Gentrification in Toronto.

Between school and work, I hardly have time to prepare meals to eat at home. I resort to fast fast foods for my daily nutrition. I know, an unhealthy lifestyle. I often go to this McDonald’s near my apartment, it is located on Yonge and Grenville. There’sthis old man who always sits in the corner; Black hoodie, long beard, frightening frown. We call him angry Carl. Reportedly, someone asked him why he was so grumpy all the time. He responded by saying “You’d be angry too if your childhood living room is now a McDonalds serving counter.”

My name is Kolapo and I’ll be discussing the harms of Gentrification in Toronto

What is Gentrification?

Oxford dictionary defines it as “The process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.” Gentrification simply is when neighbourhoods are reconstructed or renovated which results in increased property values and the displacing of lower-income families and small businesses. This is undoubtedly an issue an issue in big cities globally. Gentrification happens to every city that is successful. It happens as a result of increased interest in particular environments. In a community undergoing gentrification, the average income increases. Poorer pre-gentrification residents who are unable to pay increased rents or property taxes may find it necessary to relocate, some of them even rendered homeless.

Business and corporations are attracted to this process. A small independent coffee shop with vinyls and a record player in the corner is torn down to erect Starbucks. And as of the case of Angry Carl, a family owned diner ran downstairs in their apartment building becomes a two storey mcdonalds. 

What parts of Toronto is affected by gentrification?

When discussing the subject of gentrification in Toronto, the immediate case study you’d think of is regent park. “It is the general symbol of Toronto’s housing crisis,” as Dylan Lubao eloquently puts it. I took a stroll down the neighbourhood to get a first hand experience of the situation. Toto I have a feeling we’re not in Toronto anymore. I huge contrast from the tall jam packed buildings and big city ambience in the downtown core. I awfully regret losing my phone. I had numerous recordings of residents I interviewed on their opinions of the “Revitalization plan.” I recall an old woman’s anger. “I’m tired of outsiders calling regent park a ghetto. Wasn’t this revitalization plan supposed to make it a better neighbourhood?” The Revitalization plan, by the way, seeks to create a mixed-income and mixed-use 

community, which in turn decentralizes poverty, enforces safety, and generates more economic opportunities. However most of the residents I spoke to seem to confirm otherwise

Regent park, isn’t the only neighbourhood suffering from gentrification. Moss park on Queen street west, leslieville, parkdale, bloor street west amongst others are part of the conversation. An article by Shameless magazine confirms that on 21st of September this year. hundred of parkadale residents gathered in the Parkdale Activity Recreational Centre. At this venue they voiced out experiences on illegal eviction and unjust rent increases. 

Kensington market is a more recent player. It is toronto’s most unique and diverse neighbourhood. It is home to most of the cities eccentric shops and cafes. (Its kinda smelly, its kinda dirty but its raw we love it).

What is the main cause of gentrification?

As i sat in a booth eating my big mac and drinking my orange crush, Angry carl sat in the corner trying to salvage what is left of what use to be his childhood home. I’m not going to lie, I felt awful. The burger I was eating didn’t taste as good. I began to think: Does consumerism play a role in gentrification?

The answer, of course is does! it is a capitalist economy. The big corporations have the power. Not to sound like this is fight club, but our urge to buy and want more is a part of the problem. Why have a low income family live in a particular space the it could easily be a starbucks?  Why have angry carl have a family in his run down apartment when you can just order chicken nuggets conveniently?

Don’t worry I’m not implying that you are the main reason for the state in regent park and other gentrified neighbourhoods. It is just something to think about. There are bigger forces in play than you ordering chicken nuggets. Globalization is one of the biggest factors to consider.  A city's importance is determined by its ability to function as a discrete socio-economic entity, given the lesser import of national borders, resulting in de-industrialized global cities and economic restructuring. In simpler words, Toronto is a a major North American city and it has the pressure to look cool. Let us go through the characteristics of a major North American city; Tall and clustered buildings, big companies, upscale stores boutiques, five star restaurants etc. This definitely only tailors to the high class. A city can’t look “cool” if it is littered with run down apartment buildings and middle class retail business. 

How does gentrification hurt Toronto?

(Interview with Laura Tibi)

What is being done about the issue ofgentrification?

Let me introduce you to a anti-poverty group known as OCAP (ONTARIO COALITION AGAINST POVERTY). On their website, the who are we column reads “OCAP is a direct-action anti-poverty organization based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We mount campaigns against regressive government policies as they affect poor and working people” They were formed in 1989 by activist in the Toronto union of unemployed workers. This backstory should give you an idea on how passionate they are about their cause. in addition, we provide direct-action advocacy for individuals against welfare and ODSP, public housing and others who deny poor people what they are entitled to. The “Militant anti-poverty group is led by a Man who goes by the name John Clarke. They are funded by private donations and labour unions.Unfortunately, I was unable to get an interview with John Clarke or any member of this organization at all. Due to a busy schedule I presume. Nonetheless, their works and fight against gentrification will be expressed on this podcast. First thing you need to know is that this group consist of and is led by activistism. They demand action and have often demanded them through demonstration. IF you go on youtube and type in “OCAP’ you’ll see a examples of this. They have rallied at locations like City hall, Queen’s Park, even mayor John Torry’s condo. Demonstrations aren’t the only way OCAP get their messages across however. When they are not outside with their blow horns and signs, they provide public housing to people who can not afford it.  

So what?

I just spent, how much, 12 minutes of my life spewing gentrification. Most of you are probably listening to this like “Yeah, And?” This is a prompt that everyone is directly affected by gentrification. It is a coin, there are only two sides of it. You either benefiting or suffering from it. You enter Starbucks and purchase a caramel cappuccino. You walk out, ignoring that dirty old man on the sidewalks asking for change. Your enjoying the benefits of gentrification while that dirty old man with 40c in his palms is suffering from it. 

So tell me, what kind of society do you want live in? 

Once again this Kolapo Abejide. Bye for now.

Credits to:

Laura Tibi for her insights on the issue and an honest interview.

Lee Rosevere for the music used on the podcast.

Bibliography:

Sidnell-Greene, Sula. “Displacement In Parkdale: Gentrification, Resistance And Change.” Shameless Magazine. October 13, 2015. Shamelessmag.com. November 8, 2016.

This article discusses the effects Gentrification on the Toronto neighborhood, Parkdale. Residents of this neighborhood have experienced been illegal evictions, unjust rent increases, and the encroachment of developers. 

Cain, Patrick. Sturgeon, Jamie. “Low- and middle-income families vanish as urban    neighborhoods gentrify.” The Global News. 28 March 2016. Globalnews.ca. 23    October 2016.

This article discusses the displacement of Toronto families. When an area undergoes gentrification, families are being forced emigrate and find other neighborhoods- some families becoming homeless in the process. This article provides an estimate of displaced families as well as their yearly income.

Wong, Joanne. “Regent Park: Revitalization Or Gentrification?” The Toronto Star. September 12, 2010. Thestar.ca. October 23, 2016.

This article discusses the impacts the “Revitalization project” has had on the neighborhood of Regent Park. While some residents have benefitted from it, many others still live in constant fear of displacement and even homelessness.

Websites:

https://ocaptoronto.wordpress.com/