Poor doors
“We don’t have any poor doors here. What we do have is different management companies and different management arrangements.”
—Pam McConnell, Toronto city councillor

Rich door-poor door in New York City

The use of poor doors has its distractors raising hell in New York City, California and in London England but so far, it has been a non-issue in Toronto. However, that may change as the practice becomes more common.

Separate entrances: Are New York style ‘poor doors’ here in Toronto already?
Metro News
By Jessica Smith Cross
03 September 2014

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.

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.

affordable units are completely separate

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.

segregation is an asset

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.

“different management arrangements”

“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 retail 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.


New York condo with ‘back door’ for poor tenants was part of program to reduce inequality
By CNN Wire
19 February 2015

NEW YORK — The luxury apartment building in New York City that sparked controversy for its so-called “poor door” has started accepting applications from low-income renters.

The 33-story complex has 219 luxury condos — the cheapest is a 3-bedroom apartment for $3.6 million.

But the building also has 55 apartments for rent to low-income tenants, with a studio available for $833 a month.

The low-income renters, however, will not have the same entrance as the luxury buyers. They will have a separate entrance on the side, popularly referred to as the “poor door.”

While it’s not the only building in the city with such a door, critics called out the practice as a form of income segregation. To qualify for below-market rates, tenants cannot earn more than $50,304 for a family of four.

The building started accepting rental applications Wednesday. The city did not immediately respond to a request for information on how how many people have applied so far.

Besides grand river views, owners of the luxury condos also have access to extravagant perks, including a pool, bowling alley, rock climbing wall, a golf simulator and a screening room.

The low-income renters will have street views, a community room and bike storage.

The rentals are not equipped with dishwashers or washer/dryers, but there is a laundry room in the building. Parking is available for a fee.

The top rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,082.

Meanwhile, there is a seven-bedroom, nine-bath “tower townhome” for sale in the building for $25.7 million.

Owners must pay extra for the amenities they enjoy. The common charges, which vary based on the size of the condo, start at $2,224 a month.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The building was part of the city’s “Inclusionary Housing Program,” and was designed to include affordable options in luxury condominiums in an effort to mitigate inequality in affluent areas.

The program, enacted in 2009 under former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, gives developers tax breaks and more space in exchange for building affordable housing either in the building itself or close by.

In theory, the program gives families who couldn’t afford to live in the city an opportunity to live in good school districts and new buildings. But in practice, critics say it’s leading to a new kind of inequality.


Developer backs down on West Hollywood
‘poor door’

89.3 KPCC public radio
Ben Bergman
06 August 2014

The developer of a proposed large mixed-use building in West Hollywood that planned to restrict tenants living in affordable housing units from accessing the property's pool said Wednesday it will reconsider after encountering strong objections from the city's Community Development Department.

"The City of West Hollywood previously recommended comparable amenities, which we had agreed to," Brian Lewis, a spokesman for the project, said in a statement. "If the City now feels that shared amenities and access best meet the needs of the residents of the affordable housing units, we are more than willing to accept those conditions of the project."

The West Hollywood planning commission is set to vote on approving the proposed building Thursday, which is being developed by Townscape Partners of Beverly Hills and the New York investment firm Angelo Gordon & Co. A staff report from West Hollywood's Community Development Department recommended against approval because of the restricted pool access.

"The current configuration has the affordable units looking down on a pool they are prohibited from using," the report said. "This very obvious delineation of amenities runs contrary to West Hollywood’s policies of inclusiveness and equal access for all."

Restricted access – dubbed by critics as a 'poor door' – has become increasingly popular in New York, as The New York Times reported in May:

Developers say amenities are a marketing tool to lure high-paying tenants. And they say rent-regulation rules make offering them to such tenants problematical.

no data on how widespread the practice is

But advocates for tenants view the policies as ways to demoralize people who pay less than the going rate and to not too subtly encourage them to move elsewhere. Although there is no data on how widespread the practice is, both sides agree that it is on the rise.

The proposed project is located 8899 Beverly Boulevard, at what used to house the ICM talent agency. This was the first time a developer planned to offer amenities off-limits to tenants living in affordable housing in Southern California, according to Larry Gross, Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival.

“I could have never thought that this would come to Southern California, let alone West Hollywood,” said Gross. “It's appalling."

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