Toronto Community Housing's Participatory Budgeting (PB) program helps instill a pride of place among residents by giving them a say in how capital dollars are invested in their communities. Now in its twelfth year, PB has been given a $5 million investment out off Toronto Community Housing's $128 million 2014 capital repair budget.
Resident and eight-time Participatory Budgeting participant Sheikh Mohammed said that what he loves most about the process is "the democracy, of course. There's a vote, and people can choose and support each other and prioritize their needs."
Photo above: Resident Sheikh Mohammed reviews safety projects before going to vote.
On June 19, 2014, residents from 52 communities came together at the safety allocation day and chose 23 safety-related projects to receive funding. Projects include new fencing to prevent trespassers, improved lighting at building entrances and exits, and the installation of new key FOB systems.
PB provides residents with an opportunity to get involved and this year many first-time participants came out to advocate for projects in their community.
"When we get home, we're going to yell out that we won!"said Naomi, 14, after learning that the safety project she presented with two other youth from the Kingston Galloway community would receive funding. This shows that not only adults can come out to present and vote for projects in their community, youth can do it too!
Photo above: From left to right: Deandre, age 11, Naomi, age 14, and Kiandrea, age 14 show off their safety project display.
After the successful projects are chosen, residents can continue to support the process by joining the PB Central Monitoring Committee.
"The monitoring committee is made up of residents who volunteer from various communities and go back to staff throughout the year to review the progress and the scheduling of projects," said resident delegate Ken Bedford.
Participatory Budgeting allows residents to have a real say in decisions that affect their lives and their community.
"PB is important because it gives us a voice and shows that tenants can make a change if they get involved," said Bedford. "I get a lot out of participating, there is both community gratification and self-gratification."
Participatory Budgeting is about more than including residents in decision-making. By placing residents at the heart of the process, it helps target resources to resident priorities, and build vibrant communities and a renewed sense of place.
Photo above: Resident members of the PB Central Monitoring Committee Ken Bedford and Charmaine Roye read out ballots.
"To me, safety is about protecting your community," said resident Charmaine Roye. "It's about making our communities a good place to live."
Toronto Community Housing's buildings are rapidly aging, and will require $2.6 billion in capital repairs over the next decade to remain in a livable state. Together with the City of Toronto, Toronto Community Housing has secured one-third of that need and is now calling on the provincial and federal governments to also invest in social housing infrastructure.