Condominium Development and Gentrification: The Relationship between Policies, Building Activities and Socio-Economic Development in Toronto
Lehrer, Ute, Wieditz, Thorben, Canadian Journal of Urban Research
Over the past few years, Toronto has experienced a massive reinvestment into the inner city, mostly in the form of high-rise condominium towers, which was followed by the largest population growth in over 30 years. The city that used to praise itself as multicultural, ethnically diverse and socially-mixed, has, as recent studies indicate, become spatially divided into three distinct cities: the constant city of the rich, the shrinking city of middle-income households, and the growing city of concentrated poverty. In this paper we suggest that the condominium towers are a new form of gentrification that contributes to the spatial trifurcation of the city. We call it the condofication of Toronto. We start with a discussion of some important aspects of gentrification, followed by an analysis of policy documents and reports that have been guiding urban development in Toronto. We then take a look at the incoming condo-dwellers, before we conclude that the city needs to revisit its planning instruments in order to prevent further spatial segregation in Toronto.
Key words: gentrification; condominium boom; Toronto; urban politics; planning
Depuis quelques annees, on a constate un reinvestissement massif dans le centre ville de Toronto, particulierement sous la forme de "tours a condominiums", suivi par la plus grande augmentation de la population des 30 dernieres annees. La cite qui se vantait d'etre multiculturelle, avec une grande diversite ethnique et mixite sociale, s'est divisee--comme l'indiquent de recentes etudes--en trois cites distinctes: la cite inchangee des riches, la cite en decroissance des menages a revenus moyens, et la cite ou croient les concentrations de pauvrete. Dans cet article, nous suggerons que les tours a condominiums represente une nouvelle forme de "gentrification", qui contribue a la division tri-partite spatiale de la cite. Nous l'appelons la "condofication" de Toronto. Nous commencons avec une discussion de certains aspects de la "genrrification", suivi d'une analyse des reglements et des rapports qui ont guide le developpement urbain de Toronto. Nous jetons enfin un coup d'oeil aux nouveaux habitants de condos avant de conclure que la Cite se doit de revoir ses instruments de planification afin de prevenir une encore plus grande segregation spatiale de Toronto.
Mots cles: Gentrification; boom des condominiums; Toronto; politique et amenagement urbain
There has been some discussion lately about the changing face of Toronto's neighbourhoods. The report Poverty by Postal Code released by United Way of Toronto (MacDonnell et al. 2004) demonstrated beyond doubt that family poverty in the City of Toronto is increasing and even concentrating within neighbourhoods. The results of this report were confirmed more recently with a detailed study by the Centre for Urban and Community Studies (Hulchanski 2007) which exposes an alarming trend of income disparity that starts to divide the city into three distinct entities: those whose income has increased since 1970 by more than 20%, those whose income remained more or less stable and those whose income decreased by more than 20%. The spatial representation of these trends clearly indicates that the City of Toronto is divided into three distinct cities, with a fast disappearance of neighborhoods with predominantly middle income groups and a dramatic increase of poor neighborhoods, particularly in the inner suburbs and, at the same time, a concentration and consolidation of rich neighborhoods in the inner city and selective pockets at a few other places throughout the city.
These trends can be seen as the result of what Hackworth (2007) calls the three emerging forms of a 'neoliberal spatial fix': the relationship between (1) continued rapid suburban growth, (2) a volatile decline and disinvestment in the inner suburbs, and (3) considerable inner city reinvestment, often in the form of gentrification. These simultaneous processes are at the cote of Toronto's socio-spatial transformation: the increasing urban poverty in the new zones of disinvestment, the inner suburbs, is closely linked to the increasing wealth in Toronto's inner city. Thus, we will take a closer look at contemporary processes of gentrification and the 'new face' of Toronto's inner city, which has significantly changed since the mid-1990s. We will start with a general discussion of gentrification and suggest that the condominium tower is a new form of gentrification. Then, we will analyze some of the policies and reports that are relevant for current urban development in Toronto. This will be followed by a discussion of the findings of a study done by the City of Toronto on inner city dwellers. We will conclude with a cautionary remark about Toronto's strategy to allow massive, homogenous forms of condominiums in the inner city without developing strong instruments that would help to diversify the socio-economic composition of Toronto's inner city.
Gentrification in Toronto
The field of gentrification research has its roots in Ruth Glass's observation of socio-spatial transformations in London's inner city in the 1960s (Glass 1964). Her account provides a 'classic' definition of a process that became known as gentrification--the transformation of working-class neighbourhoods into middle and upper-class residential neighbourhoods through reinvestment and stresses gentrification's undercurrent class character as well as its negative impact on low income communities. Since then the concept of gentrification has become more elaborate. No longer is it only about the upgrading of individual houses that leads to gentrification but the process per se has become more complex:
How in the larger context of changing social geographies, are we to distinguish adequately between the rehabilitation of nineteenth-century housing, the construction of new condominium towers, the opening of festival markets to attract local and not so local tourists, the proliferation of wine bars--and boutiques for everything--and the construction of modern and postmodern office buildings employing thousands of professionals, all looking for a place to live? (Smith 1996, 39, emphasis added)
Because of its complexity and its various forms, researchers around the world have tried to excavate the specificities of various forms of gentrification. For the purpose of this paper the concept of 'new-build gentrification' is of particular interest to us (Davidson and Lees 2005). It includes a range of building types, for example townhouses and condominiums, as well as new-build in-fills closer to the core (Cameron 2003; Hackworth 2002; Mills 1988, 1989, 1993; Rose 2002; Slater 2004; Zukin 1991). With it also came a plethora of terms: 're-gentrification', 'super-gentrification' or 'financification' describing processes in neighbourhoods that had experienced earlier waves of gentrification (Lees 2000, 2003; Hackworth and Smith 2001; Butler and Lees 2006); the 'studentification' of particular neighbourhoods in university towns (D. Smith 2002); and the 'tourist gentrification' of the French Quarter in New Orleans (Gotham 2005). As David Le), (1996, 34) reminds us, we need to widen the definition of gentrification to include "renovation and redevelopment [...] on non-residential sites" occurring in areas zoned for commercial, retail and even industrial uses.
While its processes were initially identified as small pockets of reinvestment in larger cities, such as London, New York, San Francisco and Toronto, gentrification now has become not only a global phenomenon (Atkinson and Bridge 2005) but also bas spread outwards, including suburban and rural regions (Caulfield 1994; Parsons 1980; Phillips 1993; Smith and Phillips 2001). With all this reinvestment into the built environment over the past three decades, Wyly and Hammel (1999) suggest that one should revise Berry's famous maxim (1985) describing gentrification as 'islands of renewal in seas of decay' into its opposite: 'islands of decay in seas of renewal.'
Towards the end of the 1990s a massive wave of capital reinvestment in inner cities caused accelerated geographic expansion of gentrification processes. This has been described by Hackworth and Smith (2001) as 'post-recession' or 'third-wave' gentrification and is characterized as follows: (1) it has expanded within both the inner-city neighbourhoods that had experienced earlier waves of gentrification as well as within neighbourhoods that are located beyond the immediate core; (2) larger developers are becoming involved in gentrification processes due to restructuring and globalization in the real estate industry; (3) resistance has declined as the working class is continuously displaced from the inner city; and (4) the state has become more involved in the processes than before (see also Hackworth 2002; Smith and Defilippis 1999). The last point has particular relevance for Toronto where, over the past few years, the rewriting of policies and vision statements are facilitating processes of gentrification (Lehrer 2008). In this understanding, and thanks to Richard Florida's increasing influence in Toronto, the 'creative class' (Florida 2002) …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Condominium Development and Gentrification: The Relationship between Policies, Building Activities and Socio-Economic Development in Toronto. Contributors: Lehrer, Ute - Author, Wieditz, Thorben - Author. Journal title: Canadian Journal of Urban Research. Volume: 18. Issue: 1 Publication date: Summer 2009. Page number: S140+. © 2000 Institute of Urban Studies. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.