On July 6 the Regent Park Community Council was inaugurated to give the area a new impetus for change in the community.
"The purpose is to be a forum that creates a strong, uniform voice for the community," said Toronto Centre-Rosedale MPP George Smitherman.
The council’s five sub-committees will deal with safety, maintenance, redevelopment, youth, diversity and employment and education.
The committees will be fluid, meaning that members of the public don’t need to be on a committee to join a meeting.
"They are designed to be open and accessible because sometimes (committees) become cliquish," explained Smitherman.
"The biggest change will be residents being able to articulate for themselves what they want to see in their neighbourhood," said Smitherman, who contrasted that with the present state of "paternalism" in which government and social service agencies set the agenda.
While the idea for a community council has at least been on the back burner for some time, it was given an impetus in spring 2001 when there were six murders in the space of six weeks in Regent Park.
Smitherman acknowledged that a negative public perception surrounds the housing complex, but that is becoming out of date, especially with the Bengali population is growing larger.
And where drugs are concerned, every area in his riding has a problem with the street-level of sale of drugs.
There are various language and employment barriers being faced by Regent Park’s inhabitants. According to Smitherman, the median household income for families living there is just $14,000.
Another challenge is the built form of the complex that was constructed around 1950. Problems arise since many units not only lack air conditioning, and also lack sufficient ventilation and have very small windows.
As well, the layout created a lot of open spaces that creates a security challenge.
The community council’s president and CEO is Derek Ballantyne and its chairman is David Zimmer.