Poverty, Declining Income,
Housing Quality and Community Life in
Toronto's Inner Suburban High-Rise Apartments
Key Findings from Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty
Vertical Poverty makes an important new contribution to our understanding of poverty in Toronto by documenting the extent to which poverty is concentrated in high-rise buildings within neighbourhoods. A much larger percentage of the tenants who live in high-rise buildings today are poor compared to 30 years ago.
Vertical Poverty has led us to uncover the following key findings:
Our inner suburban neighbourhoods are falling further behind
The number of high poverty neighbourhoods in Toronto has more than quadrupled over the last 30 years, from 30 in 1981 to 136 in 2006.
In 2006, almost half (46.3%) of the low-income families in Toronto were living in high-poverty neighbourhoods—up from 17.8% in 1981.
Scarborough has experienced a ten-fold increase in high-poverty neighbourhoods, from 4 to 40 between 1981 and 2006.
Poverty is becoming increasingly concentrated in high-rise buildings
In 1981, one out of every three low-income families in the City of Toronto (34%) rented a unit in a high-rise building. By 2006, this had increased to 43%.
By 2006, nearly 40% of all the families in high-rise buildings in the City of Toronto were ‘poor’—up from 25% in 1981—giving proof to the idea of ‘vertical poverty’.
Between 1981 and 2006, family poverty in the City of Toronto rose significantly, from 13% to 21%. In actual numbers, there were nearly twice as many low-income families in 2006 as there were in 1981.
There is a strong connection between poverty and poor housing conditions
Today, 70% of the city’s high-rise apartment buildings are over 40 years old, and 60% of Toronto’s high-rise apartment buildings are located in the inner suburbs.
Inside their units, 40% of people experienced problems with washroom plumbing in the past year, 33% had problems with kitchen plumbing, and close to 25% had broken fridges and stoves.
Over a third of all tenants live in buildings where the elevators break down at least once a month.
More than 40% of people say that cockroaches are common in their building and 12% complain of bedbugs.
There are some understandable similarities and differences between conditions in private and non-profit buildings
There are many problems that reduce quality of life in privately owned high-rise buildings. However, responses from tenants of non-profit buildings suggest that conditions in their buildings are worse on a number of the dimensions of housing examined in this study.
One notable exception is the incidence of major unit repairs, where the wear and tear on apartment units and the need for major unit repairs is nearly identical.
Private sector and non-private tenants experience almost identical levels of disrepair inside their units—in both cases around 25% experienced no major repair issues in the past year, and 36% experienced three or more.
Despite their challenges, high-rise apartment buildings are a tremendous asset to our city
Almost half of all housing in Toronto is rented. Three-quarters of rental housing is in the private market and nearly two-thirds is made up of buildings of five storeys and more.
76% of residents consider their neighbourhood to be a good place to live and 61% say it’s a good place to raise children.
Tenants generally consider their apartment buildings to be ‘cohesive’ communities—around 80% say that people in their building get along well with each other and that neighbours make them feel welcome.