DOI: 10.1177/0308518x231216535 ISSN: 0308-518X

Urban intensification and land value capture in Toronto: Conjunctural analysis, critical junctures, and developmental pathways in urban planning

Andre Sorensen
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development

Toronto has for 70 years been one of the fastest growing city-regions in North America, and over the last two decades has seen booming high-rise intensification. A distinctive land value capture (LVC) system and practice has emerged. This paper traces the contested evolution of Toronto LVC since 1946, including recent major changes to the rules, and makes three main contributions: First is the suggestion that at its core, LVC is an attempt to purposefully alter the distribution of the costs and benefits of urban property development between public and private actors, and should be considered a key metric to evaluate the social equity of property development processes. Second, conjunctural analysis has recently emerged as an approach to reading the intersection of political, economic, social, and ideological processes that come together to produce historical changes in specific cases. I argue that Historical Institutionalism (HI) is a valuable complement to the conjunctural analysis approach in its focus on the genesis of and contestation over specific sets of institutions. HI provides a set of midlevel conceptual frameworks and research methods to identify major institutions, the actors involved, and institutional change mechanisms, processes, and patterns. I bring together two hitherto separate traditions of thought about conjunctures, that arising from Gramsci through Stuart Hall, and that developed in HI, arguing that HI brings analytical clarity to the comparative analysis of conjunctures. Third, the Toronto case is revealing of processes of institutional change, mechanisms supporting path dependence, and the urban impacts of globally hegemonic ideological conjunctures.

More from our Archive