Combating poverty in Winnipeg's Inner City, 1960s-1990s: thirty years of hard-earned lessons.
Poverty (Social aspects)
Poverty (Economic aspects)
Domestic economic assistance (Research)
Urban renewal (Research)
|Publication:||Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774|
|Issue:||Date: Summer, 2009 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 1|
|Topic:||Event Code: 290 Public affairs; 310 Science & research|
|Product:||Product Code: 9005400 Public Assistance-Total Govt; 9107150 Urban Renewal Programs NAICS Code: 923 Administration of Human Resource Programs; 92512 Administration of Urban Planning and Community and Rural Development|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: Canada Geographic Name: Winnipeg, Manitoba; Winnipeg, Manitoba Geographic Code: 1CANA Canada|
We examine three major anti-poverty initiatives in Winnipeg: Urban Renewal in the 1960s, the Neighbourhood Improvement Program (NIP) in the 1970s, and the Core Area Initiatives (CAIs) of the 1980s. Each was limited by some combination of: an over-emphasis on investment in bricks and mortar; a top-down approach that did not promote citizen participation; an under-estimation of the scale and complexity of inner-city poverty; and spatial and temporal fragmentation. Nevertheless, these initiatives funded a large number of community-based organizations that now operate in Winnipeg's inner city, and that are highly effective. These CBOs comprise an "infrastructure" that, with the knowledge gained from an analysis of the limitations of Urban Renewal, NIP and the CAIs, can be the basis of an effective long-term anti-poverty strategy.
Keywords: poverty, inner city, Winnipeg urban renewal, Neighbourhood Improvement Program, Core Area Initiative
Nous examinons trois principales initiatives de lutte contre la pauvrete a Winnipeg: la renovation urbaine dans les annees 1960, 'Neighbourhood Improvement Program (NIP)' dans les annees 1970, et 'Core Area Initiatives' (CAIs) des annees 1980. Chacun a ete limitee par une combinaison de: un accent trop marque sur l'investissement dans les briques et le mortier; une approche top-down qui ne favorise pas la participation des citoyens; une sous-estimation de l'ampleur et la complexite de la pauvrete au centre-ville et fragmentation spatiale et temporelle. Neanmoins, ces initiatives a finance un grand nombre d'organisations communautaires qui fonctionnent maintenant dans la ville de Winnipeg, et qui sont tres efficaces. Ces organisations communautaires constituent une <
Mats cles: pauvrete, du centre-ville, Winnipeg renovation urbaine, amelioration des du programmes quartiers ('Neighbourhood Improvement Program'), et 'Core Area Initiatives.'
In the 1960s, after more than half a century of deep and persistent poverty in Winnipeg, steps began to be taken to address the problem. Urban Renewal in the 1960s, the Neighbourhood Improvement Program in the 1970s and the Core Area Initiatives in the 1980s were aimed, at least in part, at improving conditions in those areas of Winnipeg where physical deterioration had set in and low-income people had concentrated. In this paper we critically examine these three initiatives with a view to better understanding how to solve the complex problems of urban poverty.
We briefly describe pre-World War Two poverty in Winnipeg, and then outline the dramatic socio-economic forces of the post-war period that significantly changed the character of, but did not at all eliminate or even reduce the incidence of, poverty in Winnipeg.
We distinguish between government-led initiatives to revitalize Winnipeg's declining Central Business District (CBD)--often confusingly called the "core area"--and anti-poverty efforts. Many more dollars have been directed at the physical reconstruction of Winnipeg's CBD than at the alleviation of poverty in its residential inner city.
Poverty in Winnipeg's inner city has persisted and perhaps worsened despite Urban Renewal, NIP and the CMs. It might be concluded, therefore, that these initiatives have failed.
But it is our contention that, failures or not, these programs have funded a 30 year learning process that has left us with a deeper understanding of how inner-city poverty can best be combated and overcome. These programs, especially the CMs, have also funded the creation of a large number of small but highly innovative and effective community-based organizations that now operate in Winnipeg's inner city, and that are the primary sources of the learning that has occurred. These CBOs now comprise an "infrastructure" that, with the knowledge gained from an analysis of the limitations of Urban Renewal, NIP and the CAIs, can be the basis of a long-term anti-poverty strategy that can be effective in Winnipeg's inner city.
The history of urban poverty, and of ways of understanding and responding to it, is well developed in the USA (O'Connor 2001; Katz 1989), and somewhat less so in Canada where the focus is more on the history of social policy (Finkel 2006). Similarly, the analysis of place-based anti-poverty initiatives is well-developed in the USA (Dreier et al 2005; yon Hoffman 2003) and in Great Britain (Lupton & Power 2005; Lupton 2003), and somewhat less so in Canada (Silver 2006a; Bradford 2005). This paper attempts to add to the understanding of place-based antipoverty initiatives through an analysis of three important Canadian anti-poverty initiatives as they were implemented in Winnipeg from the 1960s to the 1990s.
An important limitation of this paper is the absence, given space constraints, of discussion of a wide variety of governance issues--the financing and administrative arrangements of complex tri-level programs, and the relations between governments and community-based organizations, for example--with respect to the anti-poverty initiatives we examine.
Pre-War Poverty; Post-War Change
Winnipeg is home to deep and persistent, century-long poverty. This poverty has always had a spatial character, associated historically and today with the North End and broader inner city. It has always had an ethnic or racial character: a high proportion of the poor in the historic North End were recent immigrants from Eastern Europe; a high proportion of the poor in today's North End and broader inner city are Aboriginal people. In both cases they have often been looked down upon, even despised and reviled, and have often been blamed for their own circumstances, as if their poverty were the consequence of personal failings rather than broader structural factors and social forces. Winnipeg has long been and continues to be a segregated city, home to spatially concentrated racialized poverty (Silver f/c; Hiebert 1991).
In the post-Second World War period several powerful social forces--suburbanization, de-industrialization, large in-migration of Aboriginal people--brought significant change to the North End and inner city more generally. Poverty persisted, and in some respects worsened, as shown in Table One, and its character changed.
As suburbanization and de-industrialization were hollowing out the inner city, starting in the 1960s, Aboriginal people began arriving in Winnipeg from rural and northern communities (Table Two).
Most new arrivals moved into the North End and broader inner city where housing prices were low. Many inner-city neighbourhoods became home to relatively high concentrations of Aboriginal people, creating distinct ethnic areas much as Eastern European immigrants had done early in the century. In 1971, for instance, only one census tract in Winnipeg had more than 10 percent Aboriginal residents; by the end of the 1990s Winnipeg had ten census tracts with at least 30 percent Aboriginal residents. These neighbourhoods were overwhelmingly concentrated in the inner city (Peters 2008). Many Aboriginal newcomers were unable to find employment that could support a family, partly because of the changing character of the labour market and partly because of the wall of racism they encountered upon arrival in the city (Silver 2006b).
Consequently rates of poverty among Winnipeg's Aboriginal population were particularly high. In 1996, 64.7 percent of Aboriginal households in Winnipeg, and 80.3 percent in the inner city, had incomes below the poverty line (Lezubski, Silver and Black 2000, 39).
The Spatial Spread of the Inner City
In the 1950s, neighbourhood studies identified the fifteen inner-city areas most in need of revitalization (City of Winnipeg 1960). Each was clustered around the CPR tracks close to Main St. The four least deteriorated neighbourhoods were in the city's West End--in Spence and Central Park. A 1948 survey called the older railway neighbourhoods north of Spence "slums"; Spence itself was a "desirable" but "slowly deteriorating" neighbourhood (City of Winnipeg 1948).
But the inner city spread spatially in the post-war years, creeping well south of the tracks and into the West End areas deemed least deteriorated in the 1940s and 1950s. By the 1980s city planning for declining residential areas had expanded to cover much of central Winnipeg. The Core Area Initiative, launched in 1981, reached far south of the original inner-city railway neighbourhoods.
In the mid-late 1990s three inner-city Neighbourhood Renewal Corporations were established. Two of them, the West Broadway Development Corporation and the Spence Neighbourhood Association, were based in the city's West End, far removed from the historic concentration of poverty in Winnipeg's North End, reflecting the dramatic spatial growth of the inner city in the post-war period.
The Distinction between Attempts at Downtown Revitalization, and Inner-City Anti-Poverty Efforts
Much of what has passed for anti-poverty efforts in post-war Winnipeg has been intended not to address poverty, but to revitalize Winnipeg's declining Central Business District. A clear distinction should be drawn between commercial revitalization in the CBD, and efforts to combat poverty.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Concerns about the city's eroding downtown became a constant refrain in the 1950s and beyond (Walker 1979, 11-15). Architect Peter Dobush, one of the heads of a 1960 Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Committee of Inquiry into suburbanization, warned Winnipeg "that the blight in the city's centre was the price of suburban sprawl and that 'there appears to be no attempt to rehabilitate the core of the city'" (Burley 2006, 42-43). By "the core of the city" he meant the downtown, the CBD. The post-war period has seen repeated attempts to rebuild and revitalize Winnipeg's CBD.
These efforts to reverse the deterioration of Winnipeg's 'core' have involved creating amenities that would attract middle class people--to shop, to be entertained, perhaps even to live. This strategy continues. Hackworth (2007) describes attempts by cities around the world to create vibrant downtowns characterized by amenities that appeal to young, mobile, well-educated knowledge workers. These include high-class waterfront restaurants with a view, upscale boutiques and shops, and a wide range of entertainment and sporting facilities. Winnipeg has long pursued a similar strategy (Black and Silver 1997). When successful, such developments can improve the quality of urban life.
But they do not constitute an anti-poverty strategy. They produce no benefits for the poor. This 'environmental determinism'--the belief that an improvement in physical surroundings can solve the problems of poverty--has been tenacious in Winnipeg.
Starting in the 1960s, smaller but still significant amounts have been invested in place-based anti-poverty strategies explicitly intended to improve the lives of low-income people in Winnipeg's now vast inner city.
We will describe three such initiatives: Urban Renewal in the 1960s, the Neighbourhood Improvement Program in the 1970s, and the Core Area Initiative I and II in the 1980s. Why did the expenditures on these strategies not solve Winnipeg's century-long problem of deep and persistent poverty? To what extent were they focused on downtown revitalization as opposed to inner-city poverty alleviation? And what can be learned from what is now a half-century in combating poverty in inner-city Winnipeg?
Urban Renewal was a federal cost-shared program that involved bulldozing neighbourhoods designated by planners as 'slums', and replacing them with large public housing projects.
Urban Renewal came to Winnipeg in the early 1960s, leading to the construction in the North End of the 168-unit Gilbert Park and the 314-unit Lord Selkirk Park housing developments. It ended in 1969 with the release of the Task Force on Housing and Urban Development headed by Paul Hellyer, federal Minister responsible for housing, that concluded that "the big housing projects ... have become ghettoes of the poor" (Hellyer 1969, 53-54).
Winnipeg's response to federal Urban Renewal dollars was to target the Salter-Jarvis area immediately north of the railway tracks, parts of which were especially rundown. The juxtaposition of small, often temporary "pioneer" housing with large, smoke-spewing industry presented a picture-perfect image of the typical post-war "slum" to Urban Renewal planners. Parts of Salter-Jarvis, while low-income, still constituted a healthy neighbourhood; as one old-timer put it, it was "a good area to be poor in" (Yauk 1973, 46). But Urban Renewal meant bulldozing, and the entire neighbourhood was bulldozed.
Urban Renewal's focus on building new, low-income rental housing was a response to decades of complaints about the severe shortage of such housing, across Canada and in Winnipeg. "A housing shortage of unprecedented scale was reported in the 1941 housing survey" the Winnipeg Tribune reported in 1942 (WT Jan. 28, 1942). Mayor John Queen added: "Housing conditions are so bad in our city that we cannot neglect the situation any longer. There is a constant violation of health bylaws but we cannot put the people out: they have nowhere to go" (WT, Jan. 28, 1942).
A 1947 fact-finding Board reported to City Council that: "the provision of low-rental shelter is a chronic, country-wide problem and its solution can be achieved only on a national basis.... The municipalities, by and large, have not sufficient financial strength to meet the responsibility alone" (WT, July 4, 1947).
It was the availability of federal dollars via Urban Renewal that enabled the construction of Gilbert Park and Lord Selkirk Park, making evident the importance of a strong federal role in urban anti-poverty efforts, and in financing low-income rental housing. However, a close analysis of Urban Renewal in Winnipeg in the 1960s reveals its many limitations as an anti-poverty strategy.
Urban Renewal and Environmental Determinism
The focus of Urban Renewal was bricks and mortar. People moved in, but no social supports were provided. The assumption was that new housing alone would solve poverty problems. Leonard Marsh, an early architect of Canada's social security system, said in Winnipeg in 1962, speaking about Lord Selkirk Park, that: "When you rebuild you must rebuild the neighbourhood and not just set up a housing project. It simply isn't enough to get rid of wretched houses. This mistake has been made again and again in Great Britain and to a certain extent, Toronto" (WT, June 7, 1962). Nevertheless, Urban Renewal focused resolutely on the elimination of unsightly "slum" housing and its replacement with modernist housing complexes. Policy makers believed in the power of the physical environment to transform social conditions. This was environmental determinism.
Residents were at first happy (Yauk 1973, 135). But the initial social composition of the public housing projects--mostly low-income working people, with a limited proportion of tenants on social assistance--changed as they became housing of last resort. With the continued shortage of low-income rental housing, those in trouble were directed to Gilbert Park and Lord Selkirk Park, creating in those developments a high concentration of poverty with few social supports--a recipe for problems.
The relocation of people from Salter-Jarvis was also deeply flawed. Relatively few of those forced to move when Salter-Jarvis was bulldozed ended up in Gilbert Park or Lord Selkirk Park; those many who were pushed into private rental housing elsewhere in the North End faced stigmatization and stereotyping. The city, despite the 500 units of new public housing, ended up with fewer low-income rental units than before the bulldozing associated with Urban Renewal (Yank 1973).
Urban Renewal and Citizen Participation
There was no participation whatever by low-income residents in Urban Renewal. The entire project was conceptualized, designed and implemented by middleclass professionals with personal knowledge neither of the community nor of poverty. They saw "blight," "deterioration and decay," a "slum," where North Enders saw "a good area to be poor in" (Yauk 1973, 52 & 46). Outside professionals assumed, from their removed vantage points, that there was nothing worth saving in the Salter-Jarvis 'slum', and that residents who lived there had nothing of value to contribute.
Citizens' Advisory Committees were established, but consisted only of "experts," "prominent businessmen" and members of "professional groups" thought to possess "influence" (Gerson 1957, 6).
Planners recognized the importance of community leaders who could "take social action" and "support community projects," but Urban Renewal took no steps to encourage such leadership (Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg Planning Division 1967 [hereafter Metro Winnipeg 1967], A-31). Urban Renewal failed to build capacity in the inner city, and by treating the urban poor as helpless and incapable of making decisions about their own fate, reinforced the powerlessness so prevalent in the lives of the urban poor.
Urban Renewal and the Under-estimation of Scale and Complexity
Urban Renewal under-estimated the scale and complexity of poverty in Winnipeg. Environmental determinism--the belief that new buildings or better design will solve problems of poverty--is now known to be simplistic. Improved housing is a necessary but not sufficient condition for addressing poverty.
This had previously been known to City officials. A 1957 report on inner-city poverty identified a multiplicity of interacting forces affecting inner-city residents: low-incomes, poor-quality housing, higher than average rates of ill-health, lack of recreational opportunities, overcrowding, infant mortality, juvenile delinquency and over-representation in child and family service caseloads (Gerson 1957, 23-24). "The high concentration, at the centre of the city, of families with social problems intensifies such problems and makes their solution more difficult," Gerson (1957, 54) added, acknowledging the amplificatory effects of the spatial concentration of poverty.
By 1967 city planners acknowledged the necessity of going beyond the physical environment: "It is increasingly recognized by leading authorities in the United States that the problems of cities begin with people," the planners wrote, then resolving that "social planning must be placed first and foremost" in any future inner-city planning initiative (City of Winnipeg 1967).
Urban Renewal failed also to address the magnitude of the problem. In 1967 Winnipeg needed an estimated 45,000 additional units of low-income housing over the next 30 years (Metro Winnipeg 1967). Urban Renewal produced approximately 500 such units. To meet the estimated need would have required about 90 developments the size of Lord Selkirk Park and Gilbert Park combined.
Urban Renewal and Spatial and Temporal Fragmentation
Urban Renewal was spatially and temporally fragmented: spatially because only one inner-city neighbourhood--Lord Selkirk Park was part of the plan, while the rest of the inner city was ignored; temporally because Urban Renewal started in Winnipeg in 1961--a full two decades after "a housing shortage of unprecedented scale was reported in the 1941 housing survey" (WT Jan. 28, 1942)--and was terminated in 1969. At that time, Winnipeg had another seven public housing projects on the drawing boards (Metro Winnipeg 1967). Notwithstanding the flaws of large, 1960s-style public housing projects, had these seven gone ahead the city's always severe shortage of low-income rental housing would have been much relieved.
Urban Renewal is now widely regarded as a failure. Simply constructing new housing cannot solve poverty. Yet the flawed conclusion that it is public housing per se that is the problem has led, with bitter irony, to another round of bulldozing. Throughout North America in recent years public housing has been bulldozed, and replaced with market units and smaller numbers of subsidized rental units (Bennett, Smith and Wright 2006). The urban spaces where this has occurred look better; the already severe shortage of low-income rental housing has worsened.
The Neighbourhood Improvement Program
The Neighbourhood Improvement Program (NIP) arose from a 1973 amendment to the National Housing Act authorizing the federal government to contribute financially to municipalities "for the purpose of improving the amenities of neighbourhoods and the housing and living conditions of the residents" (Lyon and Newman 1986, 7). The focus was on rehabilitating not bulldozing, and NIP required that residents "be involved in the planning and implementation of project activities" (CMHC 1981, 1). In Winnipeg, NIP projects were implemented in six neighbourhoods--North Point Douglas, North St. Boniface, Centennial, Brooklands, William Whyte and West Alexander. Although intended to be different from Urban Renewal, NIP fell short of its more social and participatory goals.
NIP and Environmental Determinism
Lyon and Newman (1986, 9) concluded that "NIP could be interpreted essentially as a physical improvement program." What social planning did occur--the construction of daycares, community centres, and playgrounds, for instance--was in fact physical planning, visible additions to the built environment.
Further, these bricks and mortar expenditures were disproportionately on facilities that were municipal responsibilities. Lyon and Newman (1986, 55) refer to NIP's "excessive emphasis on municipal works expenditures": the City used the program as a "funding substitution mechanism," spending NIP funds on routine municipal responsibilities like street repairs, sewers and street lights. Given the emphasis on bricks and mortar, Lyon and Newman (1986, 9) concluded that "NIP continued in the urban renewal mode" of environmental determinism.
NIP and Citizen Participation
One of NIP's six program objectives was to: "enable local residents to have more control and choice over the future of their communities" (Lyon and Newman 1986, 4). Municipalities wishing to designate a neighbourhood under NIP had to first "obtain the participation of the residents of designated neighbourhoods in planning and carrying out projects"; NIP's goal was to "improve the neighbourhoods in a manner which meets the aspirations of neighbourhood residents and the community at large" (Lyon and Newman 1986, 7-8).
NIP made minor improvements in citizen participation: program offices were established in each of the two initially targeted neighbourhoods; office staff conducted door-to-door surveys seeking residents' concerns and values. A committee of 20-30 residents was formed in each neighbourhood (CMHC 1981, 7-9).
Nevertheless, citizen participation was thwarted. NIP planners made most decisions with little input from residents' committees (Lyon and Newman 1986, 53). Feelings of powerlessness and frustration were common (CMHC 1981, 103-104). NIP did not give residents meaningful control of their neighbourhoods, nor did it foster community leadership (Lyon and Newman 1986, 50). Some of the grassroots potential NIP did nurture in Winnipeg's inner city could not be sustained upon NIP's dissolution:
Since NIP's departure from the neighbourhoods many of the residents have attempted to have the problems looked after. But they have had little success. Several of the North Point Douglas residents formed a committee following the departure of NIP but because NIP had withdrawn from the area they were unable to accomplish a great deal. This is because it was difficult for the committee to present a project at City Hall without the aid of a lawyer or NIP staff (CMHC 1981, 105).
While the importance of resident participation was recognized in NIP, the challenges associated with promoting and sustaining such involvement--in particular the need for an ongoing staff commitment to mobilize residents--were not yet fully appreciated.
NIP and the Under-Estimation of Magnitude and Complexity
Winnipeg's six NIP neighbourhoods received just under $1 million per neighbourhood per year (Lyon and Newman 1986, 17). A single Urban Renewal housing project could cost as much as $8 million plus annual costs for management and maintainence (MetroWinnipeg 1967, B31-32).
Further, NIP was a brief, fixed-term project. Intended to run for only five years in any neighbourhood, NIP "reflected a hope that a significant but short-term infusion of funds in selected neighbourhoods would reverse conditions such that established government programs and market forces would be sufficient to ensure that no further decline would occur" (Lyon and Newman 1986, 8). This hope for a quick fix now appears naive.
Program evaluators concluded that "NIP alone was ... insufficient in scale and scope to reverse the deterioration of older neighbourhoods, and ... the program essentially was a single-dimensional approach to what were multi-dimensional problems" (Lyon and Newman 1986, 54). Reflecting on the history of inner-city planning programs up until 1978, the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg (1978, 9) lamented that "there seems to be few indications where policy-makers and administrators of programs and services attempt to comprehend the magnitude and compounded nature of conditions in the core."
NIP and Spatial and Temporal Fragmentation
After completion of Lord Selkirk Park in 1967, Winnipeg waited seven years, until 1974, one year after NIP was launched, for the federal government to provide funds for further revitalization. There followed a three year gap between NIP's demise in 1978, and the birth of the CM in 1981. Revitalization planning was disjointed; successive programs failed to build upon preceding programs. This temporal fragmentation has consistently left inner-city neighbourhoods paralyzed with uncertainty about how, or if, existing programs will be carried into the future (Silver 2002), thus preventing long-term planning (Lyon and Newman 1986).
NIP also represented a failure to plan consistently over space. Neighbourhoods funded by Urban Renewal were bypassed by NIP. Lord Selkirk Park, although still one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Winnipeg, received no NIP funding. Money went to nearby neighbourhoods that Urban Renewal had failed to invest in, such as North Point Douglas.
The neighbourhood-focus created a patchwork quilt of inner-city revitalization, consistent with spatial and temporal fragmentation. Governments target a few neighbourhoods at a time, for a few years at a time, and then move on. This milk-run approach--stopping briefly in one neighbourhood, then moving on to another--reflects a failure to grasp the need for consistent investment over long periods if the complex poverty of Winnipeg's inner city is to be combated successfully.
This fragmentation was accentuated by the fact that much funding relied on individual proposals from residents, not a coherent, coordinated plan of action (SPC 1978, 17). The absence of an overall strategy continues to plague inner-city revitalization efforts.
The result was an ad-hoc, non-strategic array of initiatives and programs that bore little relation to one another, even as the problems they sought to address were increasingly coming to be understood to be deeply interrelated.
The Inner City Begins to Organize
By the late 1970s, as NIP was ending, Winnipeg inner-city organizations began a concerted push for greater social planning, and greater participation by inner-city residents and community-based organizations (CBOs).
In the 1970s, many CBOs had begun to emerge as a grassroots response to continued inner city decline (SPC 1978, 21). These groups, including Aboriginal organizations such as the Indian-Metis Friendship Centre, felt left out of inner-city planning and social service delivery as practiced under Urban Renewal and NIE In 1978, the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg (1978, 3), expressing the views of these CBOs, called for "maximum feasible participation by groups and individuals affected" by revitalization planning.
During that same decade the inner city's Aboriginal population grew rapidly, changing the face of the inner city. The top-down approach of Urban Renewal and NIP were seen by many urban Aboriginal people as an extension of the practices of colonization. This intensified grassroots pressures to have inner-city residents, and the CBOs they created, deliver services to the inner city, and to have inner-city residents themselves, including Aboriginal people, benefit from the employment thereby created. The movement towards greater citizen participation in inner-city planning was, by the 1970s, more and more part of a larger movement towards urban Aboriginal self-determination (Silver 2006a: Chapter 5). In this way, it is likely that the growing Aboriginal presence in the inner city strengthened both the criticism of top-down revitalization plans and the push towards greater resident involvement.
Inner-city residents' demands to be directly involved in planning processes contributed significantly to the emergence of the next major anti-poverty initiative in Winnipeg, the Core Area Initiative.
The Core Area Initiative I and II
The first Core Area Initiative was signed in September, 1981, three years after the end of NIE Unlike Urban Renewal and NIP, the CAI was not a national program but was unique to Winnipeg. It was comprehensive, calling for investments in bricks and mortar and in people; its target area was not a small number of selected neighbourhoods but a wide swath of what had become inner-city Winnipeg, plus the downtown. The $96 million, 1981-1986 CAI was renewed in the form of the CAI II, a $100 million program from 1986-1991, that was extended for an additional year to 1992, and this was followed after a four-year hiatus by the Winnipeg Development Agreement (1996-2001), and the Winnipeg Partnership Agreement (2003-2008). Each of these was a tri-level initiative, funded and driven by all three levels of government.
The origins of the CAI were in a struggle over a City proposal to construct a freeway and bridge over the CPR rail yards--the Sherbrook-McGregor Overpass--a project that would require the demolition of housing in an inner-city neighbourhood (Selinger 1985). Resistance from residents and inner-city advocates was strong, and a counter-proposal was made: relocate the rail yards, and in so doing, remove a key source of blight, danger, and spatial division in Winnipeg's inner city, replacing it with much-needed housing and community facilities (Urban Futures Group [hereafter UFG] 1990, 26). The city retracted its planned overpass in the face of this public opposition (Selinger 1985), but the community's counter-proposal was not taken up, the federal government citing prohibitive costs and "political barriers" as impediments to rail relocation. Federal Minister of Immigration and Transportation, Lloyd Axworthy, offered an alternative plan (Decter and Kowall 1990, 4)--a tripartite inner-city initiative to address the broader concerns of the inner-city, to which the federal government would contribute $32 million if the other two levels of government did likewise. Thus emerged the $96 million CAI I in 1981.
The origins of the CAI were in the demands of a mobilized inner-city community. As Axworthy later described it:
In the summer of 1980, a crowd of inner city residents packed Rossbrook House to demand of representatives of the three levels of government that some action be taken to arrest the serious deterioration of the core area of Winnipeg.... Out of this Rossbrook town hall meeting, the CAI was born (Winnipeg Free Press, July 12, 1991. For a fuller description see Selinger 1985).
By the late 1970s a more engaged inner-city community had emerged. Would the CM respond adequately to their demands?
The CAI was heralded as a new approach to inner-city planning--it was to be the comprehensive approach we now know is necessary. The balance between planning for people, and for buildings, was asserted in the design phase. The CAI funded a multiplicity of social services and employment and training programs, to provide opportunities for inner-city residents (Decter and Kowall 1990, 3). It was seen as "...an experiment in urban policy-making which was arguably the most ambitious and comprehensive ever undertaken in North America" (Kiernan 1987, 25).
CAI can be seen in several important ways as an improvement upon Urban Renewal and NIP. Learning was occurring, although it is now clear that it was coming much more from the increasingly organized inner-city community than from governments. But despite some important improvements, CAI I and II had many limitations, most similar to those of Urban Renewal and NIP.
The CAI, Bricks and Mortar and the Central Business District
CAI still bore the stamp of what looked like environmental determinism. In the case of the CAI, however, the explanation for the over-emphasis on bricks and mortar and the CBD may have had less to do with a philosophical belief in environmental determinism, and more to do with corporate influence. Two privately-owned consumer complexes were created: a downtown mall, Portage Place, owned by Cadillac-Fairview; and a festival marketplace--The Forks--constructed atop abandoned railyards at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. These two downtown projects received $2 million in CAI I: more than twice the largest social sub-stream, the "employment and affirmative action" program, at $950,000; more than three times what CAII spent on inner-city housing (UFG 1990, 7).
Some of the approximately $500,000 allocated to the "Neighbourhood Main Streets and Small Business Support Services" program was used to construct decorated sidewalks and road medians for the city's 'skid row', North Main Street. This funding was included in the CAI's social spending stream.
As in NIP, the City redirected significant sums of CAI money to municipal infrastructure (Wieselman 2001, 56). Decter and Kowall (1990, 6 & 27) reported that the municipal government had "difficulty in overcoming its narrow, traditional concept of its legitimate role and mandate," insisting that social, employment, or anti-poverty planning was "irrelevant to the municipal mandate."
CAI II largely failed to reverse the downtown-focused, bricks and mortar trend (Decter and Kowall 1990, 24). Among the many new commercially-targeted projects funded by CAI II were: a "promotional package" to improve the public image of the CBD; financial assistance to private developers to create parking lots in the CBD; and additional funding for Portage Place, bringing the total public contribution to $20 million--the primary beneficiaries of which were Cadillac-Fairview (Decter and Kowall 1990, 28-30). The Forks also received another $2 million from the CAI II, while the city's mostly commercial Exchange district received $900,000, in addition to the $460,000 from the first CAI (Decter and Kowall 1990, 19).
The CAI was in large part another CBD re-building effort. It "reflected a largely one-sided commercial or corporate vision of what Winnipeg should be" (Layne 2000, 261). Decter and Kowall (1990, 26) found that both CAI I and II had a de bilitating "political preoccupation with large physical projects," which "(did) little to address poverty and unemployment in the inner city." They concluded that:
major physical projects such as North Portage are vulnerable to the criticism that while they relocate economic activities from suburban areas to the downtown, they do little to address poverty and unemployment in the inner city. Only carefully targeted employment and training programs are able to directly improve people's income and quality of life. The political preoccupation with large physical projects is a negative factor to be resisted in regional development in all areas including cities (Decter and Kowall 1990, 46).
In addition, "most" CAI housing construction and renovation took place outside the inner city; fewer than one-third of non-construction projects honoured the CAI's affirmative action hiring policies for inner-city residents; and "fewer than 50 percent of the jobs created in the cost-shared programs went to core area residents" (Decter and Kowall 1990, 38, 42 & 32). More CAI dollars were allocated to the Forks alone, than to all the housing programs of CAI I and II together (Layne 2000, 271).
CAI and Citizen Participation
A lack of citizen participation also characterized the CAI. Although a product of inner-city mobilization against the Sherbrook-McGregor overpass, the CAI did little to build upon this. The planning and design phases were the products of the political priorities of the three levels of government aided by various experts, academics, and regional development professionals (Decter and Kowall 1990, 2122). The same was the case for implementation: "direct community participation in the day-to-day functioning of the initiative [CAI] was minimal or nonexistent" (Stewart 1993, 159); "community input was sought on an after-the-fact basis" (Layne 2000, 266). Advisory committees established to combat this perception "were perceived to have inadequate inner city/Aboriginal representation and to be insufficiently sensitive to inner city needs" (UFG 1990, 10).
Many inner-city residents felt the CAI had not involved enough community participation in the initial needs-assessment stage, that many CAI activities did not reflect the actual needs of inner-city residents, that corporate economic development far-outweighed community economic development, and that the knowledge and capacity of inner-city residents were generally ignored (UFG 1990, 17-24). Again, the issue of Aboriginal self-determination arose, as CAI programs serving inner-city Aboriginal people were too often designed and delivered in such a way as to foster dependency and to miss opportunities for Aboriginal capacity building and empowerment (UFG 1990, 25).
CAI and the Underestimation of Magnitude and Complexity
The CM was the largest, most comprehensive and integrated urban planning initiative in Canadian history (Decter and Kowall 1990, 9). However, much of the $196 million of the first two CAIs did not go to anti-poverty investments at all. The sum invested in the residential inner city over the ten-year period of both CAI's came to approximately $8 million per year, or about $2.5 million more than the $5.6 million NIP spent per year--far from the massive new injection the CM may appear at first glance to have been. As Layne (2000, 270) has observed: "today's cost of a single arena or bridge would roughly equal the CAI's five-year budget." CAI I was evaluated as "a significant underestimation of the effort required to attain the original objectives" (Decter and Kowall 1990, 17); CAI II essentially repeated the first, while increasing the budget from $96 million to $100 million. The most telling criticisms come from inner-city residents and CBOs.
The 1990 Community Inquiry into Inner-City Revitalization
As the CM II was coming to an end, inner-city agencies organized a Community Inquiry into Inner-City Revitalization in early 1990. A ten-member panel drawn largely from the inner city and chaired by Professor Tom Carter heard 96 presentations at eight public meetings, most from inner-city organizations and residents. That such an Inquiry was organized, and generated so many presentations and a strong final report, is testimony to the fact that, despite their many weaknesses, previous inner-city revitalization efforts and especially NIP and CAI had supported the emergence of many small and effective CBOs that, in their totality, had a deep understanding of inner-city life. This--the emergence of what has been described as an "infrastructure" of CBOs (Silver 2008)--is in our view the most significant anti-poverty achievement of the inner-city revitalization efforts of the 1970s and 1980s.
The Community Inquiry was organized to pressure governments to create a third CM, and to express their opinions about the kinds of changes needed to make it more effective. Their criticisms of CM I and II can be organized under four headings.
First, the Community Inquiry was told repeatedly that the CAI was a top-down approach that did not make sufficient use of the many skills present in the inner city. Carter (UFG 1990, 33) concluded that:
Second, many presentations to the Community Inquiry decried the CAI focus on bricks and mortar, especially in the CBD. Northwest Child and Family Services Agency was typical:
Third, not enough financial support and training was offered to CBOs, leading to insufficient administrative support: "Executive Directors often spend tremendous time and energy completing necessary budgets and forms rather than on service delivery and staff issues" (Inter-Agency Group Coordinator's Presentation to Urban Futures Group Community Inquiry, June 6, 1990, 150). The result was that
community energy is being diverted from program development and service delivery in order to patch together budgets from diverse, short term funding sources (Core Area Community Inquiry, Summary of Public Meeting, April 5, 1990).
CAI funding contributed to the establishment and/or support of many CBOs, but their threadbare funding reduced their effectiveness.
The scattergun approach to inner-city revitalization, the lack of any coherent plan or strategy, was a fourth theme. CAI funded many hundreds of separate projects that were an ad-hoc and largely disconnected mixture of different means to the few, broad established ends. There was a lack of vision and focus. "The 'planning' that has been occurring in Winnipeg's inner city," the Community Inquiry concluded, "appears to be area- or sector-specific, not comprehensive"; "many of the social and economic problems which led to the first CAI remain; ... and there is no overall plan and direction for inner-city renewal among the three levels of government" (UFG 1990, 156; see also Layne 2000).
What the CAI I and II needed was not just a loose amalgam of discrete and disconnected projects, but a strategy to effect inner-city transformation. Toward the end of CAI II, after 30 years of on-again, off-again inner-city plans, Axworthy told the Winnipeg Free Press (July 12, 1991) that: "There is a continuing and growing need to have an inner-city development agenda."
The Emergence of an Infrastructure of CBOs and Grassroots Inner-City Leaders
What the CAI's diverse, ad-hoc, project-based approach did do, however, was to nurture an infrastructure of innovative inner-city CBOs with strong grassroots leadership that began to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s. Building on the citizen participation demands expressed by the Social Planning Council in 1978, and the fight against the Sherbrook-McGregor Overpass, the CM provided a new, important source of funding for inner-city residents to take on inner-city challenges:
As welfare state social services were being significantly cut back, this network of CBOs and grassroots leaders emerged as a creative, empowering source of inner-city revitalization. They continued to grow, learn and innovate in the years after 1990. A study commissioned by the Urban Futures Group reached conclusions strikingly similar to those of the 1990 Community Inquiry. Based on interviews with representatives of 100 mostly inner-city organizations, the study concluded that poverty was persistent and deep, and continued to cause great human and economic damage, yet in some respects, important gains were being made (Silver 2002).
What does one make of this contradictory evidence? We believe that a reasonable interpretation is as follows: things are getting better, visibly better, in those parts of the inner city where community organizations emerge from the bottom up, and are genuinely rooted in the community, and where those CBOs receive a reasonable level of funding. According to those closest to the action in the inner city, this is a formula that works (Silver 2002, 12).
Winnipeg's inner city has become home to what is likely the most creative and effective array of Aboriginal CBOs and grassroots leaders in the country (Silver 2006: Chapter 5). These CBOs have been engaged collectively in a process of learning by doing--their creativity has been an expression of the dramatic learning process they were engaged in.
They include, among many other examples, neighbourhood renewal corporations like the Spence Neighbourhood Association and the West Broadway Development Corporation (Silver et al 2009); family and youth centres like Andrews Street Family Centre and Rossbrook House; women's centres like North Point Douglas Women's Centre and West Central Women's Resource Centre; and a wide range of highly effective Aboriginal organizations, like the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad, Native Women's Transition Centre, Urban Circle Training Centre and Ka Ni Kanichihk, to name just a few.
A major problem, however, continued to be the absence of adequate funding. More than 80 percent of respondents identified shortage of funding, and especially of core as opposed to project-based funding, as a major problem. The excessive reliance upon project funding drained the time and energy of skilled leaders of the CBOs--and continues to do so (Silver et al 2009)--by placing them "in the hamster wheel of grant proposals, reports and evaluations," as an inner-city activist described it.
The three urban development agreements--Urban Renewal, NIP and the CAIs--had failed in many important ways, as evidenced by the persistence in Winnipeg's inner city of a deep and damaging poverty. But they had also given birth, gradually and perhaps not wholly intentionally, to an important part of the means by which inner-city poverty could be overcome.
If we are to combat poverty successfully in Winnipeg's inner city, it is important to learn from, and not repeat the mistakes of, the anti-poverty strategies of the past. What are the lessons?
First, far too much of the money described as anti-poverty money has been directed at the commercial revitalization of Winnipeg's downtown--its CBD. Many of these have been good investments for the city. But they have had nothing to do with combating poverty. As a result the money allocated to combating poverty has been less than it appeared and far less than needed. Future anti-poverty initiatives should not be required to divert much-needed anti-poverty funds to downtown revitalization.
Second, inner-city poverty is deeply rooted and complex. There are no quick-fixes. Solutions require investment on a large scale, made patiently and consistently year after year, over long periods of time--measured in decades, not years. The investments flowing from the three major anti-poverty strategies described in this paper have not met these standards of scale, patience and consistency, and duration, and have instead been plagued by spatial and temporal fragmentation.
Third, strategies to combat complex inner-city poverty require a holistic approach. The complexity of this poverty is such that there are no uni-dimensional solutions. For example, as much as a shortage of low-income rental housing has been and continues to be a central feature of poverty in Winnipeg, simply constructing housing, as in Urban Renewal, will not solve complex urban poverty. Uni-dimensional efforts must give way to comprehensive initiatives that are more than an array of discrete and disconnected projects. Successful anti-poverty efforts must be holistic, and comprise a strategy.
Fourth, any successful anti-poverty strategy must be rooted in and fully involve inner-city residents and community-based organizations. It is they who are most knowledgeable about, and have the greatest direct stake in re-building, their communities. The re-building must be designed and delivered in ways of their choosing and with their full involvement. It is clear from the experience with these initiatives, however, that if genuine, inner-city resident involvement is to occur and be sustained, resources must be made available for permanent community organizers. In their absence, the challenges of day-to-day life in poverty make it exceptionally difficult to build an ongoing voice for inner-city residents, and particularly a voice that represents the most marginalized of these communities. Solving the problem of resident involvement is a difficult task, for many reasons, but failure to do this is now widely acknowledged to have been a major causal factor in the relative ineffectiveness of the anti-poverty initiatives of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
A positive outcome of these initiatives, however, has been the emergence of a large number of effective and innovative community-based organizations with a highly-skilled cadre of community leaders, most of whom have emerged from and are still very close to the inner-city poor. These CBOs and their leaders--large numbers of them Aboriginal, and women--form an infrastructure, a foundation, for combating poverty. Their achievements are significant; their potential is greater (Silver 2006a, 2008).
A great deal of learning has occurred as a product of the anti-poverty efforts since the 1960s--although it appears that it is the grassroots CBOs that have learned more rapidly, and have been more creative and innovative, than governments. Governments have learned relatively slowly--some levels more slowly than others--and they have learned because they have been pushed and prodded over a long period of time by a vibrant inner-city community.
We believe the following conclusions are warranted. Poverty has persisted and in many respects worsened in Winnipeg's inner city since Urban Renewal began in 1961. It would be reasonable, therefore, to conclude that Urban Renewal, NIP and the CAIs were failures. We have produced much evidence in support of this view. Yet there has emerged out of these largely failed efforts an infrastructure of inner-city CBOs and grassroots leaders that have led the way in learning how to combat poverty, and that are the basis of future, more successful anti-poverty efforts. It is especially important, given demographic and socio-economic trends, that large numbers of the best of these CBOs and grassroots leaders are Aboriginal. These CBOs began to emerge during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and many owe their existence, at least in part, to funding made available through the NIP and especially the CAI. They continued to emerge, and to learn and innovate, in the period since the 1980s, so that they now are a potentially formidable force. An important next step is for governments to catch up to these CBOs, in the extent to which they are creative and innovative, especially by turning over more decision-making authority to, investing more heavily and permanently in, and working more strategically with, these CBOs.
We are grateful to Errol Black for his useful comments on earlier versions of this paper, and to two external reviewers for their useful comments. The research for this paper could not have been completed without the assistance of a variety of people and institutions in Winnipeg, including staff at: City of Winnipeg Archives; City of Winnipeg Planning, Property and Development Department; and the Institute of Urban Studies. We are happy to acknowledge the generous financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada by means of a Standard Research Grant held by the lead author.
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Jim Silver and Owen Toews
Department of Politics
University of Winnipeg
It was obvious from the many well-articulated presentations at the Inquiry that there is a substantial level of expertise in inner-city communities, and this expertise is begging for the opportunity to play a more active role in planning and program delivery.
... little change has occurred with regard to the economic and social development of the city's inner-city areas. The physical "megaprojects" stimulated or sponsored under the CAI umbrella stand as constant reminders of where priorities for the revitalization of the heart of the city were found over the last ten years (NWCFS Submission).
The high level of expertise apparent during presentations to the inquiry also can be attributed, at least in part, to the opportunities which the CAI has provided for groups to establish themselves and to develop, implement and manage projects/services (UFG 1990, 5).
Table 1. Household Poverty Rates for Winnipeg and the Inner City, 1971-1996 Year Households in Poverty: Households in Poverty: Inner Winnipeg City 1971 20.6 32.6 1981 21.3 36.2 1986 21.8 39.5 1991 23.9 44.3 1996 28.4 150.8 Source: Lezubski, Silver and Black 2000: 39. Table 2. Winnipeg's Aboriginal Population 1951-2006 Year 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 1996 Winnipeg 210 1082 4940 16,575 35,150 45,750 Aboriginal population % of 0.06% 0.23% 0.90% 2.83% 5.39% 6.86% Winnipeg CMA population Year 2001 2006 Winnipeg 55,755 68,385 Aboriginal population % of 8.27% 9.84% Winnipeg CMA population Source: Silver 2006a, p.13 and Statistics Canada's 2006 Winnipeg Community Profile.
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