In praise of gentrification

Me, I’d delight in a little gentrification in Weston.

Riley says that gentrification is “the displacement of longtime residents of a neighbourhood”.

I disagree. Gentrification doesn’t have to result in the displacement of long-time residents, if ‘gentrification’ means an increase in average incomes within a neighbourhood through migration. Gentrification can open more services and shops, and bring employment opportunities, while doing absolutely no harm.

For a thorough explanation, have a look at The Economist article that changed my mind. In short, though: things can get better for everyone without getting worse for anyone—as long as the development is taking up slack.

Here’s how it works: new buildings go up in vacant spaces, and new shops open in empty storefronts. Nobody loses and everybody wins. Average rents might go up, certainly—but that is because there are more high-rent units, not because the low-rent units got more expensive. Average income will go up—because more high-income people are moving in, not because low-income people are moving out.

This is exactly what I think is happening now in Weston.

Does Weston have vacant spaces? It does, and all the recent developments I can think  of are on formerly vacant land. Do we have empty storefronts? We certainly do. A few bank storefronts come to mind. I’d love to see an art gallery, a childcare, or brew pub go in one. If it means I can stumble home after a three pints of IPA and a pork-belly sandwich, gentrify on, my good man!

Everybody wins with this kind of gentrification. New residents live close to where they work, new businesses provide services where people live. Neighbourhoods become vibrant, more pedestrian friendly, more integrated and more self-sufficient. This sounds just great to me.

But it gets better: Even those who live in affordable homes benefit. Crime falls in gentrifying neighbourhoods. Tax collection rises, so public services can improve. The concentration of poverty “which a mountain of economic and sociological literature has linked to all manner of poor outcomes, including teenage pregnancy, incarceration and early death” declines.

Could rising rents result in people leaving Weston? Certainly it could, if the increase comes not from rising average rents but from rising rents at the lower end. I think, though, that we remain some way from that.

In the meantime, I’m entirely in favour.



Author: Adam Norman

I am raising my two children in Weston.

25 thoughts on “In praise of gentrification”

  1. Adam. I couldn’t have written this article better myself. I’ve been living in the York South Weston area for about 8 years now I have seen a lot of change I am so glad near Weston Road and church where they had the empty beer store they put up some townhouses and not rentals owned townhouses that utilize the space well they renovated the Cruikshank Ford to Weston. The 89 Weston Road bus has gotten an express route for the time being at least. P&m restaurant has opened a lovely larger space before when I had family come and visit me on a weekend are so there used to be no decent restaurants where you could go and sit in the neighborhood to have a meal or a drink with your family unless you were going to take them to the fast food joints such as Popeye’s or pizza pizza. Zeal Burgers have opened I’ve tried their burgers absolutely delicious fresh clean lovely space friendly workers. I’m so glad they’re building this high-end rental on 22 John the building is looking beautiful I went in to see the model suite absolutely gorgeous. Also to name some coffee shops Perfect Blend seems to be doing quite well pastries are delicious good coffee friendly staff nice atmosphere and the list goes on why should somebody be against some gentrification I’m hoping one day there might even be a Starbucks in the neighborhood I enjoy Starbucks coffee and I’m sure there’s a lot of people in the neighborhood that can afford it not everyone is dirt poor in the neighborhood a perfect spot would be at the corner of Lawrence and Weston where they Scotiabank close down when I’m in the mood for a Starbucks I have to travel all the way to Royal York and Lawrence to get to the closest one. Why not have a mixture of income levels in the neighborhood I see nothing at all wrong with this the neighborhood should cater to the rich and the poor. I’m glad the neighborhood is improving. The only thing I would like to see now is some more clothing shops to shop in the clothing shoe stores Etc in the neighborhood I find cater to ethnicities. I don’t want to wear head coverings and other items so the shops don’t cater to my demographic I miss chellis shoe store near Weston Road and John. Anyway the neighborhood seems to be on the up-and-up I hope everyone can live together in Perfect Harmony upper middle class blue collar White Collar the poor Etc. I don’t know who would be against gentrification in West in the area badly needed to be improved there were too many empty storefronts poor housing choices and nothing enticing to bring people with income levels into the neighborhood nor the infrastructure here have people spend their dollars in the neighborhood and improve the neighborhood livability. And on that last note hopefully one day the crime in the neighborhood will be significantly reduced I have great hopes for the area

    1. For the love of all things, take a breath (and incorporate some paragraphs). 😉

      All kidding aside – I would love to see Weston/Lawrence shops morph towards more diverse eating selection, ideally more catered towards the less expensive side of things. There is simply no way that a mid-range to high-end clothing store could keep itself sustainable – would only appeal to a very niche demographic.

      Without doubt, empty store fronts are concerning, but it really isn’t super easy to operate a bricks and mortar store in todays online world. In short, why would anyone go to a sketchy area to shop when it is easier and likely cheaper to do so from home? If you look at how Toronto has morphed over the last couple of decades, I think highest success has been with diversity of good places to eat. With that said, there have also been gentrification concerns (such as Vegandale VS Parkdale). I wonder how the local Weston/Lawrence neighbourhood would react in similar circumstances…

      1. Weston Rd needs to be cleaned up. I honestly know not a single person that goes to Weston Rd other then to visit P&M or even Shoppers……Once they clean it up, brighten the streetscape then you can talk about attracting viable businesses.

    2. I had to stop reading shortly after “Starbucks” as I presumed the rest of the post was as delusional. “Why not have a mixture of income levels in the neighborhood”?? WE DO have a mixture. It’s something like 70% poor, 25% blue collar, 5% white collar. So no.. Starbucks will NEVER in our lifetime open up shop on Weston nor on Jane. OK, so the neighbourhood “seems” on the up-and-up, that’s great.. but you’re absolutely dreaming if you think Weston will ever turn into Roncesvalles or even the Junction.

      1. OMG so f%&*( true. These few people that wish for StarBucks can go elsewhere….we are not an up and coming neighbourhood no matter how Worker Bee spins it……I was walking along Dundas in the Junction area and the mix of businesses is incredible….guess what I saw, a TD BANK Being renovated in the Junction.
        Weston will never ever be like that especially if we keep adding more rental units….didn’t they do that once in the late sixties, add more apartment buildings to Weston and oh look it didn’t make a difference, it actually made it worse!!!!

        1. LOL! I guess you’ve never seen Weston before the 1990’s….

          Too bad that people think those who rent are beneath those who own. There are good rentals and bad. Just like there are shitty condos with bad management and inflated monthly fees to pay for all the repairs that need to be made when people rent their units to people who don’t care. The building are inanimate – it’s the people who make the building good or bad. Both management and tenants. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rental or not.

          Too many pontificators and not enough ‘doers’…. this is why Weston went into the crapper. And now those of us who do want to make it better keep getting crapped on by those who sit at their keyboards, smugly typing and negatizing the community over and over again. SMH!

  2. Wow. So I wrote the exact same thing in response to Riley’s article and people shit all over it. You write it and it’s like the sky opened, the angels sang and all is right in the world.

    But glad to see that we are on the same page! Yay!

      1. No, it’s because I’m actually involved. And if I don’t know about an issue, I don’t make comments. Unlike some armchair and keyboard warriors, I’ve put the time in and I have the bona fides to speak to this issue after almost 40 years. When you can say same, I’ll bow to your experience. So stick and stones…

        P.S. if you have to hide behind ‘anonymous’, how can anyone take you seriously? Some people just need to see their comments in print even if no one knows who they are and they offer nothing to the conversation except derision and hostility! LOL!

          1. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…. 😉

            And blocking out my comments is very ‘snowflaky’ – if that was too much for someone’s delicate psyche, then why bother having people comment at all? I just stated facts. I work hard at this community (like many others do) and resent people telling those of us who do that we are ‘know it alls’.

            Disappointed, Adam… I’m sure this will be disemvoweled too.

          2. It’s not about comments being “too much”, Worker. I don’t think that’s a useful criterion.

            I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: vigorous discussion is welcome. Unkindness is not.

            Dinner party rules.

            It occurs to me that we also have a Facebook group. I feel more willing to have a freer conversation there, where people are less anonymous and the automatic moderation is more robust. Perhaps you could take up this discussion there.

  3. Very “meta” gentrification experience with the article itself Adam, serving as a learning example pertaining to barriers of access and entry. For your plebian readers who do not subscribe to the Economist, it is not possible to access your cited source. As such, it is difficult to poke holes at the gentrified utopia you are depicting.

    Unless something is seriously done to address the issue of (the lack of) affordable housing, gentrification will clearly push out the most vulnerable and marginalized from YSW. Where exactly do you expect them to go should YSW become the newest hipster conclave? Looking at how things have been playing out in Parkdale (property management conglomerates buying out, evicting) is a great example of how people are being harmed through this swell process.

    1. Mr. Todd, I think you’ll find that you can access the article, and several articles on the The Economist’s site, for free. I can. I’ve tested twice.

      I’ve also summed it up: gentrifying while there is slack in real estate does not lead to higher rents; it leads to higher occupancy. I think there’s a strong case we have slack in occupancy here.

      1. Amongst friends, feel free to call me Benjamin Barker. 😉
        Blush. You are correct good sir – it opened for me using a different browser. Not sure why my regular browser gave me a paywall warning. Personally, I blame Frances. 😉

        Upon reading, I think a few significant distinctions need to be made. The substance of the article is entirely weighed on the US gentrification experience, and focuses heavily on studies from the 90’s onward. I’m not sure how relevant it is to the current problem, which is tied to an unprecedented rise in rental market prices over the last half decade or so. AirBnB has radically changed the game.

        I recently met someone who moved out from an apartment (on good terms) in YSW about 5 years ago. Facing financial difficulties, she contacted her old landlord and found out that the exact same run down unit (zero upgrades) had doubled in price.

        Again, instead of relying on tremendously skewed data from what is going on in the states, take a closer look at what is currently taking place in Parkdale, where owners/landlords/managers are very much actively pushing out undesirables (whose rent increases are fixed) so as to be able to draw in higher rental rates.

        While the above link is heavily skewed (written by an activist), it does depict the reality that you don’t seem to believe is even possible. Do you not think that there are landlords who want to shake off old tenants (who have been solid in paying rent, but would obviously not be able to afford paying double) so they can make more money?

  4. Well Adam their is hope for us after all!!! I take it I won’t be disenvoweld for agreeing with you then! Gentrification is another false flag fight for some…. But glad to see people want to better everyone… sure fight for the little guy but no need to try and start a class war!!! Thanks!

  5. Great article, so much more nuanced than the various facebook posts on same issue. Maybe it’s the word “gentrification” that raises hackles. Who could be against more jobs, fewer payday loan stores, lower crime, a little money flowing in the community? Really, the pros far outweigh the cons.

    1. Ya we all want to improve the area but how does adding more low income rental towers to a depressed area help that?

      1. I’m not seeing a proposal for “low income rental towers”, I’m seeing proposals for mixed income developments. Your ire would be better directed at policymakers who seem to oscillate between two extremes when it comes to remediating housing inequity; it’s either a “free market or bust” approach that squeezes out already marginalized communities, or top down rent controls which tend to result in neglect and downturns in development. Time for a new approach.

      2. Well call me delluisonal. But I have high Hope’s that Weston can “clean up”. Never hurts to dream. I live the area. Close to highway 401 go station beautiful parks. Etc. Anyone living in the area and wants to remain negative that the area can one day improve than shame on them.

        1. No, you are not delusional! Thank you for being positive.

          Unfortunately, many people commenting here don’t remember it back in the 1980’s or early 1990’s when we had great stores and people actually shopped locally. Or even before that when Weston was the Bloor West and Junction of its day. Sadly, when the Loblaws closed and Crossroads opened, along with all the Big Box retail, it shuttered many stores. That along with other forces created much of what we see today. As well, people have to actually shop in stores for them to stay open and without the critical mass, they will not. Most don’t understand how their shopping habits might actually cause some of the downturn and then blame politicians or those who are less fortunate for the woes of the community. We reap what we sow…

          I also have high hopes that we will once again become close to what we were. Thankfully, people are investing in the area and with all the new development (on vacant land), we might see interest come back to opening to new stores, etc. New stores, new jobs, etc.

          Just call us dreamers… 🙂

  6. Why are people on here saying the demographics of the neighborhood do not support higher end stores.
    Look at perfect blend for example. It’s a few steps above a tim horton’s. Delicious fresh products. Service with a smile . Prices are reasonable but certainly more than timmies. And people Do
    shop there and the majority of them are locals. Please stop putting down the people in the neighborhood. We all dont eat out of soup kitchens . Shame on the lot of you.

    1. That’s my whole point, Emmanuel. Many try to make Weston into a ‘have-not’ community instead of a very mixed and diverse one. Too many believe that Weston only has low-income or at-risk residents and forget there are many who are comfortable and those are the ‘forgotten’ residents. At least in my opinion. As stated earlier, mixed residential along with a variety of types of stores is what a healthy neighbourhood needs. You can’t have that when only one side of the community is recognized and the other is not. But the flip-side of that coin is that we still need to address the part of the community which is at-risk or more needy. There has to be balance. In every thing.

      BTW, we had the higher end stores. They left when the residents stopped shopping on main street. That’s when the dollar stores and other such moved in. So for those who have only lived here for a short time or less than 20 years, you have no idea how awesome Weston Road was back in the day. It truly was.

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