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Trefann Court

A thin strip of land just south of Regent Park and bounded by Queen, Parliament, Shuter, and River Streets, Trefann Court was slated for urban renewal by the City of Toronto in 1966. Home to 1,300 mostly working class, residents, the area was characterized by old houses and a dwindling population. Faced with the demolition of their neighbourhood and inspired by earlier resistance by residents in the Don Mount on the other side of the Don River, residents organized against the project and refused to accept the city's plans.

Over next six years local activists like Edna Dixon and Pat Rice led tenants and homeowners in the fight to institute their own renewal plan. With the help of professional organizers like future mayor John Sewell and Central Neighbourhood House worker Marjaleena Repo, The Trefann Court Residents Association argued that local housing needed improvement, but on their terms.

The residents association, however, fell apart in 1968 after a simmering tension between local homeowners and tenants boiled over when Pat Rice, a tenant herself, wrote an article which ran in several daily newspapers, exposing apparent slum conditions in the area. This frustrated the mostly homeowner Residents Association, who opposed the depiction of their neighbourhood as a slum in need of renewal.

Fortunately, the split between tenants and homeowners was eventually mended, and Trefann Court became the first neighbourhood to successfully defend against an urban renewal project in Toronto. In its place, residents convinced the city to consult representatives from the neighbourhood on a new redevelopment plan which was accepted by both sides in 1972. If Regent Park marked the beginning of Toronto's experiment with urban renewal Trefann Court marked its conclusion.

John Sewell, Up Against City Hall (Toronto: James and Lorimer & Company, 1972)

Graham Fraser, Fighting Back: Urban Renewal in Trefann Court (Toronto: Hakkert, 1972)

Kevin Brushett, “Blots on the Face of the City: The Politics of Slum Housing and Urban Renewal in Toronto 1940-1970” (PhD diss., Queen's University, 2001)

Rick Bebout: Master builders meet citizen activists

Trefann Court Residents Associations

Toronto Community Union Project (T-CUP) in Trefann Court

Trefann Court (Wikipedia article)

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