back into a city. It grows an economy with new investment, construction, small businesses and job opportunities. This opens up the market for larger industries to take a city like Hamilton seriously. The city benefits greatly from increased property taxes, tourism and national recognition. These are all positive changes in a city. In 2017, Hamilton sent in a bid for Amazon to establish their second headquarters here. They didn’t win the bid, but the fact that it was taken seriously speaks to where Hamilton can go. The new investors in Hamilton are eager to upgrade their properties and improve the aesthetics of their investments. This typically ignites interest from long-term residents to do the same to their properties. More attractive properties attract higher income residents who demand better amenities and can spend more on local businesses in the area. These revitalized areas have a lot at stake and the pressure to succeed is high. That’s how you get great neighbourhood vibes, like what’s happening on Locke Street in Hamilton. After the recent vandalism on Locke Street, the residents held a #LoveLockeDay as a way to rally support for the local businesses that were hit hard. The bad: On the flip side of growth there is loss. New developments are built over local favourite landmarks, with higher density, smaller lots, less green space and parking. However, at its core, the anti-gentrification argument is about displacement of people who have been priced out of their homes and neighbourhoods. The revitalization of an area stresses those residents who live there because the rents are no longer low and the local economy is no longer affordable. Once the revitalization happens in more areas across a city, these lower income residents have no place in their price bracket. Their choices include leaving the city entirely, getting assistance from the government (which they might already be on) or rising up against change. The ugly: Frustration and anger stem from fear; when you feel that you have no place to go with no solution to fit into the changing environment, you find someone to blame. Unfortunately, many times, the focus is on landlords who raise their rents or small businesses that charge higher prices for doughnuts. Activist groups feed off this type of fear and help those struggling with change to direct their anger in the wrong places. The recent attack on Locke Street in Hamilton is an example of extreme anti-gentrification activism. What is the real motive behind these types of groups? If they were looking for a solution, shouldn’t it be directed at better social assistance and higher pay? The idea that everything should cost less so that people can afford things seems short-sighted when the costs to produce everything continue to go up. The federal, provincial and municipal governments need to work together to ensure that nobody is left behind as we move forward to improve our cities and our society. The $4 billion Canada Housing Benefit, which would provide rent support for about 300,000 low-income households, is slotted to begin in 2020 (if the provinces cover half of the cost). This will go a long way toward helping to provide better assistance and helping those in need to embrace the improvements to their community.
58 | march 2018
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