Don Area Co-op is one of the older co-ops in the city.
Don Vale is the area of solidly built late-Victorian houses bounded by Parliament Street, the Don Valley Parkway, Regent Park and St. James’ Cemetery. In the early 1970’s it was becoming a decaying area of seedy rooming houses owned by absentee landlords who were interested in the investment potential of the land as choice locations for high-rise apartment buildings.
In 1972, city council put a freeze on high-rise developments. Don Vale speculators turned to renovating and reselling their houses as luxury townhouses. So began the “white-washing” of Cabbagetown. Middle class professionals moved into the neighbourhood. Tenants were being evicted.
What are now Don Area Co-op houses were at that time part of a group of properties assembled by speculators in the late 1950’s, known as the Cowley houses. Being the only cheap housing in the area, evictees from the neighbourhood crowded into these houses, often living in appalling conditions.
On June 28, 1973 the first meeting was held to plan non-profit low-income rental housing in the Don area. By November, Don Area Co-op incorporated as a not-for-profit co-operative, and obtained an option to buy the Cowley houses. The plan evolved and thirty-three houses were renovated, followed by the building of eight new houses in 1985.