November 2, 2012
Some time ago, I came upon this neat study about gentrification across Canada’s biggest cities. It was written by R. Alan Walks and Richard Maaranen at the Centre for Urban and Community Studies at the University of Toronto.
Although it was drawn up in 2008, it still lends some healthy perspective to developments we see today. Beware though, it does have a somewhat academic read but is still very informative! I’ve included an exerpt here with a link to the full study below. Enjoy!
Gentrification is an urban phenomenon with important policy implications. It is associated with declining stocks of affordable rental housing, displacement of the working class from the communities where they have traditionally lived and accessed services, the conversion of inner-city neighbourhoods from production to consumption spaces for the upper middle class, and speculative real-estate markets that drive up the cost of housing across the metropolitan area.
The term gentrification is typically used to refer to three important related processes tied to the renovation of old residential areas in the cores of cities:
• Change in the tenure status of the housing in the neighbourhood.
• Increases in relative land and housing values and concomitant declines in affordability
• Upgrading in the social character of the neighbourhood from predominantly working class to middle class or elite status.
A well-developed literature identifies stages through which gentrification often progresses in a working-class neighbourhood. The first, termed the “pioneer” stage, often involves the invasion of artists and counter-cultural individuals.
These groups bring a certain aesthetic identity to the neighborhood that increases its attractiveness to others. In the next stage, rental tenants who have more locational options are attracted to the neighborhood.
Through further renovation of the housing stock, land values begin to rise; prompting speculation and developer interest, while nearby commercial strips attract those living outside the neighbourhood. Working-class tenants and even the pioneer artists find themselves displaced by rising rents.
In later stages, risk-averse groups of residents (professionals and managers), retailers, and developers buy up property in the neighbourhood as it becomes perceived as a safer investment.
Remaining tenanted buildings are deconverted, housing and retail properties are re-renovated, and the neighbourhood completes its transformation, potentially into one of the more “desirable” locations in the city.
Each stage provides the context for subsequent waves of gentrification in nearby neighbourhoods. Therefore, to truly understand gentrification, it is necessary to track neighbourhood changes within and across a succession of these waves.
We have developed a method for detecting and classifying different neighbourhood gentrification and upgrading trajectories during the postwar period, using the central cities of Canada’s three largest Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) as examples.
This method traces how the residential population and housing stock in gentrified and gentrifying neighbourhoods have changed over the period and compares these shifts with the population and housing stock in areas that did not gentrify.
We also delineate which neighbourhoods have gentrified because of transitions within the existing prewar housing stock, new development (often called “new build gentrification”), and conversions of older buildings to new residential uses, or combinations of these changes.
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