News / Toronto

Separate entrances: Are New York-style 'poor doors' here in Toronto already?

In 2018, some residents of the new Aqualina Bayside development on Toronto’s waterfront will enter through one door and other residents—who aren’t as wealthy—will use a different one.

If this was New York City, they’d call that entrance the “poor door.”

Some New Yorkers are outraged their city has approved a development on the Upper West Side that includes subsidized, affordable and market-rate units, because it will have segregated entrances and common areas, so, in effect, the wealthier won’t rub elbows with the poor who live in the building.

The city is planning to ban “poor doors”—or separate entrances based on income—after public pressure.

Alicia Glen, a deputy mayor in New York, told the New York Times that poor doors were not in keeping with the administration’s principles of equality. “Walking into a building should not be any different based on income status,” she said.

According to Toronto city staff, our city has already built two condo developments that include both market-rate condos and affordable housing units already built, and six more have been approved.

The largest is the Aquilina at Bayside development, south of Queens Quay, between Lower Sherbourne and Parliament. The massive development, to be finished in 2018, will include 225 market-rate condominiums and 80 affordable rental units for artists and their families on the west and north sides of the first to ninth floors in the same building.

However, affordable units are completely separate from the market-rate condo units, and accessed by a separate door.

Tridel's Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing Jim Ritchie, released this statement to Metro: "In Bayside’s Aquavista community, we are proud of the fact that we are bringing 80 artist’s residences to the city. We are also delivering 230 for sale condominium suites at market prices. We have worked together with the City of Toronto in designing and permitting the project for construction. Bayside is an upscale, waterfront development and all entrances will be exquisite, leading into a fabulous building in which all our residents will be proud to call home."

Sean Gadon, Toronto’s director of affordable housing, said the city is essentially purchasing that section of the building, finishing it separately and putting it under separate management, the non-profit group Artscape. One reason it’s separate is to keep the common costs down, he said.

“We are developing affordable housing, so there were cost considerations as to amenities and what the lobby would look like.

“The residents have their own amenities space that doesn’t include ... things that you would find in an upscale condominium. The affordable component is designed to be affordable,” he said.

There are also separate entrances at a development at Abell and Sudbury streets, in the King West area, where 68 units for artists were built with Westside Lofts condos above them—much like the building causing the controversy in NYC.

Gadon said he doesn’t believe any of the developments in Toronto where there is a separation of affordable from market-rates units—and thus separate entrances—qualify as having a “poor door,” because the separation exists because of separate management.

“It’s not as if, oh, those are the poor people we want to segregate them and give them their own entrance,” he said.

However, the Upper West Side building that sparked outrage in NYC is also planning to have separate management and, like in Toronto, will be considered a separate legal entity.

Artscape manages the existing artist condos and apartments in the Triangle Lofts and will manage the affordable artists units in the Aquilina at Bayside.

Artscape Executive Vice President Celia Smith said the segregation is an asset. “We build communities for artists,” she said. “We co-locate artists in one space. It was important for us to have our own entrance, our own space.”

Artscape will manage some units that are integrated into other buildings as well and prefers to keep them separate from the rest of the building.

Toronto has only recently begun mixing affordable housing with condos. One completed building, and five that are underway have their affordable units completely integrated into the condo buildings, accessed by the common entrance.

Pam McConnell, the ward councillor, supports the Bayside development and said separate entrances aren’t new in Toronto; affordable housing co-ops have co-existed with TCHC housing, in the same buildings, with separate doors, for decades.

In those cases, the wealth disparity is far less stark than at the controversial NYC luxury condo development.

“We don’t have any poor doors here,” said McConnell. “What we do have is different management companies and different management arrangements.”

Two buildings in her ward have co-ops and TCHC units, with separate entrances. At Front and Jarvis Streets, one huge building has four residential entrances: 109 Front Street East is for condos, but the building also includes a TCHC section and two co-ops, plus retails space, all with separate entrances, and separate management.

“There are different charges, different operating costs and different governance, so these are standalone properties within the same envelope,” she said.

McConnell said she believes separate entrances don’t have the same poor door stigma in Toronto, because New York’s history of segregating people by wealth is much greater.

“New York is New York ... they’re much more used to separating people in terms of economics,” said McConnell.

More on