Those most in need are the least served in York Region

A team of York University-led experts investigating the availability of infrastructure and services to recent immigrants, low-income residents and seniors in York Region is finding that funding for services is not keeping pace with growth in the area.

The findings have implications for suburbs across Canada, according to principal investigator and York geography Professor Lucia Lo (right), who will lead a workshop on the subject today at the University’s Keele campus.

The York Infrastructure Project (YISP) is cataloguing services and surveying residents of York Region over a two-year period to determine where the most vulnerable populations lie and to identify gaps in services.

Preliminary findings suggest a divide between the northern and southern areas of York Region, whereby rural areas are paradoxically better served on a per capita basis than the more urban south, despite the comparative sparseness of existing transit infrastructure. Better-educated residents are also more able to find and avail themselves of existing services, creating an environment where the most in need are the least served.

"There is a traditional belief among politicians and others that people who move to the outer suburbs, to those big houses, that they are fine," said Lo. "That is a kind of myth. Given the want [by politicians] for urban intensification, a lot of the resources are being poured into the traditional city."

Situated north of Toronto, York Region is an archetypal suburban area where the population increased from 169,000 in 1971 to 886,575 in 2006 and is estimated to grow to 1,280,000 by 2026. Immigration propels this growth and seniors and low-income households are growing proportions of the population. The project addresses the infrastructure needs that have arisen during the region’s rapid transition from a low-density, ethnically and socially homogeneous suburban region to a diverse, rapidly intensifying suburb.

The "Workshop on an Evaluation of Human Services in York Region" will take place today, from 9am to 1pm in the Manulife Financial Lecture Hall, W132 Seymour Schulich Building, on York’s Keele campus.

The York Infrastructure project is funded under Infrastructure Canada: Peer Reviewed Research Studies Program (PRRS). PRRS is a joint initiative developed by Infrastructure Canada, the Social Sciences &  Humanities Reseach Council of Canada and the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada, to support research on issues concerning public infrastructure and communities.