Urban Fold

Can Planning Rebuild "Ghettos of the Mind"?

Dehumanizing urban renewal-era public housing developments across North America are being replaced by mixed-use, mixed income neighborhoods with affordable housing. Yet in Regent Park, Toronto at least, many troubling social problems remain.

Margaret Wente, writing in the Globe and Mail, discusses how planners' expectations that razing and rebuilding Regent Park would improve the quality of life and reduce the area's crime rate. However, with four homicides in two months, Regent Park may need more than just a redesign, she argues.

"A lot of people were hoping that Regent Park had finally left its violent past behind. An ambitious billion-dollar "revitalization" plan has been widely hailed as a model of enlightened planning. The cockroach-infested, urine-stained, graffiti-covered buildings are being replaced with modern, mixed-income housing that will not only improve living standards for the residents, but also ease the area's social dysfunctions.

Regent Park's new housing units are swell. The new supermarket is great. The new swimming pool will be fun. But the hardest ghettos to eradicate are the ghettos of the mind."

Wente points out that more is needed than just physical planning, and highlights a mentoring program called Pathways to Education that is intended to encourage kids to stay in school.

(Op-ed includes links to additional stories on Regent Park's revitalization).

Full Story: Can bricks and mortar really change behaviour?

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