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This book is the first leg in a series about the neighborhood of St. James Town in Toronto, Canada.
St. James Town is a neighborhood in downtown Toronto that originated as an upper-middle class, Victorian neighborhood in the late 19th century. In 1952, the City of Toronto struck a deal with private corporations, including primarily a group by the name of the Parliament Syndicate, that allowed private developers to begin a subsidized housing experiment. This experiment, which echoed throughout numerous locations in North America after the Second World War, consisted of constructing eighteen high-rise, high density apartment buildings within the confines of Sherbourne Street to the west, Parliament street to the East, Howard Street to the North, and Wellesley Street to the South (roughly .43 acres). Originally developed to appeal to a demographic of young people who were upwardly mobile with disposable incomes, the complex soon fell from grace and began serving as an area for low income Canadian families, but in much larger numbers, newcomers to Canada. However, given the size of the apartments themselves, as there are no units beyond a three bedroom (and only in a few select towers), the apartments are often far too small to accommodate the current needs of residents. This issue of space, coupled with the necessity for complex maintenance and a deficiency in funding due to the nature of the apartments being subsidized, has paved the way for numerous issues and a decline in quality of life among residents. Between the 1970s and late 1990s, the percentage of immigrants residing in the neighborhood grew from 3 to 40%. Today, the residency turnover rate is 65% per every five years. The average resident’s income is under $23,000 CAD.
The apartment complex contains two olympic sized swimming pools, a now-abandoned tennis court, two small, chain groceries, as well as several small convenience stores with a limited array of goods. Currently, the official number of residents in St. James Town as per census data stands at 17,100; however, residents believe this number to be false, and many believe the actual population is closer to about 26,000 residents. Developers are once again beginning to strike deals with city council in order to implement the construction of at least four new high rise towers on Glen Road, sherbourne Street and Howard Street, with heights up to 54 stories, giving the potential to bring upwards of 1,000 new residents into the neighborhood. Unsurprisingly, this is being met with resistance by residents of the area, who would rather have access to services such as health clinics, outreach programs, employment centers and other amenities that would better serve the community at large. St. James Town has become a microcosm of the city at large, being one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Canada; the most commonly spoken languages outside of English are Tagalog and Tamil, and roughly 40% of residents claim English is not their first language.