Poor get poorer in an affluent city

TheStar.com – News – Poor get poorer in an affluent city
October 06, 2009.   Donovan Vincent

A report examining the social health of this city has found “startling contradictions.” On the one hand, Toronto is becoming more prosperous. But with the recession hitting immigrants harder, children experiencing higher levels of poverty, and the number of middle-class families shrinking, the poor are getting poorer.

“The data confirms that Toronto is both highly desirable and seriously unaffordable,” Rahul Bhardwaj, president and CEO of the Toronto Community Foundation, told a downtown audience Monday evening as he highlighted key findings in the organization’s Vital Signs Report 2009.

On the plus side, the report shows Toronto ranked in the top 20 of 215 cities around the world for a highly desirable quality of life. It was Canada’s second wealthiest centre in 2007, behind Vancouver – average net household worth in Toronto was $562,173, compared to $592,851 for Vancouver.

But when you drill down on some of the numbers, the picture looks less rosy.

* One-third of Toronto’s young children live in poverty; 60 per cent of poor children in the GTA live in Toronto proper.
* Recent immigrants are more than three times as likely to have lost jobs in the economic downturn than their Canadian-born colleagues.
* The proportion of middle-income earners in the city – described as those making between 20 per cent above and 20 per cent below the average individual income – dropped from 66 per cent to 29 per cent between 1970 to 2005. The median employment income for Toronto families in 2006 was $51,200 – more than $10,000 below the provincial median of $62,200 and below the national level of $58,300.

The report also found that while the city’s housing market continues to weather the recession, the lack of home affordability threatens to put more residents on the street.

An 8-page special section on Vital Signs, called A City Snapshot, appears in some copies of today’s Star.

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