GENTRIFICATION

Hi, my name is Kevin, and I'm a gentrifier.

9 years ago my wife and I moved into the downtown of our city; an economically challenged place that was facing huge problems, including a life expectancy the same as many developing countries. We got to know our neighbours, started a local kids clothing store, got bike lanes across the downtown, helped other friends renovate their old homes, and even gathered people together to start a new church.

We've been a part of a lot of good things in this city.

We've changed it in other ways as well.

When we started a business, other businesses started, making the street busier, and increasing the cost of housing. The real estate market has responded to bike lanes and jacked up prices, which results in landlords selling their rental properties, and kicking established families out of their homes. Our values of local food and fair-trade coffee has lead to a boom of local coffee shops, but many of these places are too expensive for those who have lived in the city for a long time.

Gentrification is complicated.

(If you aren't familiar with the term, gentrification is the process of renovation of deteriorated urban neighborhoods by means of the influx of more affluent residents - see wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentrification)

Yes. It's very complicated stuff.

Was the city better when the storefronts were boarded up, and houses were falling apart from neglect, and the streets were impossible to navigate on bike?

But is it "better" because we have fifty new restaurants?
Is it "better" because we have nice lawns? 
Is it "better" because there are more people walking the streets?

Yes... and no... and maybe.

Here's an exercise to do with your friends, ask this question:

"What would a flourishing city look like? Who does it benefit? Who does it celebrate? What kinds of programs run? What kinds of businesses start? What do the parks look like? What does our street look like?"

And then ask this question:

"What would it look like to take ONE STEP FORWARD in that direction?"

We can't be ignorant to these changing realities.

But we also can't be overwhelmed.

Do not be overwhelmed.

Talk to your neighbours and listen well, walk and bike your hood, sit on your front porch (or stoop, or grass patch) and just be present and attentive.

Dream of a flourishing city for everyone, and take the next step.

Good will come of it.

Feel free to click "share" on this post. Hope it sparks good conversation about loving thy neighbour.

Justin Aitcheson

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada