On Living in a Gentrifying Neighbourhood, Pt. IV
June 17, 2012 § 2 Comments
Yesterday, during Bloomsday, I presented The Point a 1978 documentary on Pointe-Saint-Charles directed by Robert Duncan and produced by William Weintraub. The film presents a very depressing picture of a very depressed neighbourhood in the late 1970s: a picture of unemployment, alcoholism, violence, and dislocation. The graduating class of James Lyng Catholic High School faced a bleak future in 1978, unilingual and unskilled.
I then presented a bit of context to the film, both the historical time period in which the film, and by whom (Anglos in the late 1970s, between the election of the Parti québécois as the provincial government in 1976 and the First Referendum on Québec sovereignty in 1980). In shot, a very volatile period in Montréal’s and Québec’s history. I also pointed out that the Pointe was more than just some sad sack inner-city slum, pointing to such things as the Clinique communitaire de Pointe-Saint-Charles and other examples of neighbourhood organisation and resistance (i.e.: the very things that I love the Pointe for). I felt it was important to demonstrate to the audience that a poor, dislocated neighbourhood with rampant unemployment during the years of deindustrialisation was more than just that, it was a community (this is something I have learned in studying Griffintown, especially from talking to former Griffintowners).
I then moved on to discuss gentrification here in the Pointe. I am of two minds on it. On the one hand, the Pointe is not Griffintown, the condo developers and gentrifying tenement owners do not have to start from scratch. There is a very strong community here already. On the other hand, the community that exists here only works when those of us who are interlopers get involved, and understand what already exists here and how precious that is.
But tonight, sitting on my front stoop, talking on the phone (because it’s about the only place I can get a continuous signal in my flat), the entire process of gentrification was brought home to me in blatant fashion. A young woman, in her early 20s, and pregnant, is looking for a place to live. The flat upstairs is for rent, so I talked to her, told her about it, how big it was, etc. It was apparent that she is a single mother-to-be, as she used the singular in referring to her needs for a flat. She looked sad and defeated, because the flats around here cost too much for her to afford. As she turned to go, she said “It looks like they just want to push all the poor people out of the Pointe.”
What can you say to that? Especially when you’re one of the guilty. It is a simple fact that rents are going up in the Pointe, both because former rental units are being bought up and converted into single-family homes, and because landlords are realising they can make a lot more money if they renovate and gentrify their flats. And so where does that leave this woman? A quick search of Craigslist for flats in the Pointe reveals the same thing, they’re getting expensive. And so where do those who can’t afford to live here go?
I don’t have the answer for that one.