Podcast: Art, Anguish and Real Estate

Ruminations from the rust-belt revival in Canada's Steel Town on whether artists are the "foot-soldiers of gentrification".

By Stephen Dale
Published March 13, 2017

The question under consideration in this documentary podcast is: are artists a positive force when they colonize low-income urban areas, or do they provide the Trojan horse that allows real estate interests to come in and drive prices out of ordinary people's reach?

Produced by Stephen Dale with support from the Ontario Arts Council's media arts program, with research by Sarah Hipworth, and assistance from Adrian Shuman and our friends at CFMU-FM. Theme music is by Greg Clarke - you can find more of his work at

Ontario Arts Council logo

Stephen Dale's latest book is Noble Illusions: Young Canada Goes to War (Fernwood Books, 2014). He has written for a range of Canadian and international newspapers and magazines, and is a former documentary maker for CBC Radio.

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By R_Ezergailis (registered) | Posted March 20, 2017 at 09:30:26

Gentrification of the core areas of major cities does create severe hardships for many artists and for potential fledgling businesses which cannot establish and thrive in what becomes an inaccessible real estate and renovations market. Gentrification is a symptom, not the real problem. It came about because of the ever larger number of bylaws, building code requirements and other relevant regulations and processes, which have all steadily added to costs. That has meant that establishing a presence, and opening up something new, has become more and more confined to something that only those with considerable and exceptional wealth, or extremely rare and lucky connections, can hope to achieve. Even then the costs typically dictate that tax losses are likely to predominate far beyond any chance of any real income, much less any real profitability. For those without income sufficient to benefit from the tax dodge mode of operating there is little to no chance remaining. The total costs have been driven up beyond what they can possibly hope to contemplate and pay from the always meager revenues. Of course some think that the new regulations are saving lives, and serving in some way or other to protect public health and safety. It can be statistically proven that that is far from the reality and that there have to be other, far more nefarious, motives to upping costs based on entanglement in mountains of red tape. Comparing what it took for people to open up public spaces, for commercial and arts purposes, back in the 1970s and what it takes now, the ever growing nightmare of strangled in red tape and its ever rising costs which then put an army of very costly experts into mansions, becomes clearly evident. Were any lives really saved by the red tape jungle ? Hardly a one, if even one. That is simply the illusion of false justification. Now, we do need some laws and rules, but when there are so many and they are made ever more costly, then something very wrong with how development is being handled and promoted.

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