revitalization in Toronto, and highlight resident wins and losses and share lessons for housing activists involved in other similar situations.

We see this provocation as part of a multi-scalar push back against austerity in housing. Specifically, while the 2008 crisis did not directly affect Canadian housing, it did play a role in solidifying austerity-as-common-sense as the over-arching frame of neoliberal governance at the local, provincial and national scales. As the examples in this article underscore, this has had significant and damaging impacts on hegemonic housing policy, with government action on housing being strategically limited in ambition.


Mehedi Khan is a Masters candidate at York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies and Douglas Young is an Associate Professor at York University in the Department of Social Science.

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