Martine August

Scholars
2009
Study program:
Ph.D. Planning
Current affiliation:
University of Toronto
Localisation:

Martine researches gentrification, affordable shelter, and other implications of recent approaches to replace public housing in Toronto

Planning and the Projects: The Social Implications of Public Housing Redevelopment
 
The right to affordable housing is a core issue for human rights and social justice struggles in Canada. Plans to demolish public housing in downtown Toronto, and replace it with a 'socially mixed' community, threaten to erode the rights of marginalized people to the city, and contribute to gentrification and the loss of affordable housing. Martine August’s doctoral research investigates the social implications of this approach and questions the assumptions that underlie it.

Martine grew up in Winnipeg marveling at the city’s buildings and people, and exploring its hidden corners by bike and on foot. Early on, she became troubled by the contradictions presented by urban life, and turned to Urban Studies (at the University of Winnipeg) and then Urban Planning (completing her M.Sc.Pl. at the University of Toronto), to get a handle on how to pursue social change and address social injustice in the city. Martine is convinced that housing is a necessary element of any approach to address poverty, and is key to social justice struggles in the city.

Martine’s doctoral work focuses on the ‘socially-mixed’ approach to public housing redevelopment that has become popular in Western developed nations in the past two decades, and that has recently been taken up Canada, with the planned demolition and redevelopment of three communities in Toronto. While the mixed-use, mixed-income renewal of public housing communities has broad appeal, Martine argues that the negative impacts that tenants experience from this approach are often overlooked. “If positive tenant outcomes were prioritized,” she argues, “we might see a very different approach to ageing public housing stocks, focusing on maintenance and renovation, not demolition and poverty deconcentration.”

Martine’s thesis on ‘social mix’ and urban planning was selected as the best Master’s paper by the Association of Collegiate Schools in Planning, which represents all accredited Urban Planning schools in North America. More recently, her work on the history of modernism in Canadian planning and architecture received the University of Toronto Faculty of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Essay Prize.