Gentrification holds both a promise and a threat, depending on who you talk to.
The gentrification of an area, once under way, seems to be an inevitable and unstoppable process once wealthier people move in. This causes rising prices that drive a significant number of people away – perhaps some of the area’s more vibrant members. At least that’s the theory pushed by the left. On the other hand, gentrification proponents say that non-gentrified communities miss out on cleaner, better surroundings with people stuck in poverty while crime levels rise.
Gentrification is hard to study. If someone moves away, how do we know that gentrification is the cause? All neighbourhoods have a ‘churn’ with people arriving and leaving for various reasons. We do know that change comes slowly to neighbourhoods.
Toronto’s downtown area is expanding and gentrification of adjacent areas has followed. Forty years ago, the Junction was an artistic haven with cheap rents and property because of its grimy industry and toxic residues in the soil. It’s been cleaned up since and is a now hot area. Bloor West Village the same. Mount Dennis with its vibrant residents’ association, new Crosstown Station and Net Zero initiative may be next.
Once gentrification starts in an area, more people want to live there and demand drives up prices. Is there a danger of this in Weston / Mount Dennis? A review of the literature on gentrification found that,
New fixed-rail transit has a generally positive effect on both residential and commercial property values, but its impact varies substantially according to context.
There are signs of greater investment since the UP Express became an affordable commuter train. How then, can we keep people from being forced out as prices rise?
There is a fair amount of subsidized housing in our area. This is unlikely to change. In addition there are affordable rental apartments. Elsewhere, rent control keeps accommodation costs down but may stifle new housing.
In a study of Philadelphia neighbourhoods, Richard Florida found that there are benefits to gentrification that are enjoyed by all but the poor and vulnerable. He also found that there are fairly unstoppable market forces behind gentrification when it occurs and the secret to minimizing damage is to ensure that the most vulnerable are still able to access housing and work opportunities and that their micro neighbourhoods are well maintained.
If the secret is to have a variety of housing and work options, it doesn’t help to have penny pinching councillors (as we do out in the boonies) who make it their business to keep taxes down and starve initiatives that help poor people.
Here’s an example. The expansion of Woodbine Racetrack was recently under discussion at council. More gambling will bring problems to the community. A motion was put forward to ameliorate the negative effects by requiring that the new gambling facility install a daycare for employees and also hire a percentage of local residents. Here are two motions put forward:
1. OGGLP provide a maximum of $5 million to develop and equip a child care centre on site or within the vicinity land and work with the Children’s Services division in recruiting a not for profit operator for the site and request that the selected operator provide extended hours of operation and provide casino employees with priority access to the centre.
The motion carried but local councillor Mike Ford voted against it.
3 – Motion to Amend Item moved by Councillor Joe Mihevc (Lost)
That City Council amend the Community Benefits Agreement with the Ontario Gaming Greater Toronto Area Limited Partnership set out in Attachment 1, as amended, in accordance with the following:
a. amendments to the employment and hiring terms to provide that:
i. OGGLP will hire a minimum of 50 percent new hires through social or local hiring, of which at least half must be local hiring; and
ii. after two years of operation, at least 60 percent of employees shall have full-time employment;
This motion lost narrowly by 19 to 23. Guess who voted against that? Local Councillors Mike Ford, Vincent Crisanti, and yes, our own Frances Nunziata.
It’s voting like this that does not help vulnerable residents.
Here’s another example; living in a rooming house is probably quite cheap but the city fights rooming houses and accommodations that don’t fit into the middle class mindset e.g. the alleged illegal dwellings above the Weston Station restaurant. Surely there is a way for these accommodations to be cleaned up, made safe and licensed – especially when housing is in such short supply.
If we had affordable housing spread evenly throughout the city, gentrification would not be an issue. The city did help recently with a ban on Airbnb basement apartments but unless some brave city or provincial politicians enact legislation to insert affordable housing in every area of the city, we’re going to be stuck with the present model of an expanding gentrified zone spreading out from the core and no amount of protests and marches will stop that.
The left needs to get its act together and figure out a way to embrace the positive benefits of gentrification without allowing it to drive people out of the area. They haven’t done that yet. The right needs to understand that cutting services to the poor simply entrenches poverty and the consequential crime that comes when people have no route to prosperity.
Finally, a well managed community has room for everyone regardless of income or personal circumstance. The mark of a good society (and good people) is how well it takes care of its most vulnerable.
Dave McGregor, a Mount Denizen, is putting his mouth where the money is to raise funds for kids: McGregor will be boxing at the 2018 Victory Charity Ball. The proceeds will go to young people who have dropped out of high school, and will help them complete their diplomas and move into post-secondary.
McGregor, who will be fighting a larger and taller opponent, has been training for the fight since the beginning of the year. Far from being nervous, he says his at-risk childhood has made him ready.
I boxed as a kid and I took it up again a few years ago. I’ve met Pinball Clemons and I heard him speak. [His] charity helps kids, and the goal is to help them get back in school and get their diplomas.
I’m from Regent Park and I had to work to get through school, so it’s of profound personal importance to me. That’s my motivation for getting involved.
If I’m being completely honest, the fights I’ve been in in my life have been a lot more dangerous than this one. The biggest strain has really been making sure that I make the goal I commented to donation wise.
Those who give $50 or more get a link to live stream the event. McGregor is at 78% of his fundraising goal.
It’s Shakespeare’s 454th birthday today, Shakespeare was born on April 23rd, 1564.
Weston will have a special connection to Shakespeare beginning in the fall. Youth education theatre company, Shakespeare in Action will be moving to Weston when the new Weston Common community hub opens. Check out their activities and summer programs here.
The York Jets Soccer Club under-17 boys soccer team practising this afternoon in cold conditions at the Weston Sports Complex soccer field in Lions Park. The club has been active since 1983 and in February, the under 17s played in the Mayors Cup International Soccer Showcase in Las Vegas.
The team is looking for under-17 boys interested in playing in YJSC’s rep program. Call (416) 652-6904 for more details.
A small group of about 25 ACORN members marched from the Oldstonehenge condo site, at 1705 Weston Road, to the Greenlands Supermarket. They were drawing attention to gentrification in Weston, especially the number of new condo buildings and the loss of affordable supermarkets.
The march was a remarkably low-key affair, and ACORN didn’t really make demands—they asked, quite nicely, to have low-income people taken into consideration when new developments are considered. Carla Scott, the Weston chapter chair said,
We’re fighting to stop gentrification in Weston. We’re not against development. We want to live in nice places. We want to have a nice area to live in, but we’re saying ‘don’t make it unaffordable for us’.
Scarlettwood Court is a TCHC housing complex in Greater Weston™, just off Scarlett road, on the opposite side of the Humber. The development was built in the 1960s and is home to hundreds of families from a wide variety of backgrounds. Planners (as they did back then) created an isolated enclave in a beautiful setting overlooking Raymore Park with two main entrances; one from busy Scarlett Road and the other from Waterton. There is a little used pathway that leads down to Raymore Park.
In recent years, several shootings have left residents on edge and fearful. These are the major incidents I have been able to track down.
March 2018: Nnamdi Ogba, 26, of Toronto shot dead. – unsolved
*Cold cases are unsolved crimes older than three years.
Toronto Police claim a ‘clearance’ or solving rate for murders of 80%. Clearly 21st Century murders at Scarlettwood have a clearance rate of 0%.
The reason behind the spate of shootings is unclear but the story goes that Scarlettwood is the home of the ‘All Crips Gang‘ which apparently has territorial claims stretching down to Dundas Street. Presumably they deal in drugs and other contraband. There may have been a truce between the various gangs at one time but that seems to have ended. According to police, the latest shooting of Mr Ogba, an electrical engineer, seems to have been entirely by chance; criminals from outside Scarlettwood appear to have selected him randomly.
The local councillor for Scarlettwood (in Ward 2) is Mike Ford who responded to my email on March 19 to say,
“I thank you for bringing this concern to my attention and I do sincerely sympathize with you.
I want to assure you that the safety of Etobicoke is at my highest priority and any violence especially criminal violence is a serious concern.
I have spoken with Mayor Tory and Toronto Police Chief in the past and I will be doing the same for this incident. Although there is no easy answer to this problem I will be following up with yourself and the community for their input on this matter.”
I replied to the councillor that if anyone needs sympathy and help, it’s the law-abiding people trying to raise their families, trapped in the confines of Scarlettwood Court.
Residents told me that dozens of police responded on the night of the murder. Cruisers were parked all along Scarlett Road. Today when I walked through Scarlettwood, there was no police presence and residents confirmed that the police are a rare sight.
What’s to be done?
The Mayor should bring his travelling podium show and together with Councillor Mike Ford visit Scarlettwood to meet with residents and listen to concerns. This would show solidarity with residents.
Toronto Police need to get out of their cars and make meaningful and lasting contact with residents. The Community Safety Unit run by TCHC does not absolve police of their ongoing responsibilities. Police also need to avoid showing up in large numbers rather than in ones and twos.
Community groups and social justice warriors should make this their fight too. They need to contact residents and help organize some kind of community association (if none exists) and start a ‘take back Scarlettwood’ movement.
Politicians, police and the community should make and implement a plan of action to support residents.
Because of the limited entrances to Scarlettwood Court, in addition to the existing cameras, it would seem logical to have good quality cameras set up to monitor who comes and goes; cameras with the ability to see images clearly. In 2016, 100 cameras were installed.
Incidentally, the fight for gun control in the U.S. is our fight too. The majority of guns used in Toronto crimes originate in the U.S.