Comment 12319

By JH (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2007 at 14:03:18

Living in the James South district, and teaching and living in downtown Toronto, I can appreciate the apt description of some of the effects of gentrification that Ben presents. To respond to the comments about terminology, certainly, gentirification is a phrase more explicitly associated with of some of the more detrimental effects of a phenomena also called "neighbourhood improvement, revitalization, etc.."
We needn't defend the perceived benefits of improvement ('hoods turning the corner)-but we do need to ask whether our conception of "better" is really an equitable one that people who already inhabit these spaces can enjoy. The question of "improvement" is always loaded with what kinds of values guide our vision of what "better" looks like. People like me (and, I'm assuming most of the other folk defending neighbourhood revitalization concept) benefit directly from the new restaurants, art galleries, and cultural scenes accompanying gentrification. And we would do well to simultaneously ask the question, "for whom is the space being improved?" and "what does our criteria of a "good" city include?"
Economic strength powered by the market is rarely good at distribution its benefits to all. My question, like Ben's, is how this development can to convey its benefits on all people who live in particular neighbourhoods. Perhaps this will have to entail a certain activism in resisting rent increases, and the creation of neighbourhood housing coalitions to better define visions for neighbourhoods which include the social, political, cultural, and economic spheres, and the development of policy to assess the effects of gentrification on housing security, such as eviction rates.

As I walk through Yorkville to go to school, I am entirely conscious of this being a "classed" space, in which some-the conspicuously affluent-own the space, the public, and the less well to do, the panhandlers, are clearly marked as "deviant", a sub-public.
Gore Park makes an effective foil to this restricted and classed space. Despite its rough and gritty character, is an example of a space in which, due to its relatively absent economic possibilities, is accessible and truly public.

If we look as what is happenning to Vancouver, for example, in the preparation for the Olympics, there is a move towards "beautification" of the city, which has involved plans to purge slum areas and make poverty unseen and invisible.

In our pursuit of a cosmopolitan lifestyle, let us not deprive others of their right to live in basic dignity.

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