[RE]Forming Regent Park: From policy to practice, what’s lost in translation?

Mary Jane Carroll
Master's Thesis | Spring 2012

Mixed income public housing developments are touted as providing a variety of social benefits. One of the benefits most frequently referenced is improved “social inclusion”. But whether the policy decisions and design theories promoted to create these new more inclusive environments are realized in the final as-built sites has not yet been demonstrated. “[re]forming regent park: from policy to practice, what’s lost in translation?” has used a case study approach to examine the transformation of one of Canada’s oldest and largest public housing projects. From the community of hope in the 1940s and 1950s, through the socio-economic segregation and marginalization of the 1970s and 1980s, to the six-phase, billion dollar revitalization project that was initiated in 2006, Regent Park has always been a social experiment. In this case study particular attention was paid to who is included and who is excluded by the realized environments and why. Fundamentally, this thesis seeks to provide new insight into the discrepancies between policy and practice in housing related architecture and urban planning, and the effect of these gaps on low-income residents.

Through the close examination of core planning and policy documents, insertion into the environment as an unobtrusive observer, and the administration of an on-site accessibility assessment instrument developed by the author, this study aims to make 2 main contributions to the body of knowledge on planning and architecture for marginalized people. First, by questioning the accepted notions of social inclusion for low-income earners in mixed-income public housing redevelopment, this study demonstrates that public housing residents are subjected to insidious forms of social exclusion and marginalization through architectural and planning oversights. Second, and perhaps most importantly, this study diverges from most public housing analyses by considering the needs of residents with physical disabilities. This group is under-represented in public housing research, yet constitutes a significant portion of the resident population housed within these communities. This thesis makes recommendations important for the next five phases of development at Regent Park and for future Canadian public housing redevelopment projects.

Thesis Committee: Beth Tauke, Edward Steinfeld & Sue Weidemann