A new report from the Cities Centre at U of T contains compelling data about Toronto’s neighbourhoods. The report, titled The Three Cities within Toronto, presents evidence of increased polarization of wealth. Downtown and central areas have become proportionately more wealthy over the past 35 years, while many parts of the east and west suburbs have become relatively poorer. A big concern is the apparent hollowing out of the middle-income population.
A team of researchers headed by Prof. David Hulchanski has been tracking long-term changes in Toronto’s demographic makeup. From a starting point in 1970, the team has tracked the changing patterns of wealth distribution within Toronto (formerly Metro Toronto) as well as in the surrounding 905 area. There is a trove of fascinating data contained in the report, especially in the various maps and tables which track the evolution of the social changes.
The maps in this report make one thing clear: back in 1970, Metro Toronto was far more homogeneous in terms of income distribution than it is today. Some older areas of the city have changed from relative poverty to affluence over the time of the study. Many more areas, however, especially in Etobicoke and Scarborough, have dropped from a middling position to a level where local average incomes are more than 40% below the Toronto average levels. The report carefully documents its methodology, in particular to justify its reliance on individual income data as opposed to household data.
As real estate agents, we are clearly concerned to identify areas that may be expected to out-perform or under-perform in terms of property values. We are also concerned to look for the underlying causes of these long-term changes. On first blush, several priorities emerge for our declining areas: we need to improve public transit, aggressively update the quality of older tower apartments, and support better access to basic shopping.
The report is concise, easy to read, and attractively presented (the excellent graphic work is by Matt Blackett, of Spacing.) I recommend it as good holiday reading. There may be a variety of answers, but we can’t duck the questions.