Gentrification along the Lachine Canal is leaving the area’s original working-class residents dispossessed and forgotten – March 26, 2019 Montreal Gazette article (Steven High)
Please note: This is a revised version of an earlier post, which had been deleted during a recent site upgrade.
A March 26, 2019 Montreal Gazette article by Steven High is entitled: “Opinion: From Balconville to Condoville in Montreal’s southwest: Gentrification along the Lachine Canal is leaving the area’s original working class residents dispossessed and forgotten.”
I bring attention to this article because I am highly impressed with Steven High’s work. I’ve been reading his studies for many years. He has something of interest to say about the past and present. He takes a strongly evidence-based approach to his work.
As well, he underlines that everybody matters – that the experiences of all levels of society matter. This is a point easily forgotten and ignored. Steven High makes it a point not to forget.
An excerpt from the above-noted March 26, 2019 Montreal Gazette article reads:
Gradually, these changes rippled outward. Neighbourhood gentrification has led to fewer rental units, skyrocketing rents and higher property taxes. Working-class families experienced this as a one-two punch: first they lost their jobs, now they are losing their homes.
Only social housing prevents neighbourhoods from being flipped altogether. But there is no social housing on the canal itself and the city seems intent on handing the ruins of the old Canada Malting plant to another condo developer.
Parks Canada has been a major driver of these sweeping changes, as has the city. Even industrial heritage has been put to work. Interpretative panels focus on the 1845-1945 period, distancing the industrial era from the present. Visitors hear nothing about working people, their struggles, or the years of decline and hardship.
Gentrification and colonialism demonstrate human agency
A subsequent post will address land-use planning history from the perspective of Authoritarian High Modernism (a concept outlined in a 1998 study by James S. Scott) and the successful efforts, led starting in the 1960s by Jane Jacobs among others, to counter such a movement.
Recent posts, related to the history of worldwide land-use decision making, are focused on the role that metaphors play in construction of visions regarding how cities function, and how urban planning can best proceed.
For a starting point, I have chose a physical object, namely a sturdy handrail, and have thought about the metaphorical qualities – such as strength, certainty, finite dimensions, and interrelationship of parts – that are associated with such an everyday object. There’s also a definitiveness, a lack of ambiguity, associated with such an object.
My starting point, in study of metaphors related to land use, including with regard to gentrification, is that sometimes metaphors – and visions constructed from them – are firmly grounded in evidence, same way as handrail is attached to wall.
Whereas, it can also happen that sometimes, directors of metaphors create visions untethered from evidence. Under such conditions, metaphors readily take on a life of their own – arising far above the clouds like a bird, rocket, or balloon – until reality makes its presence known, and evidence takes hold, and metaphors return to earth, ready for service, at hands of some other director of metaphors.
With regard to the concept of “Authoritarian High Modernism,” I want to emphasize, in passing, that James C. Scott makes a point (p. 6 of Seeing Like a State (1998)) of underlining that his book is a case against the imperialism of a high-modernist, planned social order. He stresses the word “imperialism” because he’s “not making a blanket case against either bureaucratic planning or high-modernist ideology.”
Instead, what he opposes is “an imperialist or hegemonic mentality that excludes the necessary role of local knowledge and know-how.”
Climate change and efforts to address it demonstrate human agency
The wider topic concerns the relationship between the economic forces that drive gentrification and the forces that drive climate change. Some relevant articles and posts include:
CityLab and Dezeen articles offer diverse conceptual overviews of gentrification
A March 25, 2019 CityLab article is entitled: “A ‘Latino High Line’ Promises Change for San Antonio: The San Pedro Park Creek Culture Park stands to be a transformative project for nearby neighbourhoods. To fight displacement, the city is creating a risk mitigation fund.”
An April 30, 2019 City Lab article is entitled: “In Switzerland, Everyone’s an Urban Planner: To reimagine its largest public space, the Swiss city of Lausanne organized a citywide consultation and workshop that asked: Just who is the public?”
A May 4, 2019 Guardian article is entitled: “‘Just like a real office’: workers use public parking as co-working space: WePark is a radical rethinking of city space, which started in San Francisco and has spread as far afield as Toulouse, Bristol, LA and Portland.”
A July 11, 2018 Dezeen article is entitled: “Climate Gentrification theory suggests rich are moving to higher, low-income neighbourhoods.”
The opening paragraphs read:
Climate change is causing waves of gentrification in the cities most vulnerable to rising sea levels, as the wealthy move to poorer areas with a lower risk of flooding, according to a recent study.
Coined Climate Gentrification, the theory and its potential affects on urban migration are outlined in a research paper written by Jesse M Keenan, Thomas Hill and Anurag Gumber.
Update: With regard to issues related to flood risks associated with climate crisis, a May 14, 2019 CBC article is entitled: “Updated flood plain maps will send the housing market underwater: Neil Macdonald.”
An excerpt reads:
But that’s about to change. Next year, the federal government will begin uploading nearly 2,000 user-friendly flood plain maps, updating them with the most recent geospatial data. Eventually, entire communities will find themselves publicly identified as at-risk. What that will do to the value of their homes and their flood insurance premiums (assuming they can even get insurance), is obvious.
“Oh! Oh!,” says Prof. Blair Feltmate, delighted to have been asked. “There is going to be a massive devaluation of the housing industry in Canada, guaranteed. A million will turn into $500,000 very rapidly.”
Feltmate is head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, one of those elite, leading-expert Cassandras so many of us just try to ignore.
Now, before the fever swampers start yelling conspiracy, this push to update flood plain maps is not coming from Liberal climate-change evangelists like Catherine McKenna, Trudeau’s environment minister. Or David Suzuki. Or the Green Party. It is coming from the insurance industry. Put another way, conservatives: market forces. Feltmate’s centre is largely funded by Intact Insurance, one of the industry’s biggest players.
[End of update]
Articles related to poverty
A March 27, 2019 Guardian article is entitled: “Segregated playground developer now says all children are welcome: Henley Homes built and owns the Baylis Old School development in London, where poorer children were barred from using the shared playground.”
A Sept. 4, 2018 Journalist’s Resource article is entitled:” Covering poverty: What to avoid and how to get it right.”
An excerpt reads:
WHAT TO AVOID: Representing people experiencing poverty as one of three character types: the victim, the criminal or the exception.
Generally speaking, news coverage tends to exclude people experiencing economic hardship as though they don’t participate in the same societal, political and economic systems as everyone else, Bryant says. “They are, instead, most often depicted as the victims of some force or policy; the criminal element that the rest of society has to fear and punish; or the ‘exceptional poor person’ who walks miles to work or school, has multiple jobs or good grades or has managed to do something to be worthy of help or an escape from their economic situation,” she says. “The first character makes it difficult to report on poverty as a circumstance that can be changed by policy or practice. The second character enforces stereotypes that inhibits the good will and effort to develop those policies and practices. The third is a moral measuring stick used to set aside policy and practice and attribute economic hardship to personal attributes and effort rather than the complex circumstances that result at the convergence of cultural, economic and political priorities.”
Bicycle culture in Netherlands
A June 11, 2018 Atlantic article is entitled: “‘Cargo-Bike Moms’ Are Gentrifying the Netherlands: In Rotterdam, the bakfiets utility bike has become a symbol – and a tool – of urban displacement.”
I found the article of interest because it adds to my understanding of bicycle culture in the Netherlands; until I read the article I had given no further thought to cargo-bikes, except that, having seen them in Amsterdam, I was aware of what a great means they provide, as bike transportation for children, and for hauling goods around.
An excerpt reads:
Another recent study analyzed the current situation in three of the nine bakfietswijken. In these neighborhoods, the population boomed, as did the local economy. Moreover, the inhabitants of these parts didn’t feel displaced as of the time of the study. Both the original inhabitants of these neighborhoods and the middle-class newcomers saw the gentrification of Rotterdam as positive, mentioning among other benefits the new, hip cafes, restaurants, and boutiques, as well as the fact that the city was becoming greener, richer, and more pleasant. According to the study, there was a noticeable lack of communication between the two groups, and inhabitants also felt discontented when they saw their familiar shops and cafes taken over by new, immigrant owners. The jury is still out on whether the city has made the right decision in encouraging gentrification.
I found the above-noted article of interest because it adds to my understanding of the nuances of bicycle culture in the Netherlands, which I was most interested to initially learn about first-hand, during an August 2018 visit to Amsterdam.
Income inequality and bullying
A May 13, 2019 Journalist’s Resource article is entitled: “Income inequality and bullying linked in new study.”
An excerpt reads:
The association is not between poverty and bullying, it’s between inequality and bullying. Elgar offers this for journalists to keep in mind:
“Usually when we think of poverty and inequality, we think about growing up poor. This is the effect of growing up in an unequal setting and it’s interesting to think it might change the course of a kid’s development.”
Gentrification and urban beauty
A May 15, 2019 CityLab article is entitled: “The Beauty Premium: How Urban Beauty Affects Cities’ Economic Growth: A study finds that the more beautiful a city is, the more successful it is at attracting jobs and new residents, including highly educated and affluent ones.”
Language related to climate crisis
Gentrification when viewed as a global phenomenon can be characterized as development at the expense of the planet.
A May 17, 2019 Guardian article is entitled: Why the Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment: From now, house style guide recommends terms such as ‘climate crisis’ and ‘global heating’”.
An excerpt reads:
The scale of the climate and wildlife crises has been laid bare by two landmark reports from the world’s scientists. In October, they said carbon emissions must halve by 2030 to avoid even greater risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. In May, global scientists said human society was in jeopardy from the accelerating annihilation of wildlife and destruction of the ecosystems that support all life on Earth.
Other terms that have been updated, including the use of “wildlife” rather than “biodiversity”, “fish populations” instead of “fish stocks” and “climate science denier” rather than “climate sceptic”. In September, the BBC accepted it gets coverage of climate change “wrong too often” and told staff: “You do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate.”
A May 22, 2019 Frisc article is entitled: “Housing Arguments Over SB 50 Distort My Upzoning Study. Here’s How to Get Zoning Changes Right: Whether more buildings and greater density make units more affordable is a good question, but results from Chicago are being misinterpreted. Turns out that the nuances and details matter.”