This is what gentrification really is

Gentrification is a big, confusing, theoretical word for most of us – I’ve always heard at least two different definitions of it.

I’ve seen gentrification be described as the act of revitalization – breathing new “life” into a “run-down” neighbourhood through new restaurants, condos and other infrastructure projects. And I’ve seen it be described as the act of forcefully pushing longtime residents out of a neighbourhood in order to populate it with more affluence.

Quite simply, gentrification is the displacement of longtime residents of a neighbourhood that are most often low income, people of colour, and/or from other marginalized communities like women and people living with disabilities.

I’ve heard people say that gentrification is just what York South-Weston needs. I’ve heard people say that York South-Weston needs just a little bit of gentrification. And I’ve heard people say that gentrification is the next struggle that will plague York South-Weston.

This is the dictionary definition of gentrification:

the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods byupper- or middle-income families or individuals, raising property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.”

So, is it a problem? Is York South-Weston experiencing it? The answer is yes and yes.

So what does gentrification look like then? While some York South-Westonites don’t live the effects of gentrification every day or even notice it, the reality is that the majority does. It’s already happening.

We have our fair share of systemic issues created by years of policy failure and neglect. People don’t have access to healthy and affordable food – we are in a food desert. The cost of childcare is through the roof – we are also in a childcare desert. Youth workers have told us that it’s easier for our young people to get a gun than it is for them to get affordable housing or a job.

The reality is that right here in our community, renters are being handed unfair and unjustifiable rent increases every day. York South-Weston is supposed to be one of the last affordable havens in the city but it’s getting more and more unaffordable for those of us who already live here. And it’s only going to get worse if we don’t hold developers and our elected officials accountable for the unaffordability of our neighbourhood.

What gentrification looks like is asking for a Starbucks at Weston and Lawrence when we already have Perfect Blend, Mati’s Coffee and God Bless Canada all around the corner. It’s going to a development meeting for a new “affordable” housing project and hearing the developer’s lawyer say that “they would like to attract a certain kind of person” to rent here and then hearing from the tenants in the room that the rents are in fact not actually affordable. It’s the fact that when a Loblaws or Sobeys replaces Greenland Farms, the majority of residents within a 200m radius will not be able to afford to shop at either of those grocery stores. And it’s TTC riders in Weston not being able to afford to ride the UP Express even though it’s being made a selling-point for new development in the area.

The gentrification of York South-Weston is happening and we need to think about how we will respond to it. Will we work to address the root causes of poverty and inequality that exist in our community or will we actively allow low-income and other marginalized communities to be pushed even farther away from the downtown core, out of York South-Weston?

38 thoughts on “This is what gentrification really is”

  1. I bought a very small house here in Weston in 2004. I was in my mid 30’s. My first house ever! Before that it was basement apartments, shared accommodations and 8 years of living in a cockroach infested apartment on Jane and Chalkfarm!!! Things have never been easy as far as affordable places to live!!! I bought here in Weston because I knew it was going to get better… and it has !!! I feel this resistance to bettering yourself and area comes from a young entitled demographic! Yes it’s not easy!!! It never was!!! I welcome the change. Adapt and move with it! Would it help if I start leaving old tires and junk in my front lawn? NO! I am for making things better for all. But blaming a area for trying to better itself is asinine.

    1. Nobody is blaming the area. You missed the entire point of this. My whole point is that it shouldn’t have to be this difficult for people to survive.

      1. Lol survival has always been difficult!!! No one will hand you anything!!! You work to better yourself or fall behind!!! The same is true for cities!!! Don’t worry you will find a way if you want it bad enough… you can cry for the bottle or get up and milk a cow!!!

    2. I too am a homeowner in Weston trevor. I agree with you. I want to see Weston become gentrified . It is a wonderful area with so much potential. If you live in the neighborhood why wouldnt a person not want better. Why should we see York south Weston remain in a dilapidated neglected condition. Who is not for gentrification does not want better for the community

  2. Wealth & power redistribution is the only way to bridge historically contingent & systemic socio-economic divides. This is an inter-jurisdictional phenomenon that goes well beyond the purvey of municipal politics alone. However, a good start would be to begin electing officials who are more representative of the communities who have historically been excluded from power. Unfortunately, Riley, your preferred candidate in no way fits that profile.

  3. Greenland Farms used to be a Loblaws and a Kresges. So it would just seem as though what’s old is new again…if Loblaws wants to come back. Just sayin…

      1. We already have 3 No Frills within our catchment area. And numerous other options to buy groceries. False flags…

        I would love to see a corner grocery that sells fruits and veg as well as flowers. How is it that lots of other areas have these but we don’t? Or is that also ‘too gentrified’?

  4. Thanks for your comment! I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. Unfortunately Chiara was the only candidate this municipal election – with even a sliver of a chance of winning – who called housing a human right, campaigned on the $15 minimum wage increase, denounced carding, and didn’t ever suggest that more police was the answer to the gun violence in our community. I’m looking forward to the next elections to see what shakes out. Thanks again.

    1. Chiara seems like a nice enough person… but having you as a campaign manager running a slanderous misinformed …as you say “movement” backed by the NDP, may have been her biggest mistake!! I do hope you get more integrity before you take up that role for anyone else!!! #life lessons…

      1. Sounds like you are the one here with a polarized axe to grind Trevor, ironically committing slander against the author of this post. Was it really necessary for you to engage in such personal attacks? TBH, you clearly missed and ignored Adam’s dinner party post, which speaks much about your personal ethics. As always, pretty amusing to see someone use “integrity” as a lash, seemingly unawares of the definition of “hypocrisy.”

        1. Lol ok I’ll bite… who is Adam and where is this post you speak of? What dinner party? Are you sure you have the right person? Riley and I have had discussions before and we agree to disagree…. All I’m saying is a first time voter doesn’t make a good campaign manager!!! Perhaps Sweeney you should have a seat in your own barber’s chair?

          1. Well – at least you are forthright on your ignorance.

            Feel free to disagree with ideas/perspectives, but it would be appreciated if you kept your ad hominem cheap shots to yourself. Attacking an individual is not the same as disagreeing with them. Strive to be more like Johanna, and less like Judge Turpin.

          2. Hi Trevor. I’m Adam. I’m the guy who started this site, and the guy who wrote the post on setting a new tone.

            I think you’ve fallen afoul of the dinner party tone, and I’ll ask that you be a little nicer to your friends and neighbours. I’ve disemvowelled your comment below because I thought it was unkind.

        2. Lol Sweeny if you want personal attacks look on Nunziata’s twitter feed where rileypeterson calls me “white and privileged ” …
          We have had discussions in the past at events…its all good!!! But if you dish it you should take it as well… Riley is a very tough young lady. I enjoy our back and forths… you don’t need to use a fake name to come to her rescue!! I think the first sign of trouble was when John Tory had 12divison officers remove her people from the Canada day celebrations for campaigning when they shouldn’t have been…. Just a bad call for them…but l welcome a response from Riley. If this is too much truth I apologize…. 😉 Now can we get back on topic please…..

          1. I don’t believe Riley needs anyone to come to her rescue. This in itself seems like such a dated insinuation.

            I shared Adams post on comments because I mostly agree with the substance. Based on your response here, the overall message didn’t seem to register. It appears it is less important to you what others think – the priority is your need to keep grinding your axe.

            Feel free to debate the substance of the writing here – but perhaps you should stick with confining your interpersonal truthisms to twitter? This dinner party isn’t designed to cater such attacks on its hosts. I imagine it would be appreciated if you would keep this in mind.

        3. Lol Sweeny this sounds like you suffer from the ” I reject your reality and substitute my own” syndrome…. Just like this article…You go ahead and keep trolling… you are the one that engaged me are you not? I have said nothing that hasn’t been true!!! What is it that upsets you so? Do you live in a van down by the river and blame the rest of the world for making things better and pushing you farther away? What’s your story let’s hear it?

      2. Ah, darn it. I’ve had to disemvowell this one too, Trevor. Please refrain from attacking people’s characters. I trust you wouldn’t say this to another of my guests over for dinner at my house. If it wouldn’t be welcome at my house, it’s not welcome on my site.


        1. Hmm this smells of censorship!!! Thought this was an open forum. I did read the comments and nothing was malicious!!! But hey thanks for the new fun dinner party game!!! Just add in the vowels folks!!!

          1. Hi. Me again. Sure, it’s censorship, kind of. The right to free speech is commonly misunderstood, however. You have the right to speech free from *government* censorship, and that’s really only for speech in a public space. You don’t have the right to say anything anywhere—and everyone knows this, at least in ‘real life’.

            Private places regularly toss people out for breaking their rules. Nobody expects to be able to yell in the middle of a movie, for instance. But, for some reason, expectations are different on the internet, and I’m very much in favour of that. For sure! We all should have the right to say what we want on our own sites. But you don’t have the right to say whatever you want here.

            So, I’m interfering in some speech because I’m trying to maintain a community, and because, of late, a lot of comments have been disheartening.

            I want people to feel welcome to express themselves without feeling insulted. And, since I pay the bills around here, I’m going to be bossy.

    2. Riley, access to the internet is also considered a human right but, like so many articles produced by UN standing committees, devoid of practical meaning or structure. In practice, and similar to healthcare, education etc… these affordances are only actionable when framed as statutory or civic prerogatives. Unfortunately, the division of constitutional power in Canada makes this challenging in a local context. Few realize that the trajectory of universal/non-excludable healthcare in Canada was an example of bottom up policy adoption, its nascent roots in the efforts of western municipalities. The only way something similarly profound will happen again is either in concert with an agreeable provincial govt, or with an application to parliament for federal exemption from provincial oversight for those municipalities that are critical to national interests.

  5. Interestingly, none of the current developments, nor the ones in the horizon, are ‘displacing’ anyone. They are utilizing either surplus land, like 22 John, or under utilized parts of a building that was unfinished and an eyesore for 40 years. They are utilizing properties that were commercial, magnets for illegal dumping and negative and illegal behaviour. They are utilizing and reimagining proprties that could remain empty for years and have potential for squatters. Even the Greenland Farms argument is a false flag as some of their prices are actually higher than No Frills and sometimes even the Superstore and Metro. We are not a ‘food desert’ either.

    What we are, is a desert for stores that sell hardware, shoes, clothing that isn’t ethnic. We have no bakery that you can buy a birthday cake or pasties from. We have very few restaurants that you can have a dinner at unless you want to eat very early. And you know why? Because any entrepreneur looking for a new location that has potential for their product does not see the demographic they want to sell to. And they move along to places like the Junction. And speaking of which – you know why that community is growing in leaps and bounds? Because Options For Homes that took a derelict corner with a failed Canadian Tire, had a vision and people bought into it. It’s a vibrant community that was very sketchy, had little or no life and no one would have given it a second glance to open a business.

    So, yes, there are reasons to worry about gentrification. However, I prefer to believe that it will bring opportunities for the better. Better jobs, better stores, better environment for everyone. Because right now, we are not in a position to reject anything ‘better’. And who would want to reject betterment? That is counterproductive and counter-intuitive. Regent Park didn’t reject it. Why should we?

    1. Greenland Farms a False flag? Are you seriously accusing the author of covertly trying to deceive you, just because “some of their prices are actually higher than No Frills”? I’m not sure anyone living within immediate vicinity would object to No Frills replacing Greenland, but this isn’t even what the author suggested (Sobeys, Loblaws), nor is it likely possible. Regardless of whether it offers lowest pricing, Greenland offers walking distance access to groceries for many people living in the area (who do not have cars).

    2. Worker – that was a thoughtful response that included both practical and critical counterpoints to a largely “theoretical” abstract presented by the author. Context, pragmatism, and bi-partisan thinking are what’s needed in municipal decision making, and it’s largely the reason why candidates who are ideologically intransigent do not make for good “on the ground politicians” – Chiara’s campaign certainly made no mention of police carding etc… unfortunately it also made no mention of the need for practical policing , critical oversight etc… things that, much to the ideological and philosophical chargin of her young campaign manager, are very important and meaningful to a large part of this community.

      Oh.. and jobs too, Chiara’s campaign made NO mention of jobs… like, nothing at all… zero, not even a footnote, seriously… nada… zilch… zip

      1. I’ll bite. Do you really believe a municipal councillor has much sway with regards to job creation? Of our 3 levels of government, municipal has the least preset powers to influence the job market. Any municipal candidate who promised job creation/stability would be blowing hot air with zero substance. Anyone who is reading up on continuing technological development and what futurists are predicting for the next decade knows that many more traditional jobs will be disappearing, and are deeply concerned with the harm it will play on both society and the economy. What exactly do you believe Chiara and her team should have said?

        1. “Do you really believe a municipal councillor has much sway with regards to job creation?” – Yes.

          “Anyone who is reading up on continuing technological development and what futurists are predicting for the next decade knows that many more traditional jobs will be disappearing, and are deeply concerned with the harm it will play on both society and the economy.” – Sigh, this is an oversimplification of a complex problem, and of the myriad of intersecting theoretical lenses ( Feminism? political economy? critical realism? socio-ethicism???? – what frame of “futurism” are you talking about? because they all have different opinions on the subject)

          “What exactly do you believe Chiara and her team should have said?” – what she should not have done is close the door (out of a misplaced sense of ideological intransigence) on the development industry

          I would love to dissect/discuss these complex issue in more detail, maybe you could attend one of my lectures on the subject out at Erindale – Monday’s between 9-11am, CCIT Department.


          1. Should I make my way out to Erindale, am I to look for the course taught by Professor Anonymous? 😉

            Regarding oversimplification of the topic (for which I agree), do I really need to point out that this is the comments section of a local blog where it would not be reasonable to expect a treatise response that exceeds the length of the original post?

            I’m not certain I agree with your interpretation of Chiara closing the door to the development industry. Perhaps Riley could elaborate? My understanding was that Chiara was not against development, but that she was refusing to accept donations from developers. My interpretation was that this was a strategic decision to differentiate herself from the long serving incumbents, as well as recent councillors under police investigation for suspicious relationships with developers. Could you please elaborate on your concerns?

  6. Weston will be a food desert since Greenland is leaving.
    We had a bakery, it lost its lease.
    Worker Bee wants to add a tonne more rentals to an area deemed to have the most rental units in Toronto and the poorest riding in Toronto.
    We are down to BMO and Royal Bank – BMO building is for sale….time is ticking for Royal to be all thats left.
    Even though UP is here, the banks are leaving, if no new retailers are coming in, more “affordable” or should I say subsidies rental units being built – explain to me where the gentrification is happening in Weston?
    Sounds to me like the city has different plans for the area…….

    1. I call BS on BSfinder – banks are leaving because of transitions in service delivery models (towards teller-less & online banking). The trend is apparent in low income and affluent neighbourhoods alike.

  7. Reading these comments is growing tiresome. Seems like people would rather b**** and complain about the present rather than playing a role in helping shape Weston into a community where EVERYONE can live and enjoy. Talk about entitled. SMH

  8. Hi everybody, I’m going to respond to everything in one comment.

    Trevor: I, too, used to enjoy our back and forths until you started attacking me personally. You seem to miss the point of most things I say, anyways. Regarding Canada Day, the campaigning that was being done was permitted. If you look at every other thing we did during our campaign, it was always by the books. We made a point of following the rules because our opponents don’t. It’s that simple and I’m not going to get into this further because the election is over.

    Sweeney Todd: Regarding developer and corporate donations, you are right. Thank you. If Trevor paid any attention to any of the communications Chiara’s campaign put out, it was always very clear that she was excited about development opportunities coming to our neighbourhood so we could leverage them for the greater community. Not allowing developers to finance your campaign and closing the door to development are two very different things.

    Anonymous comments about jobs and policing in Chiara’s platform: It’s not true that Chiara didn’t talk about jobs or policing. I’d invite you to visit her website and her social media feeds to see that in fact, one of the pillars of Chiara’s platform was Community Benefits Agreements that would require strong, local jobs for all new infrastructure projects in YSW. She’s also been a longtime supporter of Bill 148 because of the positive impact it had on workers in our community – $15 minimum wage, paid sick days, equal pay for equal work.

    In terms of policing, Chiara was always clear that emergency services are needed and that they are reactionary. Chiara was also always clear about the need to address the root causes of violence in our community.

    Anyways, thanks for the spirited debate. I hope you all read my next pieces that will address a lot of the other things I’ve read in this comment section. I’m not going to respond to any more comments about the election or about my age. Thanks.

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