What is Gentrification?
Gentrification is a process where residents of poor or working-class communities, many of whom are people of colour, are pushed out by higher rents and development. These residents are then replaced by wealthy, college-educated individuals who can afford the heightened cost and typically have goals for the neighbourhood that are at odds with the long term residents (National Geographic Society, 2022).
Gentrification is seen across Montreal especially Mile End, Chinatown, Saint-Henri, Griffintown, and Parc-Ex. Gentrification is frequently seen spreading for example once the Plateau became too expensive “hipsters and artists” moved to Mile End and now that Mile End is becoming more expensive people are moving north to Parc-Ex (Stewart et al., 2018).
This influx of mostly white, affluent artists creates a cultural shift in the community and makes the community seem more cool and artsy which in turn attracts real estate develops who use the atmosphere to sell condos to young professionals (Stewart et al., 2018).
Gentrification does not only affect residential rents though, it also increases the rent of local businesses. This results in the replacement of small local businesses with generic corporate chains (The McGill Daily, 2022).
Gentrification disproportionately affects communities of colour, as demographic studies show that after redevelopment and associated rent hikes the proportion of residents of colour are significantly lower (Stewart et al., 2018).
Areas with high student populations tend to see more pronounced rent increases over time, since students tend to rent for shorter periods and landlords use this as an opportunity to frequently hike rents (Stewart et al., 2018).
What can be done to stop this/Other Alternatives
Gentrification is a large structural issue, meaning that while it may seem inevitable it actually has many alternatives and ways of mitigating its damages.
First and foremost it is important that current community members are involved in development planning decisions as these decisions are often made by people who lack the lived context necessary to ensure that the proposed development is actually beneficial to the community.
Community organizations have called on the provincial government to mandate rent increase recommendations by the TAL so that there is a limit to how high a landlord can increase rent by. There have also been calls for a public rent register so that new tenants know what previous tenants paid (The McGill Daily, 2022).
There are also widespread calls for more social housing as it ensures that low-income residents can remain in their communities (The McGill Daily, 2022). For the same reason there have been demands to prohibit large-scale luxury developments in vulnerable neighbourhoods (Price, 2014).
Community Land Trusts are another way to keep land owned by the community and to fight against rapid property value escalation. CLTs are nonprofits that own land that is sold to low-income families and then once the families decide to move they sell the home back to the CLT or another low-income family (NLIHC, 2019).
As an individual one thing you can do is transfer your lease as this prevents landlords from increasing the rent for the next tenant.
We need to continue to fight to move housing out of the private and into social ownership while also advocating for policies that make extractive and predatory housing models less viable and organizing more feasible (Udell et al., 2022).
History of the Milton-Parc Community fighting Gentrification
Milton-Parc has a long history of fighting against gentrification beginning in earnest in the 1970s when the neighborhood was targeted for “regeneration” and gentrification by a large real estate developer. The community came together and mobilized to create the Communauté Milton Parc (CMP) and through years of protests, building occupations, demonstrations, research, and information campaigns were able to preserve the neighborhood and create the largest nonprofit cooperative housing project in North America (Tarinski, 2022). Over time CMP has worked to buy many buildings that are held in trust and owned collectively by members and their overarching syndicate (World Habitat, 2013).
In the end, safe, accessible and affordable housing is the foundation for both personal and collective health and wellbeing. As such we need to stop looking at housing as a commodity to be bought and sold and instead as a human right that should be afforded to everyone.
National Geographic Society. (2022). Gentrification. National Geographic. Retrieved 6 September 2022, from https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/gentrification.
NLIHC. (2019). Gentrification and Neighborhood Revitalization: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?. National Low Income Housing Coalition. Retrieved 12 September 2022, from https://nlihc.org/resource/gentrification-and-neighborhood-revitalization-whats-difference.
Price, D. (2014). 7 Policies That Could Prevent Gentrification. Shelterforce. Retrieved 12 September 2022, from https://shelterforce.org/2014/05/23/7_policies_that_could_prevent_gentrification/.
Stewart, S., Milton, J., & Murad, A. (2018). Montreal’s Gentrification, Neighbourhood by Neighbourhood. The Link. Retrieved 6 September 2022, from https://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/montreals-gentrification-neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood.
Tarinski, Y. (2022). The Significance of Emancipated Neighborhoods for the Project of Direct Democracy. Humanity Now. Retrieved 17 September 2022, from https://www.humanitynow.world/post/the-significance-of-emancipated-neighborhoods-for-the-project-of-direct-democracy.
The McGill Daily. (2022). Know Your Rights, Resist Rent Increases. Retrieved 7 September 2022, from.
Udell, J., Hornbach, C., Mironova, O., & Stein, S. (2022). Social Housing and Housing Justice: Pathways to Housing Decommodification. LPE Project. Retrieved 13 September 2022, from https://lpeproject.org/blog/social-housing-and-housing-justice-pathways-to-housing-decommodification/.
World Habitat. (2013). Milton Park Community. World Habitat. Retrieved 17 September 2022, from https://world-habitat.org/world-habitat-awards/winners-and-finalists/milton-park-community/.