The “G” Word: It’s Time to Shift the Public Discourse

BY Alexandria Anderson

picture of down town Hamilton
Photo source Dean McCoy

Everybody’s talking about downtown cores. The fall of suburbia has given rise to the urban village, spurred by a “back-to-the-city” movement where urban life is the new post-consumer ideal. But as this wave of cultural renewal and growth gains momentum, the “g” word is popping up in headlines, tweets and coffee shop conversations all over the city: gentrification.

Opponents of gentrification fear that the process of downtown and community renewal necessarily results in involuntarily displacement of inhabitants original to these areas. Often, gentrification is dominantly seen as a class war between wealthier residents or new investment opportunities and residents or organizations vulnerable to financial pressures. Proponents of gentrification see these shifts in urban neighbourhoods as a necessary evil to revitalize the community. Regardless if you are for or against gentrification, it is a process that determines not everyone is welcome to enjoy pro-urban rejuvenation.

While the the reinvention of an urban area is complex, what is more influential than the costs, trends and outcomes of urban renewal is the public discourse surrounding these transformations. The ideas and attitudes we have will shape our city. Instead of adding Hamilton to the lists of cities that are viewed as gentrifying communities, maybe it’s time to redefine our process of pro-urban development to reshape the outcome. Discourse is a powerful force that not only explains but predicts human behaviour and if we can shift our discourse away from gentrification, away from an outcome that results in dislocation, we have an opportunity to build a community that is inclusive, safe, energized and revitalized for everyone. We have an opportunity to move away from predetermining that Hamilton is the next Brooklyn and instead chart a whole new course for urban renewal, to set an example of urban renewal gone right.

By reimaging a new framework for the transformation of our City, we can move beyond predetermining a fate of displacement and disparate progress and instead create limitless possibilities that benefit everyone. This isn’t to say that the realities of gentrification aren’t real, or aren’t happening in Hamilton, but if we want to create a different truth, the first step is to think differently. Maybe it’s time to move beyond the “g” word, and start using another big word: heterogeneity.

Want more? Continue reading The Gentrification Issue

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