Phantom Housing: The Rise and Fall of Public Housing in North America


Vol. 4 No. 2 (2007)
Research Articles
November 2, 2007


This paper examines the rise and fall of public housing in North America in order to explore the principle of sustainability. By extension, it addresses the concept of sustainability as it relates to the city. Urbanity is simultaneously the most and least sustainable form of development. While extremely sustainable from the point of view of density (economies of scale, efficient use ofinfrastructure, etc.), it is highly vulnerable to social, political and economic forces. Such forces can easily trump the environmental sustainability of any building or community.The death and transfiguration of key portions of our public housing stock provides insights into this phenomenon – for which I will use Toronto's Regent Park as a case study. The redevelopment ofthis 69-acre parcel aims to transform a failed social vision into a model for sustainable community development.