Commentary

Deconstructing the Latest Anti-Development Argument

Change is frightening, but the redevelopment of downtown Hamilton after decades of neglect is helping to improve the health, safety, culture and spirit of Hamilton.

By Lucas Mascotto-Carbone
Published July 06, 2015

Recently my good-friend and fellow urban enthusiast sent me a link to a blog post with a stern warning to take what I would be reading with 'a grain of salt' and sit down while doing so. Intrigued, I opened it up and what I discovered was absolutely appalling.

Set-up on a basic blogging website, "The Hamilton Institute" as it was titled, published a 5,400 word essay on July 2 regarding gentrification in the downtown core. The anonymous essay, presumably written by a lone author, also included a manifesto which states amongst other things, to stop funding transit, stop building condos, and attack the artists who inhabit downtown as all of it represents a capitalist police-state agenda which seeks to destroy whatever semblance of community this city has.

Now, normally I would let this sort of opinion slide. But as I also found out while reading, the author has made posters and is planning to post them around development projects in the core. So I'm going to try to bring some reason to what seems to be an increasing threat to the revitalization of the downtown core.

At the very beginning of the essay the author states in bold text:

Two years ago, even the arts industry f**ks could claim, without feeling too dishonest, that they were creating something local and durable. Now we watch their flagship galleries and favourite restaurants close while a Starbucks and McMaster satellite campus open in Jackson Square, with condos going up on all sides.

Okay, presently there are only two Starbucks in the lower city - one on Locke Street South and the other in the Sheraton Hotel complex in Jackson Square. While we all know that the upscale urban coffee chain is a harbinger of gentrification, it has not done any harm to the community and has actually helped support businesses on Locke by attracting a steady flow of patrons. It has even helped renew a once-blighted part of Jackson Square.

Also, the store in Jackson Square is a franchise operated by Vrancor so all of the profits aren't necessarily going to directly feed into the corporation.

The McMaster Continuing Education Centre in Jackson Square is a godsend. Not only did it take over an office building that was abandoned since 1997 but it brought with it roughly 200 staff members and 4,000 students who have been continuously supporting the stores in the long-depressed shopping centre and the area surrounding.

Also, the new Family Medicine building at Main and Bay Street again took over a property that the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board had abandoned for a new sprawling headquarters on a suburban plot and gave this city a brand-new, community-oriented facility that will be providing medical services for decades to come.

These facilities haven't pushed artists or galleries out. Instead, they took over vacant and abandoned properties and have actually added business to the local stores.

Finally, the artists who first came to downtown Hamilton should be given the utmost respect. Not only did they defy all odds to support this city when the rest of region scoffed at our core, but they brought with them events like Supercrawl which brings in over 100,000 visitors every year.

In addition, they have been continuously fighting for safer streets, public transit funding, bike lanes, and public art to make our community more inviting and humane. They are not a part of a vast industry that supports the exploitation of the community but rather a part of a vast community which supports our local economy.

In a sub-heading titled "From developing the arts to the art of development" the author weaves together a laughable story about how the artists, desperate for money, branded the downtown and partnered with the police to push everyone out and sell their properties to big business for a profit.

For those of us who lived downtown, at first Art Crawl was a good chance to busk, pan handle, or sell things to the ever-larger crowds that appeared one day a month, but as the event morphed increasingly into a policing operation, the opportunities for this shrank. By the time of the first Super Crawl, the policing operation for Art Crawls was beginning two days in advance, tearing down posters, clearing away the usual suspects, warning people they would be ticketed under the Safe Streets Act if they were present in their usual spots. The artsy business owners advocated for more surveillance cameras, for the removal of sex workers, and more enforcement of minor offenses. Their s**t-eating snitch lobbying led directly to the creation of the ACTION team, a community policing operation, which bases its legitimacy on regular surveys of local business owners.

It's difficult to read through this paragraph, let alone bring attention to it, but I believe its necessary to highlight that the author received their information from the "Toronto Media Co-op" an independent news source with a long history of criticizing the police and other groups of people who dare to merge into existing communities, such as the artists on Queen Street West or the young professionals flocking to Yonge Street.

While I sympathize with people who have actually been terrorized or profiled by the police, since when is it an entirely bad thing when business owners recommend to the police to take down old posters and warn people that inappropriate behaviour will lead to ticketing?

Think of it as being told that you're having company come over to your house for dinner later in the evening. Do you clean your house up to make it presentable for your guests? Or do you leave the dirty dishes stacked in the sink, the floors unswept, and the children's toys lying around?

Does cleaning your house merit being called names because it compromises the integrity and spirit of what your house really is during the busy workweek? Since when do business owners, who brought economic stimulus to a blighted area, wanting to make the street presentable to guests and customers creating a police state?

Toward the end of the essay, when asking what we can do to fix the onslaught of development, the author says:

A bare minimum ask we might make of people moving here (and of ourselves too) is to refuse to become the political base for developers and for gentrification's boosters. The wave of people moving here, primarily from Toronto, has combined with the existing artsy, urban progressive space to produce a pro-development population in the core. Many people who move here get swept up in this - they're paying twice the rent of the previous tenant or paying a hundred thousand dollars more than a house was worth a year earlier, joining on calls to clean up the neighbourhood, calling the cops on their neighbours rather than getting to know them.

This paragraph is a bit hypocritical. Spending almost 6,000 words to tell the world that Hamilton, due to recent developments, is becoming a police state which warrants radical change only to finish off by saying that newcomers to the city should not be political is strange and if anything, part of a police state rhetoric.

Isn't inhibiting development also part of a paranoid police state? And isn't categorizing a diverse set of people and reducing them to nothing but potential radicals also a police state ideology? If a filled office building or a new coffee shop is so scary and setting the sails of our region for disaster then I suggest living in rural isolation because there won't be much hope for humanity elsewhere.

I know that change is difficult. Our downtown core experienced a long and brutal decline that many of us became accustomed to. Combined with decades of car culture and suburban development filling our minds with the idea that the downtowns of cities everywhere are undeserving places of crime and blight, we've become almost convinced that there's no other future for our city.

But let me tell you, the redevelopment happening in the core as I type this article is overwhelmingly positive for all of us, and the people who have been supporting it should be proud that they set a course which has improved the health, safety, culture, and spirit of Hamilton.

Lucas Mascotto-Carbone is an honours history student at McMaster University, an urban activist and a public servant.

47 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 06, 2015 at 09:34:27

I've known a number of intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful anarchists who have really helped to shape my thinking on the political, cultural, economic and social implications of urban redevelopment. We have agreed on some things and disagreed on some things, but what made the conversations meaningful and effective has been a willingness to engage, to listen, and to debate in good faith.

This latest tract by "The Hamilton Institute" amounts to a call for people who ideologically oppose the messy system of democratic liberal capitalism to pick up their toys and go home. It romanticizes the disinvestment, stagnation and despair of impoverished urban neighbourhoods and offers nothing by way of an alternative to what we might call the condofication model of reinvestment.

In fact, the manifesto goes so far as to argue that attempts to make urban reinvestment more humane and inclusive merely prop up and legitimize the system. It dismisses public transit, inclusive streets and even health care as tools designed to make capitalist wage slavery more palatable. (See, e.g. footnote 8.)

"Do we really want to be exploited in a greener and more efficient way?" That cuts close to the heart of the author's thesis: that making our system better undermines the goal of overturning it. Or as the author starkly puts it: "there is no common good and society doesn’t exist – our identity labels describe our relationships to systems of domination that are to be destroyed, not incorporated into a mosaic."

The piece raises some legitimate issues and articulates some real challenges, but instead of calling on people to get organized, instead it advocates a "purely negative approach to gentrification and development" - a flat-out refusal to participate in the messy business of trying to figure out how a bunch of people can live together amicably. It's the pure Heisenberg Blue Sky crystal meth form of NIMBYism, distilled down to its essence.

I'm a big fan of the late Jack Layton's belief that change happens in the space between strongly-held positions, but this position leaves no room for compromise, and the, ahem, call to inaction reflects this essential poverty of engagement.

Permalink | Context

By highwater (registered) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 12:26:28 in reply to Comment 112543

Actually, there is a call to action here. It's a call to isolate and discredit artists, urban progessives, small-business owners, community, anti-racist, and LGBTQ activists (see footnote 10), and anyone else who isn't doing it right according to the author's inscrutable and ever-shifting ideological standards. In this regard it really is a hateful piece of nonsense.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 09:58:36

we became the poorest city in the Golden Horseshoe, and one of the poorest in Canada over several decades of urban decay and dis-investment. I'm not following the logic of 'poverty activists' who seem to be calling for us to preserve the decayed, dis-invested reality through the old urban city as a means to help the poor.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 10:28:30

the essay that has been posted throughout the downtown core has many false assumptions and is pretty extreme (i.e. bad), but saying the development in the core has been "overwhelmingly positive for all of us" is disingenuous at best. making poor analogies to dinner parties, writing dismissive platitudes, and reading off press releases doesn't really make for a great response either.

there is a big problem with many of the urbanists in this city, and it's exemplified in articles like this. it's the idea that any opposition to development is a "threat of revitalization," as though individuals who mention "hey, maybe gentrification could create problems if we don't think this through" are crazies out of touch with reality.

the essay you read speaks to the reality of many urban people living in this city. development in hamilton is quickly becoming a tide that only raises some ships, as increases in cost of living in the core are pushing many people who have lived here away from the city. when people talk of revitalization of the city, they talk of a few streets or specific building projects in increasingly unaffordable neighborhoods, ignoring the huge swaths of the city that are underdeveloped and continue to be neglected. it's nice that the affluent urbanists "can do anything in hamilton" like their shirts state, but for many working class and middle class individuals and families that is becoming increasingly not true.

Permalink | Context

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted August 26, 2015 at 02:54:48 in reply to Comment 112545

Are people truly being displaced? This keeps being stated as fact (even by the so called gentrifiers themselves in their responses) but we have yet to see supporting data locally. Should we strive to maintain low value neighbourhoods forever out of fear that the current residents won't be able to afford to live there any more? Does anyone want to live in a neighbourhood with vacant buildings and no local services for the rest of their lives?

Check out this anti-g rebuttal piece that puts the displacement claims into perspective: http://cityobservatory.org/longer-govern...

Additionally, consider that the core used to be comprised of livable neighbourhoods with mixed residential populations and thriving local businesses. Should we not strive to bring this back, but at a higher density (and lower environmental footprint)? This might feel extreme right now but perhaps it's because the core was so depressed for so long, that just coming back to normal feels like extreme gentrification?

Many of the bigger developments are happening in buildings that were vacant or unlivable - or on empty lots. Who is being displaced from the connaught? lister? connolly? tivoli? the federal building on main? Are we losing low rent apartment buildings to high priced condo conversions? Perhaps the changing of ownership of some smaller buildings resulted in tenants being evicted... but how far did they have to move? How many of those were subject to inhumane conditions under an absentee landlord who doesn't supply the basic necessities expected from shelter? And what conditions are they living in since being displaced?

Way more questions than answers...

Permalink | Context

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 26, 2015 at 09:56:47 in reply to Comment 113670

This is a point that I've made several times, and can't be over-emphasized: it is not that vast areas of the lower city are being demolished or upgraded and the occupants evicted or forced out by higher rents.

What is happening now is confined to a very small portion of the downtown (a very few blocks between James and Wellington and Main and Barton) and virtually all the development is happening in buildings that had been left vacant and providing accommodation for almost no one. Sean gives a number of examples and there are many more. Not to mention the vast areas of land that have been left vacant for decades (entire blocks in some cases).

As mentioned by city staff on the downtown revitalization walk, the buildings on King St between James and Wellington in what should be the bustling high value core of downtown have been mostly empty above the ground floors for decades. And even city incentives have not been enough to get the landlords to fill them with tenants.

We're not talking about a densely populated bustling and vibrant mixed use Jane Jacobs style urban tapestry, we're dealing with a large area that has lost the vast majority of residents and businesses (and many buildings) in the last few decades.

The real displacement risk is coming from a shortage of rental apartments and increasing demand which is leading the commercial owners of large 1960s-1970s era apartment buildings to renovate and jack up the rents. The high demand is due partly to the improving fortunes of Hamilton (more attractive), but primarily to the fact that very few large rental buildings have been built in the past 30-40 years and existing buildings have been converted to condos. In addition, almost no new social housing has been built downtown.

This will actually be helped by increased supply of rental apartments in the new building next to the re-developed federal building and other new rental and condo buildings which will also decrease demand and profitability for increasing rents in old buildings. More new social housing and a policy to enforce a certain percentage of geared to income units would also help.

But keeping downtown largely empty, run-down and with few shops and services is not a social policy: it is just abandonment and leads to a lower quality of life for everyone.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-08-26 10:06:22

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 06, 2015 at 11:16:19 in reply to Comment 112545

as though individuals who mention "hey, maybe gentrification could create problems if we don't think this through" are crazies out of touch with reality.

This is a bit of a strawman. The urbanists that I have been reading and conversing with all seem to recognize that urban revitalization creates challenges and that we need proactive, thoughtful policies to mitigate the problems and ensure that the benefits are distributed as widely as possible.

Permalink | Context

By highwater (registered) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 12:30:57 in reply to Comment 112549

Most of them aren't particularly affluent either, so let's lose that stereotype while we're at it.

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 06, 2015 at 12:44:34 in reply to Comment 112551

It's important to keep in mind that the standard anti-urban trope alternates shamelessly between "downtown people are a bunch of bums and lowlifes" and "downtown people are a bunch of entitled, latte-sipping snobs" depending on what rhetorical point is being scored.

Permalink | Context

By highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 16:52:33 in reply to Comment 112552

i was making that reference in direct response to the quote that this essay was one part of some non-existent "growing threat to urbanization." i'm not disagreeing that many people believe that we need to develop proactive and thoughtful policies, but there is also this very troubling urgency that people have attached to growth in hamilton that is captured in the quote above that result in poor planning decisions.

i don't think anyone can plausibly deny that gentrification of many neighborhoods is happening rapidly. as a result, i don't think there is much of an argument where affluence doesn't factor into that. most people probably don't identify as "affluent" but that doesn't change the fact that urbanization is being increasingly driven by individuals with greater income and education levels.

seeing many of the changes to hamilton has been nice for me, as i have been fortunate enough to benefit from them. there are those who have not and will not, and telling them that "well we have some new Mac buildings and cool places to eat" when they are struggling to find an affordable, clean place to live while having access to necessary services doesn't seem very compassionate. no one here is likely to agree with the anarchist essay, but it doesn't mean that the experiences of this person are invalid. given certain circumstances, i'm sure many people here could have been on the wrong end of gentrification.

Permalink | Context

By highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 10:29:36 in reply to Comment 112545

the above should read "threat to" not "threat of"

Permalink | Context

By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 10:48:53 in reply to Comment 112546

If you register you can edit your comments :)

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 11:10:46

"They envision capitalism becoming a force for the common good, but there is no common good and society doesn’t exist..." - The Hamilton Institute

"They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first." - Margaret Thatcher

It's almost like they basically agree that life is one big Thunder Dome, so anyone with a more inclusive and cooperative approach ("They") should just shut up, and let's all have at it.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Borrelli (registered) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 15:45:30

The Hamilton Institute has cornered the local market on meaningless rhetorical garbage. I'm sad I was hoodwinked into wasting precious minutes reading a screed that is so disingenuous as to be breathtaking. It doesn't surprise me that a bunch of anonymous concern trolls would post excerpts of their "essay" around town, though I would expect at least that they would want to open up some constructive conversation on the issue.

But no, seeing their recent reply to Matt Jelly, someone they attack ad hominem, its clear they are not interested in a discussion. They just want to tear down whomever they've judged to be insufficiently authentic.

This tripe is almost guaranteed to turn-off anyone who might consider a reasoned conversation about gentrification. I'm already cringing at the anticipated knee-jerk reaction from some of my neighbours that will sound a lot like, "Gentrification, can't happen soon enough if it means pushing these bums to the East End." Thanks for further polarizing an already contentious debate.

If it weren't for the hilarious and audacious demonstration of hypocrisy the author(s) show by censoring comments, refusing to meaningfully engage with other citizens (incl. those they attack), and hiding behind jokey caricatures like "The Hamilton Institute", that "essay" would barely merit any mention at all.

Permalink | Context

By Morgan (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 12:35:48 in reply to Comment 112564

Knee-jerk? I think you might in many cases mean well-considered, Borrelli. Neighbourhoods, like all other organisms, can either grow, stagnate, or decline; Gentrification is a sign of growth, and it is inevitable that some people will be displaced as a result of that growth. The results of the gentrification can be taken as /personally/ odious for those who are no longer able to afford the neighbourhood resultant from market forces, but for those who own property within it, it is equally /personally/ advantageous; no solution will be equally advantageous to all parties, so as in all other things, it is the growth of value that will determine which vision is realized.

As decline is what got our downtown where it was, and stagnation is no longer an option based on the desires of many residents, councillors, and developers for positive revitalization and change, one might as well embrace those changes as an opportunity. The east-end has many properties that will be more affordable than the projected downtown, and also has many if not all of the services necessary for low-income earners; services that can be easily relocated, if necessary. Movement to the east-end therefore seems logical.

Fighting this movement is rejecting change that can no longer be prevented. Sure, it might come out of some people's mouths as "Gentrification can't happen soon enough if it means pushing these bums to the East End", but there can be an awful lot of thought behind that simple-seeming statement.

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2015 at 13:55:36 in reply to Comment 112607

Gentrification is a sign of growth, and it is inevitable that some people will be displaced as a result of that growth.

If people moving into a neighbourhood are merely displacing other people, it's by definition not growth. Growth in a neighbourhood is an overall increase in the number of people, buildings, uses, activities and interactions.

Permalink | Context

By Morgan (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 14:38:40 in reply to Comment 112612

If a shantytown in a vacant lot that sheltered 20 people and assessed at nothing (tax revenue at 1.383% = $0 in 2015) was ploughed down to erect one mansion sheltering 5 people and assessed at 2million (tax revenue at 1.383% = $27660 in 2015), is this not both gentrification and growth, in spite of a reduction in the population of 15 people? People moving into a neighbourhood and displacing other people can very well be growth if those people increase the tax base and demand improved services.

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 14:07:17 in reply to Comment 112612

last 2 census periods, downtown Hamilton has had one of the highest growth rates of any old city tracts. We should celebrate this, and want more of it. The other option is to de-populate the old city and shift the residents out to new debt-producing sprawl developments, like we saw from the 80's - 2000's

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2015 at 14:21:22 in reply to Comment 112613

Agreed strongly, but my point is that we have plenty of unused space to add people and uses without displacing people who are already there.

Plenty of parking

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 22:00:13 in reply to Comment 112615

BUT WHERE WILL EVERYONE PARK?

Permalink | Context

By Morgan (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 14:31:56 in reply to Comment 112615

Market forces will displace them, not anything personal. Eventually the properties become too valuable to stay low-income rentals, and conversions will occur. This isn't a negative - increased property values lead to increased tax revenue, which can pay for all the nice things we want, like clean, running water, pot-hole free roads, an LRT, and complete streets. Gentrification inevitably leads to displacement.

Permalink | Context

By moylek (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2015 at 14:48:13 in reply to Comment 112616

Gentrification inevitably leads to displacement.

So does not-gentrification: low-cost rentals tend to have fairly high turnover, and those with low incomes are less likely to remain at one address for very long. This sort of background level of tenant churn helps to make gentrification possible.

(Yeah, I know - a citation or two would be nice. But my coffee break is over :)

Comment edited by moylek on 2015-07-07 14:48:48

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 17:28:13

The article reads just like something I'd see plastered to a pole downtown.

It's easy to blame the "urbanists" or "those people from Toronto" for making your rent go up, or seeing the places you grew up with change into something else. I'd love to hear the author's opinion on what the Hamilton they grew up with was thought of by previous generations who remembered it from, say, the 40s through the 60s-70s.

This kind of nonsense, coupled with the profanity that's completely unnecessary, makes it a ridiculous read. Anyone who sees that and thinks it's meaningful is someone who's looking for an easy way out (eg. it's not my fault, it's theirs!) on why they can't afford to live in an area, or why their apartment/house/whatever is being changed into something else.

The way this read also made me think they are the ones responsible for sticking those crude "go back to Toronto" stickers on the development signs at the Tivoli.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Dylan (registered) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 18:08:25

He laments not being able to pan handle at Art Crawls anymore? Too bad, I'm sure his profits from bumming money off strangers went right back into enriching his community.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Christine K (anonymous) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 20:29:29

Thank you for writing this, it's an excellent response.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JohnnyHamont (registered) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 21:51:07

Readers, just please don't let this indescribably ridiculous "Hamilton Institute" blog post lead you to dismiss all calls for questioning the status quo in urban development and revitalization. There are some very well thought-out and critically important questions being raised in the Hamilton community about the status quo that must be heeded for the good of our city and the people in it, including some which offer legitimate suggestions for alternatives to the status quo.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Wut (anonymous) | Posted July 06, 2015 at 22:30:05

This guy sounds like a scrub who can't find a corner to sling crack on anymore.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 07:46:02

Two things.

First, I agree with JohnnyHamont when he (?) says: 'Readers, just please don't let this indescribably ridiculous "Hamilton Institute" blog post lead you to dismiss all calls for questioning the status quo in urban development and revitalization.' I believe that the scientific term here is 'Throwing the baby out with the bath water.'

Second, although 'sure bets' are rare, in this instance I lay down sizable coin that the author is someone who, in the past, has been published more than a handful of times on this very blog.

Permalink | Context

By highwater (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 10:46:43 in reply to Comment 112590

I lay down sizable coin that the author is someone who, in the past, has been published more than a handful of times on this very blog.

Your point?

Permalink | Context

By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 11:30:23 in reply to Comment 112600

My point is that this is not some addle-brained nutbar. Obviously he was welcome here at some point. Not just to comment, but to have articles published.

Permalink | Context

By highwater (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 11:39:27 in reply to Comment 112603

Still not sure what your point is. Why is it so surprising to you that the article is being judged on its content rather than the imagined identity or possible past relationships of its author? Surely that's how you judge an article's merit is it not?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By interr0bangr (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 09:10:55

Most of this stuff comes from "The Tower" at Cannon/Victoria. Website is here: http://the-tower.ca/ They highlight some decent points sometimes, but then other times (like this current gentrification piece) you get complete and utter garbage.

Comment edited by interr0bangr on 2015-07-07 09:11:04

Permalink | Context

By Wut (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 11:50:09 in reply to Comment 112593

Ugh, anarchists. Rather organised ones at that. How does that even work?

Permalink | Context

By An organized anarchist (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2015 at 15:33:04 in reply to Comment 112606

Anarchists are not necessarily anti-organization; this is pretty much Anarchy 101. You kinda sound like Insane Clown Posse re: magnets...

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By copy/pasted job (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 12:53:00

The so-called Hamilton Inst. thing wasn't actually written. It was select copy-pasted by M.P. Pierre Poilievre of Calgary & Ottawa['get a work ethic, Indians'] & by the Fraser Inst & the National Citizens' Coalition. They been saving paragraphs just for pinko Hamilton--as it will, we hope, stay during & after this next election.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Borrelli (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 15:26:27

I really don't know that displacement is an inevitable side-effect of growth, Morgan, and by which I assume you mean economic growth by your mansion example. Maybe if you hold all other factors constant, but that's not a real-world scenario. As Ryan noted, (population) growth need not displace people, even less so if we choose to make proactive decisions to mitigate prevailing economic forces (which, you are correct, often induce displacement).

I guess what baffles me is that The Tower (I doubt it's an accident that those posters appear more frequently the closer one gets to Cannon @ Victoria) would choose to start this discussion in such a ham-fisted manner.

Permalink | Context

By Morgan (registered) | Posted July 08, 2015 at 08:30:51 in reply to Comment 112626

Displacement absolutely is an inevitable side-effect, Borrelli. As people with higher incomes move into a neighbourhood, they begin to demand services that the previous tenants cannot afford, and stores change to suit those different demands. The nice little mom-and-pop boutiques and restaurants on James North? Those cannot exist without demand for their products. Since their products are often small batch, hand crafted, or otherwise limited in supply (read exclusive), they are more expensive than mass-produced plastic factory goods, and there will soon be no places for the prior locals to shop. Soon enough, faced with no places to purchase what they want, and with steadily increasing rents, they will be moved out by market forces - gentrification resulting in displacement. As the downtown becomes a more desirable place to live, supply and demand arguments will prevail because there is absolutely no ethical or legal argument that can be presented that indicates the current landholders should not be able to seek the maximum possible profits available on their investments. You cannot make "proactive decisions to mitigate prevailing economic forces" without infringing on the economic rights of those self-same property owners. An altruistic person or agency /could purchase or retain/ a block of land for the purposes of renting to low-income persons already in the neighbourhood, but that would be their decision, and it likely wouldn't be a popular one when faced with meaningful alternatives.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 17:49:27

I have a real soft spot for anti-gentrification activists like this one since I realized how terribly wrong I was when I argued with them in the famous 'fat cats' gentrification debate around 2010. Since then it's become obvious that small businesses and lower income residents actually are being pushed out despite the insistence of gentrification apologists that this need not happen. Or that somehow it's different here because it's artists own buildings.

We argue more about whether it's a problem or not than what the solution to the problem is. I believe they need to change the commercial tenancy act to better protect tenants as small businesses currently have absolutely zero protection once their leases are up. A rent cap similar to the one Berlin introduced would help keep housing affordable.

5 years ago my friends were buying houses in my neighbourhood. Now all I hear about is people being outbid or kicked out by Toronto buyers. The hot housing market has dreadful consequences for renters as potential buyers are renting for longer resulting in low vacancies and upward pressure on rents.

I don't believe we can ignore the social consequences of economic revival in the downtown. We need growth and density and more tax revenue to run the city but there must be decisive action to protect those who have been here through the hard times - without whom there would have been nothing left to gentrify.

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted July 07, 2015 at 21:59:20 in reply to Comment 112631

one of the most vital fixes needed ASAP is more rental housing stock. Think of the worlds most dense, successful cities. They all have a far higher rental rate than cities like Hamilton.

Montreal, NY, Boston etc.....
Those investing and reviving Hamilton aren't to blame. All levels of government need to adjust the financial set-up in order to make new rentals a profitable venture for the private sector.

I have no problem with people pointing out certain problems, IF they offer constructive solutions. Those who just like to complain and pretend the donut-hole poverty-decades of the 70's-2000's were somehow better for low income folks don't have any credibility.
Those decades helped cement Code Red in our urban core. More decades of the same would have led to larger Code Red areas. Thankfully our economy is rebounding. Now we need grown-ups to talk about solutions, not tossing rocks through coffee shop windows.

Permalink | Context

By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted July 09, 2015 at 17:39:45 in reply to Comment 112647

It's easy for the middle class to point out Hamilton's lower-than-average rents as it appears to be a barrier to revitalization. However it is often overlooked that along with lower rents Hamilton has a lower average income. Even with our cheap housing affordability is an issue here already and will become huge as prices normalize with respect to the surrounding area.

Montreal is actually an example of a large and vibrant city with relatively low rents - diminutive compared to Boston or NYC. This is in part thanks to Quebec's tenant protection laws. I visited recently and some friends who had moved there from Toronto (which had become unaffordable for them) told me it was a different world there for tenants.

More rental housing is needed and indeed being built; however that is not the whole solution. New construction rentals will necessarily be at the upper end of the rent scale. The most affordable housing here tends to be older buildings and multi-unit retrofits that come under fire from newer residents of gentrifying neighbourhoods. This housing is the most vulnerable as prices appreciate and it's more likely to be converted back to single family by new owners. Affordable housing needs to be protected as neither the City nor private investors are building much more of it.

Berlin like Hamilton has been historically cheap and attracted artist and musicians who could never afford to live in other European capitals. However as prices rose they did not throw their hands up and say oh well rent is higher in other cities. They actually decided that affordability ought to be preserved and enacted laws to preserve it. It seems to be working. http://www.citylab.com/housing/2015/07/b...

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted July 09, 2015 at 21:19:21 in reply to Comment 112707

I think you mis-read my sentence about 'far higher rental rates than Hamilton'. I meant the % of residents who are renters is higher than Hamilton's. Not the price. Montreal's rents are very affordable and offers a good model for Hamilton to follow with our stock of similar old walkups and 3-4 storey brick apartment buildings.

I was taking aim more at the attitude I hear in Hamilton that suggests renters are slobs or criminals or will 'bring down the neighbourhood' etc.... It's not proven to be true in Montreal, NYC or Berlin. Vibrant cities have a large rental population. My own neighbourhood of Strathcona has a high rental population and it's fantastic for the neighbourhood. A good mix of affordability, rentals, modest homes, somewhat higher end homes and great neighbourhood amenities make this a neighbourhood that could be emulated eastward right through the lower city. From Dundurn to Red Hill we could see good mixed-income hoods that are healthy and strong.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Borrelli (registered) | Posted July 08, 2015 at 15:15:58

Sorry, Morgan, but your argument is a little too tautological for me--you might as well say change inevitably leads to change. Or as Moyle noted, non-gentrification can just as well lead to displacement. I just don't see how it's a terribly prescriptive, descriptive, or even accurate observation since your scenario is based on one-way capital flows out of the gentrifying areas. I don't see any compelling reason why the same people you suggest are inevitably to be displaced can't be the same people benefiting from increased demand for goods and services.

And you absolutely can make proactive decisions to mitigate the economics--you outlined that scenario yourself in your last line: it`s what gov't subsidized housing, co-ops & land trusts can do, aka-->aim to correct market failures.

I don`t quibble with the general story of behavioural economics you outline, just the strong level of causality your remarks imply because they're an excuse to do nothing. At the moment, I'm more comfortable limiting my list of life's certainties to death & taxes.

Permalink | Context

By Morgan (registered) | Posted July 09, 2015 at 09:59:29 in reply to Comment 112674

Cause and effect is hardly tautological. I have made a statement of a logical outcome based on the available evidence; gentrification + market realities = displacement.

Moyle quite rightly pointed out that displacement can arise from other causes, making the displacement caused by gentrification irrelevant. As displacement will occur regardless, gentrification should not be limited by it as a factor. As you have not proven that displacement is a "market failure", I am unwilling to accept it, an unproven conclusion, as a premise. It logically follows then that it does not require correction. I do not see why you see this as an excuse to do nothing. Based on it, I encourage action, namely those actions that will accelerate the process of the neighbourhood's gentrification. I simply feel no pity because things are changing, nor do I see why rents and property values should be artificially limited in order to keep housing and stores available for people and businesses that cannot survive under fair market practices just because the neighbourhood is changing.

Nowhere did I say that everyone must go, that's a strawman argument and you know it. If the people who are in the area are providing goods and services that others want, and are able to make sufficient money to pay the increased rents, then by all means they should stay if it makes business sense for them to do so, as they are benefiting from increased demand and making more from it. I simply see no compelling reason to prop them up if they fail as a result of the gentrification process. You might as well attempt to keep the buggy-whip manufacturers churning out product because they were there before cars.

Permalink | Context

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted July 08, 2015 at 16:09:11 in reply to Comment 112674

I think the only really effective way to enable people with lower incomes to stay in areas of rapidly increasing property values is to mandate that new construction includes a certain percentage of geared-to-income units and for the city to build more social housing in the area. The increased tax revenues could provide revenue for the city to build the housing, and the profits available to developers would make it attractive to make some units geared to income. Keeping an area poor, rundown and without good employment options is not an acceptable social policy.

But it is important to remember that, at least in terms of residents, many of the existing buildings that have been restored along James St N had in fact been largely empty above the ground for decades. I think what we're beginning to see is that the first generation of shopowners (and possibly some residents) who started the revival are beginning to be pushed out by higher rents.

The same thing was pointed out by Glen Norton on the downtown renewal Jane's walk

https://raisethehammer.org/article/2584/...

One of the City's big challenges is that most of the older commercial buildings along King St downtown have been empty for decades above ground level. The city has tried providing incentives, but many owners are just not interested in looking for tenants. In downtown Hamilton, at least, the major problem is not so much hundreds of residents being evicted by landowners renovating their buildings, but owners who didn't invest anything in their buildings for decades, to the point of not even bothering with tenants.

The problem may get more severe for areas with currently very cheap houses as housing values rise, but the "mixed use" buildings were not actually providing much accommodation relative to what was potentially available. Another issue is the limited supply of rental apartments, but that may beginning to change as developers finally start building large rental apartment buildings again.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-07-08 16:16:16

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By misterque (registered) - website | Posted July 09, 2015 at 10:36:10

As I said before. "Arts Industry Fucks Are the New Steal."

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By lucasmascotto (registered) | Posted July 10, 2015 at 12:00:22

http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/2392...

Comment edited by lucasmascotto on 2015-07-10 12:00:35

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By scrap (anonymous) | Posted July 18, 2015 at 19:39:21

Interesting feedback. I found the article spoke a truth that many will not like.
Given the various opinions here, my conclusions are correct.
Those who have influence want things that work for them however that does not work for those who are typically excluded from the dialogue.

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds