April 12, 2019

Does gentrification cause displacement? Not necessarily.

I’ve seen at least at two studies which demonstrate that ‘gentrification’ does not necessarily lead to major displacement of poorer residents.  But that goes against the dominant narrative, so is often not acknowledged – or it’s dismissed.  Indeed, the meme that investment or development leads, ipso facto, to gentrification is spreading, most recently at the open house for the Kits Larch Street rental project:


Here’s another perspective from Jesse Van Tol, chief executive officer of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition:

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Studentification and the impacts of education-led international immigrants

Speakers: Qiyan Wu and respondents
Dr. Wu will discuss processes of studentification as a new feature and process of gentrification.
Dr. Wu’s past work has examined Nanjing, one of China’s largest urban centres, and a process that Dr. Wu calls jiaoyufication. Dr. Wu stretches his original studies to consider cities with large numbers of Chinese immigrant populations such as Greater Vancouver and Manchester, and new processes of gentrification and displacement that are being instigated by various forms and configurations of studentification.

November 16
7 pm
Room 1410, SFU Vancouver (Harbour Centre) – 515 W. Hastings Street
Reserve seats

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From The Guardian:

… the challenge most likely to define her time in office will be taming Barcelona’s tourist industry. In its transformation, since the 1992 Olympics, into the self-styled capital of the Mediterranean, and the fourth-most-visited city in Europe, Barcelona has become a victim of its own success. In the old town, evictions are common – a direct result of rents being driven up by tourist apartments – and residents complain that their neighbourhoods have become unlivable. “You really can’t walk down some streets in the summer,” one local told me, “as in, you physically can’t fit.”

The scale of the problem is made clear by a few simple figures: in 1990, Barcelona had 1.7 million visitors making overnight stays – only a little more than the population of the city; in 2016, the number has risen to more than eight million. …

As tourism has exploded, radically reshaping the city, the question of who Barcelona is ultimately for has become increasingly insistent. “Any city that sacrifices itself on the altar of mass tourism,” Colau has said, “will be abandoned by its people when they can no longer afford the cost of housing, food and basic everyday necessities.” …

Soon after her election, Colau announced a year-long moratorium on new hotels and tourist apartments, disrupting over 30 planned hotel projects. In March 2016, the city hall extended the ban, and is proposing to direct any future expansion to the periphery of the city, away from the over-burdened old town.

City hall has also fined Airbnb and its rival Homeaway €60,000 each for advertising illegal tourist apartments – ones that had not been registered and were therefore not necessarily paying taxes or fees. In April, city hall announced it was looking into a specific tourist tax levied on those not making overnight stays: cruise ship passengers and day-trippers. Many of these initiatives have come from Ada Colau’s new tourism council, which features input from ordinary Barcelonans, as well as the industry.


Full story here.

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Simon Button, a young engineer and urban chicken enthusiast in Victoria, sends this dispatch on the topic of gentrification in the country’s oldest Chinatown. 

The ‘g-word’ has long been a topic of heated debate in the world of neighbourhood development.
One project in Victoria seems to have rejected the negative connotation of the ‘g-word’ and presents its heritage building conversion to the public as “a gentrification project”. This is either an extremely tin-eared development team or one willing to embrace the positive side of the debate. Maybe both.


The conversion project will be connecting a group of heritage buildings in Victoria’s Chinatown, providing street level commercial space on both Pandora and Fisgard. The buildings on the two parallel streets will be connected by an interior courtyard and their height will not change. The condos upstairs will apparently be priced around $300K, a price tag which is likely achieved by having a floor area of only 400-500 square feet and not providing any parking.
To me, the advertising of this as a gentrification project seemed to be either a misuse of the word gentrification or alternately a very honest declaration of intent from the developer. Or perhaps the word has developed a broader use and is not quite as provoking as it once was.

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From The Protocity:

Even though it is hard to define this urban phantom, we can argue that the hipster is connected to particular neighborhoods in cities. Think of Williamsburg and Bushwick in New York, Shoreditch and Hackney in London or Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain in Berlin. All these neighborhoods were transformed at least partly by the influx of hipsters who came for cheap rents into these more or less derelict neighborhoods. More and more cafés, bars, restaurants, galleries, and vintage shops are popping up boosting the neighborhood, you know the story. Neighborhoods get hip because its shops, nightlife, and cultural activities are attracting more and more of the urban phantom – the stereoptype everybody knows but no one wants to be part of. …

All these ‘hipster’- neighborhoods seem to have a charm that not only attracts hipsters, but tourists as well. Many of these neighborhoods have bars, cafés, clubs or shops that are unique or try to be unique and attract tourists besides residents. Kreuzberg or Williamsburg are both destinations mentioned in travel guides as places to see or to visit, thus transforming the ‘hipster’ and his habitat into sights to see like a baroque castle or a monument. A lifestyle becomes an attraction.

Tourism more and more seems to become a spectacle, and to experience the hipster in its habitat is apparently part of that. Berlin’s bus tours (for instance the ‘Wall & Lifestyle Tour‘) through the streets of Friedrichshain provoke counter- actions by the local residents, fighting the ‘easyjet- jetset’, by taking pictures of the tourists and putting up stickers and posters in the area. Residents are afraid of being priced out of the neighborhood, if more and more hipsters and tourists are coming to frequent the hip bars, shops or clubs. Keeping the character of the neighborhood is one of the main goals, making this initiative yet another slightly conservative NIMBY- action.

Full article and videos here.

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From the BBC:

Rapid immigration led to the formation of US Chinatowns in the late 19th Century, though a long period of exclusion and discrimination for the Chinese began around the same time. The next large wave of arrivals followed the 1965 Immigration Act, but in recent decades older Chinatowns have shrunk.

The report on gentrification, published by the Asian American Legal Defense  Fund, finds that from 2000-2010 the share of the Asian population has fallen  from 48%-45% in New York’s Chinatown, 57%-46% in Boston’s, and 49%-30% in Philadephia’s, and that the share of the white population rose in all three cities. …

“Chinatowns are turning into a sanitised ethnic playground for the rich to satisfy their exotic appetite for a dim sum and fortune cookie fix,” says Andrew Leong, one of the authors of a recent report that charted gentrification in New York, Boston and Philadelphia’s Chinatowns.

Wellington Chen, who runs a community network formed to help the neighbourhood recover after the 9/11 attacks, thinks the focus on gentrification is misplaced.

“At the end of the day the narrow splitting of us versus them – the class differentiation, the gender, the race thing – that’s nonsense,” he says. “The best communities, just like the best individuals, are the ones that can adapt to changes very flexibly, nimbly, quickly.”

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Gentrification and the Death and Life of American Cities

Time: 7pm Place: Rm. 1420, Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings St. Cost: Free, register

No figure has had more of an impact on American and Canadian cities in the 20th century than Jane Jacobs. In an era where city planners advocated massive urban renewal projects, Jacobs’ seminal 1961 text “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” championed the rehabilitation of dense, walkable, historic neighborhoods like her Greenwich Village. But was she simply describing an early form of “gentrification”?

Today, ironically many Jacobsian neighborhoods like Brooklyn’s Park Slope, Vancouver’s Kitsilano, and even Greenwich Village itself are high-income enclaves with wildly expensive renovated homes. This talk will discuss the legacy of Jane Jacobs in the gentrifying city. Was Jacobs a ‘gentrifier’? Does it matter?

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SFU’s Urban Studies Program Fall speakers series on Gentrification and the City.
The following notable academics will be joining us in October and November:
October 29 – David Hulchanski, “Gentrification and the Future of Rental Housing”
November 7 – Jasper Rubin, “Gentrification and the Waterfront”
November 20 – Suleiman Osman, “Gentrification and the Death and Life of American Cities”
Additional details about these talks, including seat reservation information, can be found here.

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