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Plotting your move: Wellbeing Toronto launches

September 10th, 2011 · 2 Comments

By Julia Hennessey

Wellbeing Toronto allows the user to select multiple indicators for a neighbourhood at one time. Screenshot courtesy of City of Toronto.

After two years of development, Wellbeing Toronto website launched this summer and received close to 20,000 hits on its first day.

The City of Toronto, along with partners that include the United Way and Toronto’s school boards, have contributed to the development of the online application that allows users to view and compare Toronto neighbourhoods based on personally weighted criteria and create on-the-fly maps.

The tool may change how government funding is allocated, the way nonprofits will operate, and will inform business owners and residents about their neighbourhoods.

“We wanted to create a system that looked at neighbourhood well-being across all of Toronto’s neighbourhoods, not just a certain number or a priority number of neighbourhoods,” said Harvey Low, manager of Social Research and Analysis for the City of Toronto.

Information is provided for 140 neighbourhoods in Toronto and users can select up to 20 indicators for a specific neighbourhood at a time. The weighted indicators allow users to evaluate areas based on the criteria they deem most important.

Options go beyond typical demographic information such as population, to provide data ranging from tree cover to voter turnout, and pinpoint the locations of amenities. Low hopes Wellbeing Toronto will offer new insight into neighbourhoods like the Annex by providing “information that we’ve never reported on before in this format-on cycling and pedestrian traffic, accidents, and access to public transit.”

Criteria were selected to illustrate all aspects of a neighbourhood. “We decided to include indicators that could potentially look at the assets of communities as well as the challenges.”

While Wellbeing Toronto has the potential to serve a wide range of users including academia, NGOs, and government, the site may be especially interesting to businesses when positioning themselves, and residents shopping for a home.

Low said businesses and corporations can use the website to find information about potential clients, including income level and languages most commonly spoken when deciding on a location and how to target their services. “If you’re doing service planning and you want to locate a new convenience store, use Wellbeing Toronto to find out where the existing ones are so you don’t locate right next to an existing one.”

The website also offers information to business operators about community support for their employees. “The Annex has a variety of restaurants, many different retail outlets along Bloor. It would provide not only information about those retail establishments and where they are located, but also the human supports in that community from child care to seniors homes.”

People looking to purchase homes can use Wellbeing to investigate area information including the location of schools and the average annual income of homeowners, says Low. “[People] want to be near public transit, which the Annex is, they want to be near great parks, which the Annex has,” but they may weight these characteristics at different levels of importance. Wellbeing Toronto allows these users to “pick the same indicators but weight them differently.”

However, Low suggests that the application is one of a number of tools that those shopping for a home can use. “In order to really get a feeling of a community like the Annex you need to walk the streets, you need to feel the neighbourhood, you need to smell the air, look at the trees.”

Elden Freeman, Vice President of Freeman Real Estate, agrees that the applications usefulness in the real estate sector is limited. “People buy homes on an emotional basis. If the schools are good and their peer group is buying in the neighbourhood—statistics don’t add anything.”

He says Wellbeing may also stigmatize neighbourhoods whose positive characteristics statistics may not be illustrated by statistics and is concerned the website will increase the divide between neighbourhoods. “It really is creating ghettos of rich and poor, and that’s what this whole map reinforces.”

Renny Cannon, a homeowner who shopped for a home in the Annex in 2006, says he would have tried the website, but is not convinced it would have been useful. “The areas are so large. I mean—when they define the Annex [to include] from Christie Street to Avenue Road—the area surrounding Christie Pits is very different from the area surrounding University Avenue, so I don’t think it provides too much insight into a neighbourhood.”

Visit the Wellbeing Toronto Website at map.toronto.ca/wellbeing.

Tags: News

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Il // Sep 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Hi. hyperlink in the end of the article is redirecting to toront.ca, O is missing.
    Best

  • 2 Admin // Sep 29, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Hi there,

    The error has been fixed. Cheers!