7 News Archive
Trefann Court Residents Associations

A thin strip of land just south of Regent Park and bounded by Queen, Parliament, Shuter, River Streets, Trefann Court was slated for urban renewal by the city 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. The split was caused when Pat Rice, a tenant herself, wrote an article which ran in several daily newspapers exposing the apparent slum conditions experienced by many tenants in the area. According to Rice, the article was meant to provoke the city into providing aid to struggling tenants, many of whom had no heat and whose living quarters needed renovations. This frustrated the mostly homeowner Residents Association, who opposed the depiction of their neighbourhood as a slum in need of renewal. They further accused Rice of working with outside agitators with and interest in urban renewal. Shortly thereafter, Pat Rice resigned from the tenants association and formed the Trefann Neighbours and Tenants Association (TNT).

Fortunately, tenants and homeowners mended their split in 1970 in order to participate in a working committee to create a neighbourhood plan. The Working Committee consisted of equal representation from the Trefann Court Residents Association and the Trefann Neighbours and Tenants Association as well as representatives from city government and the Urban Renewal Committee. Over the next 19 months the Working Committee met to work out a neighbourhood plan that worked for each representative group, a feat that was finally achieved in January 1972 when they approved the Trefann Court Urban Renewal Scheme.

Trefann Court is often depicted as the first neighbourhood to successfully defend against a top-down urban renewal project in Toronto. If Regent Park marked the beginning of Toronto's experiment with urban renewal Trefann Court marked its conclusion.

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

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

Seven News