Toronto Community Housing's Tenant Participation System used participatory budgeting to facilitate neighbourhood planning of social housing and development in low-income neighbourhoods which would reflect the needs of residents.
Problems and Purpose
The objective of Toronto Community Housing’s Tenant Participation System is to engage the residents in decision-making on the budget of the organization and other critical issues, including:
- How to allocate the resources of a large organization in ways that reflect the needs and goals of those most affected by the decisions
- How to raise the political engagement and collective capacity of low- and moderate-income residents
- How to encourage smart community development in low-income neighbourhoods
Background History and Context
Toronto Community Housing is the largest social housing provider in Canada and the second largest in North America. It is home to about 164,000 low and moderate-income tenants in 58,500 households, including seniors, families, singles, refugees, recent immigrants to Canada and people with special needs. The Tenant Participation System helps to integrate people, to allocate resources in ways that reflect peoples needs, to solve problems and find solutions for the complex challenges.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
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Participant Recruitment and Selection
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Methods and Tools Used
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Community Consultation Sessions on the Community Management Plan
Toronto Community Housing hosted ten community consultation sessions over four days in late October and early November of 2009. All of the participants were asked to identify their solutions for the coming years, and to choose two priorities for Toronto Community Housing to focus on. The ideas from these sessions were used to develop the plan.
"Since 2002, Toronto Community Housing tenants have taken part in a participatory budgeting process that is part of community planning. The process involves tenants working together identifying their community’s priorities and then deciding on the distribution of a portion of capital funds to these priorities. Toronto Community Housing sets aside $9 million in capital funds to be used for capital priorities identified by tenants. This portion of Toronto Community Housing's capital budget gets distributed across its Operating Units for tenant decision-making each year. Sixty percent of the $9 million is distributed to the Operating Units based on their size. Another 20% is split equally across the operating Units. How the remaining 20% of the $9 million gets distributed is decided by tenants based on the needs of the Operating Unit as described by tenants representing each Operating Unit and its priorities. The money can be used on capital projects such as upgrading exteriors, grounds, recreation rooms, lobbies, hallways, playgrounds and other green spaces." 
Influence, Outcomes and Effects
It empowers large numbers of low- and moderate-income people to take part in the decisions about their living situation and conditions.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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 Toronto Housing. http://www.torontohousing.ca/key_initiatives/community planning [DEAD LINK]
Update: similar content can be found at https://www.torontohousing.ca/about/our-strategic-plan/archive/Documents/2008%20Community%20Management%20Plan.pdf
 Foroughi, Behrang (2017) "Reading Between the Lines of Participation: Tenant Participation and Participatory Budgeting in Toronto Community Housing," Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13 : Iss. 2 , Article 11. Available at: https://www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol13/iss2/art11
Marc Piccinato, “Building Dialogue: Tenant Participation in Toronto Community Housing Corporation Community Governance” https://share.hscorp.ca/files/79-tch-dialogue-piccinato-09/
The original version of this case study first appeared on Vitalizing Democracy in 2010 and was a contestant for the 2011 Reinhard Mohn Prize. It was originally submitted by Matt Leighninger.