Discourses and experiences of social mix in gentrifying neighbourhoods: a Montreal case study.
Subject: Urban policy (Forecasts and trends)
City planning
Author: Rose, Damaris
Pub Date: 12/22/2004
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2004 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Winter, 2004 Source Volume: 13 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 010 Forecasts, trends, outlooks; 290 Public affairs Computer Subject: Market trend/market analysis
Product: Product Code: 9107130 Urban Planning Assistance NAICS Code: 92512 Administration of Urban Planning and Community and Rural Development
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Canada; United Kingdom Geographic Name: Canada; Canada Geographic Code: 4EUUK United Kingdom; 1CANA Canada
Accession Number: 129248097
Full Text: Abstract

The discourse of urban policy targeted to revitalization of inner cities is increasingly marked by advocacy of 'social mix' or 'tenure mix' at the neighbourhood scale. After reviewing the various urban policy contexts concerned, and the findings of pertinent scholarly research, this paper addresses a particularly slippery area of social mix discourse--that concerning the gentrification of inner city neighbourhoods. Existing literature leaves unanswered questions about the actual experiences of social diversity in such contexts. Findings based on research in Montreal are then presented, based on 49 qualitative interviews with one particular category of 'gentrifiers'--purchasers of condominiums developed between 1995 and 1998 as small-scale infill development, with the assistance of municipal programs designed to help 'repopulate' the city. With respect to their viewpoints on social class diversity and social and affordable housing (actual and potential) in their neighbourhood, interviewees fell broadly within one of four sub-groups: the 'ignorant/ indifferents', the 'Nimbies', the 'tolerants' and the 'egalitarians'. Findings are compared with expectations based on previous research, and we reflect briefly on their implications in the current context where there are signs of revival of social and affordable housing initiatives after a long hiatus.

Keywords: gentrification, social mix, social diversity, infill development, condominiums, municipal housing policy, Montreal


Au sein des discours entourant les politiques urbaines ciblant la revitalisation des quartiers centraux, on observe une tendance de plus en plus marquee de plaidoyer pour la 'mixite' sociale ou au plan des modes d'occupation du logement l'echelle du quartier. Darts cet article, awes avoir passe en revue les divers contextes politiques dans lesquels cet enjeu se pose ainsi que les resultats des recherches scientifiques les plus pertinentes, nous aborderons un terrain particulierement 'glissant' en ce qui concerne les discours de la mixite sociale, soit celui de la gentrification des quartiers anciens. La litterature existante a peu a dire quant aux vecus de la mixite sociale dans de tels contextes. Ensuite, nous presentons les resultats d'une enquete qualitative menee aupres de 49 'gentrifieurs' ayant achete de coproprietes neuves creees entre 1995 et 1998; il s'agit des projets d'insertion a petite echelle realises dans des quartiers centraux anciens a l'aide de programmes municipaux visant le 'repeuplement' de la villecentre. Au plan de leurs points de rue sur la mixite sociale et sur la question du logement social et abordable dans leur voisinage (actuellement et eventuellement), nous avons pu etablir quatre cas de figure : les 'ignorants / indifferents', les 'pas dans ma cour', les 'tolerants' et les 'egalitaristes'. Nous comparons ces resultats a des attentes basees sur des recherches anterieures, et lancons quelques reflexions quant a leurs implications dans le contexte actuel de renouveau d'initiatives de realisation du logement social.

Mots cles : gentrification, mixite sociale, projets d'insertion, condominiums, politiques d'habitation municipales, Montreal


Advocacy of 'social mix' (also referred to as 'social diversity' or 'social balance') has taken centre stage in the discourse of urban policy in much of North America and Europe over the past decade (Dansereau 2003). An ideal originally rooted in nineteenth-century utopianism, namely that at a certain spatial scale--municipality, neighbourhood, housing project or apartment building--the social composition of the resident population ought to reflect the diversity of the wider society, has been revived as a leitmotiv for the economic and social 'regeneration' of old urban cores. With this trend has come a renewal of academic debate and empirical research on the subject (e.g. Dansereau et al. 1997; Harris 1993; Simon 1995). The type of mix implied by the qualifier 'social' is usually income or socio-economic group, sometimes with ethnic or 'racial' mix as a subtext (Simon et al. 2001). Thus, changing the social mix of an area can either mean increasing the proportion of middle-class people in a low-income area, or vice versa. Increasingly, the desirability of achieving demographic and 'lifestyle' diversity among households is also part of the discourse. Also, planning for income mix tends to entail mixing housing tenures (Wood 2003), especially where the private or social rented sectors have become 'residualized' such that they only house the poor and 'special needs' groups.

The unifying discourse presenting social mix as a taken-for-granted virtue needs some 'unpacking' because it can reflect a variety of objectives-- ranging from fighting social exclusion to stabilizing a municipal tax base--and can be embraced by those espousing ideologies ranging from egalitarian to neo-liberal (Lees 2003a; Smith 2002). This paper thus begins by reviewing, in light of the findings of pertinent scholarly research, the various urban policy contexts in which social mix is invoked. It next zeroes in on a particularly 'slippery' area of social mix discourse--that concerning the 'gentrification' of working-class inner city neighbourhoods. (1) Drawing together the fragmentary ideas in the literature concerning the 'uneasy cohabitation' of gentrification and social mix, it points to unanswered questions about actual experiences of diversity in contexts of gentrification. This is followed by case study material exploring the points of view on social class diversity at the neighbourhood scale espoused by one particular group of participants in the 'social upgrading' of the inner-city--purchasers of new condominiums developed as small-scale infill in old centrally-located neighbourhoods in Montreal.

Social mix and the inner city--urban policy context and research issues

As a tool of urban policy, 'social mix' is advocated today for three main sets of reasons. First, in jurisdictions where cities are highly dependent on property taxes as a source of revenue, the core municipality of a metropolitan area may seek to increase its tax base by attracting new middle-income residents and especially by increasing the percentage of homeowners. This fiscal pragmatism is couched in terms of countering relative or absolute population decline and impoverishment relative to the suburban fringe. Although such US-influenced 'discourses of decline' (Beauregard 2002) may seem exaggerated in Canadian contexts, census data do show a widening household income gap between central and newer suburban municipalities of major Canadian census metropolitan areas from 1960 to the mid-1980s (Bourne 1993; Dansereau 1988; Filion 1987; Ley 2000; Mercer 1992).

In this context, mechanisms used by municipalities to foster more middle- or upper-income housing in the inner city may include de facto assistance to already-present gentrification dynamics in the old housing stock. (2) Core-city municipalities may offer incentives to developers to build infill housing on vacant or 'brownfield' sites or convert defunct industrial or institutional buildings (De Sousa 2002; Seo 2002; Steinacker 2003). Depending on the scale and the income levels targeted, this may range from developing 'entirely new social spaces and in some instances landscapes of wealth' (Bourne 1993: 1303), to creating small pockets of middle-income 'ready-made gentrification' (the expression is that of Caulfield 1994: 83) scattered within existing low-or modest-income neighbourhoods, their architectural styles blending with varying discreetness into the existing streetscape (see Figs. 3 and 4).


Second, since the image of the 'liveable city' has become a key aspect of a city's ability to compete in a globalized, knowledge-based economy (Florida 2003), post-industrial cities have a growing interest in marketing themselves as being built on a foundation of 'inclusive' neighbourhoods capable of harmoniously supporting a blend of incomes, cultures, age groups and 'lifestyles' (Amin et al. 2000; Moss 1997; Zukin 1998). This may include targeting young and highly mobile one-person households working in 'new economy' occupations (Hall & Ogden 2003; Moss 1997; Wynne & O'Connor 1998), or promoting 'family-friendliness' (Slater 2004). In contexts of scarcity of affordable housing, the principle of social mix may be invoked in order to remedy the situation through infill or adaptive reuse, or at least to maintain part of the existing stock. Here, the pragmatic need to house 'key workers' near the urban core may meld with the desire to control the most extreme and visible forms of socio-spatial polarization, which diminish a city's 'liveability' image (Amin et al. 2000; Schill et al. 2001).

Meanwhile, researchers have cautioned against the artificial imposition of 'social mix' at too fine a spatial scale, where, rather than contributing to the 'liveable city', it can create tensions in terms of day-to-day living. This is particularly likely when there are marked economic or 'lifestyle' disparities between residents, which can generate discomforting experiences of neighbouring. Spatial proximity can then increase social distance, leading to people developing a more acute sense of the difference between themselves and the Other, and in general withdrawing further into themselves (Dansereau et al. 2003; Pincon et Pincon-Charlot 2002)--or moving away to a more homogeneous environment. Yet empirical work exploring these issues has been almost entirely limited to contexts of income-mixed social housing, especially in France, and to large brownfield developments such as Vancouver's False Creek or Montreal's Angus Yards based on 'programmed' social mix (Dansereau et al. 1997; Harris 1993).

Third, socio-economic mix is advocated as a means of reducing socio-spatial inequalities in access to urban amenities, services and jobs. Thus we see 'fair share' policies requiring a certain percentage of social housing units in middle-class districts or municipalities (Preteceille 2003), as well as the use of 'housing vouchers' to disperse public housing tenants to middle-income neighbourhoods. Such measures, as well as the promotion of 'exogenous' social mix by infilling market housing in 'enclaves' of very high concentration of low income households, are widely seen in policy milieus as a means of countering undesirable 'neighbourhood effects' and increasing individuals' chances of upward social mobility--in spite of weak and inconsistent evidence about these effects and the mechanisms involved (Dansereau et al. 2003; Friedrichs et al. 2003; for a topical Canadian example, see Neumann, Meagher & Boston 2004). Another strategy is to promote "endogenous' social mix by helping upwardly-mobile existing residents of poor neighbourhoods to remain in place by increasing their range of locally-available housing choices, e.g. by infilling low-cost home-ownership units or mixed-income cooperative housing. (3)

Social diversity in gentrifying neighbourhoods

Drawing on 'stage' models of gentrification (Kernstein 1990), gentrification theorists have tended to dismiss social class mix within gentrifying neighbourhoods as a transitory phenomenon--especially in view of the increasingly upscale gentrification taking place in an ever-growing number of cities around the world (Lees 2000; Smith 2002). For these authors, gentrification has become an integral component of a neo-liberal mode of urban governance where 'liveability' for the few--elite and upper-middle class workers employed in dynamic and footloose sectors of the economy--trumps more inclusive approaches to inner-city revitalization (Wyly & Hammel 2003). Moreover, since welfare state restructuring has drastically curtailed the social safety net (Keil 2002), policies to create such 'liveability' may also involve 'socially sanitizing' urban space, i.e. by removing the most marginalized groups from public space (Mitchell 1997) or eradicating their housing when it is located in neighbourhoods with potential for settlement by middle-class families (Slater 2004) so as to satisfy residents' "desires for safety and relative homogeneity," (Atkinson 2003a; 1841 [emphasis added]).

Nevertheless, many elements of national, regional and local context can affect the extent to which social mix is maintained over time in neighbourhoods experiencing gentrification (Atkinson 2002; Bernt & Holm 2003; Rose 1996). These include: the demography and housing tenure of 'incumbent' residents; the trajectory of the central-city economy in national and international context--which affects the size and income/wealth levels of the new middle class (Rose 1999) and the intensity of inflationary pressures on land and housing markets; and the involvement of various institutional actors in promoting gentrification (Warde 1991). Housing policies are pivotal here since they determine to what extent and where the local housing stock is protected against inflationary market pressures: is social housing already present? Is new low-cost housing fostered in neighbourhoods undergoing gentrification? The possible co-existence of gentrification and social housing at a relatively micro-scale is not an outlandish scenario in Canadian contexts. In the 1990s, decentralization and downloading enabled municipalities in some provinces to choose to take or refuse a proactive role in promoting social and affordable housing, albeit within the fiscal constraints imposed at the federal level (Pomeroy 1999). Since 2001, some provinces have entered into new agreements with the federal government for social and affordable housing construction. Municipalities can play a key role in the delivery of these units, notably in terms of their location. These are profoundly political choices as to whether the costs involved in adopting an 'inclusive' approach to urban regeneration outweigh the costs of not doing so--including the costs in terms of the all-important image of the 'liveable city'. Also, fiscal realities combined with the widespread sentiments against large concentrations of social housing are forcing community groups and community-based housing developers to engage with the language of social mix, because 'partnership' agreements and mixed tenure developments have become the main delivery vehicles for new social housing. In sum, the coexistence of gentrification and socioeconomic mix is worthy of treatment as more than an epiphenomenon.

Although fragmentary, observations in existing literature about social class diversity in contexts of gentrification are quite illuminating. Early British and Canadian work identified a significant fraction of gentrifiers as believing in an 'emancipatory city' based on social justice and an openness to living amidst many forms of diversity (Caulfield 1994; Glass 1964; Ley 1996). These groups were believed to seek out socially-diverse inner-city neighbourhoods and advocate measures such as coop housing so as to maintain such diversity. Yet self-interest is at work here too: they want their idealized vision of a diverse urban 'lifeworld' to be preserved (Caulfield 1994:166-168). Their connections to this diversity exist primarily "in the mind" (Butler & Robson 2001:2157), as part of a "territorialite fictive" (Simon 1997: 56) that contributes significantly to their self-image (Butler & Robson 2003a). They may want to be seen as "residentially correct" (Pincon & Pincon-Charlot 2002: 4), which is in part a Bourdieusian distinction strategy enhancing their social (and even economic) capital inasmuch as it helps them project themselves as cosmopolitan citizens in a global economic and cultural order (Robson & Butler 2001; Rose 1995; Simon 1997). Nevertheless, the belief that such connections exist in a multiethnic and socially mixed neighbourhood is sometimes articulated in a "shared discourse on, and pride in, [its] 'cosmopolitanism'", enabling a diversity of local interests to work together for local service improvements (Germain & Rose 2000: 246-247).

Some accounts of Canadian gentrification in the 1980s did indeed stress its links with progressive urban reformism (Ley & Mills 1996); in particular, public or para-public sector professionals (more present in early gentrification than 'movers and shakers' in the corporate world) were thought to have a 'welfarist' orientation and were seen as being inclined to work actively for local amenities that would benefit a wide segment of residents. Yet others have pointed out that the improvements in local public infrastructure and environmental amenities for which gentrifiers lobby often tend to increase property values, creating pressures for residential displacement (Atkinson 2002; Filion 1991; Wyly & Hammel 2003) and the eventual disappearance of old-established commercial services catering to existing residents (Lehman-Frisch 2002). Thus, the positive 'neighbourhood externalities' of gentrification on incumbents may be short-lived.

Recent waves of gentrification seem to be associated with far more individualistic mindsets, with neighbourhood-based or other civic participation a rarity, and a growing recourse to private recreational and educational services, regardless of public/private sector employment affiliation (Blokland 2003; Butler & Robson 2003a; Butler and Robson 2004). 'Gentrifiers' may refuse to participate in community-based negotiations of compromises around the sharing of local resources among diverse groups and may practice 'NIMBY'-ism ('not in my backyard') (Senecal, Germain & Benard 2002: 26-29). They may rename their adopted neighbourhood or redraw its spatial boundaries (e.g. for a residents' association) so as to reject 'undesirable' sectors (Simon 1997)--identity-building tactics that set the newcomers apart from existing residents. These types of behaviours may in part be due to the high incomes of some participants in the 'post-recession' wave of gentrification' (especially in major global financial centres; Hackworth 2002). They may also speak to the immersion of the new middle class in an altered societal landscape featuring neo-liberalism: some scholars see an association between these more individualistic and inward-looking tendencies and a broader wave of 'urban revanchism' (Slater 2004; Smith 2002). Yet they also reflect a long-term societal trend toward individualism as well as a general sense of economic and cultural insecurity within the new middle-classes (Robson & Butler 2001).

Cogent as they may be, these debates are taking place in the absence of a significant knowledge base as to how social mix is experienced on a day-to-day basis in contexts of gentrification. French and Australian research indicates that living proximate to low-income households is perceived far more positively by upwardly-mobile urbanites than by lower-middle class or working-class households (Arthurson, no date; Dansereau et al. 2003). The sparse literature on the attitudes of incumbent residents to gentrification notes, unsurprisingly, concerns about eventual direct or indirect displacement due to rising rents and property taxes (Holt 1991 ; Slater 2004). Also mentioned are the depaysement and practical disadvantages caused by the 'Yuppification' of neighbourhood commercial thoroughfares (Beaumont & Hamnett 2001: 67; Lehman-Frisch 2002; Simon 1997), as well as the symbolic access barriers created for longstanding residents when local cultural institutions and meeting places become recherche by those with very different cultural styles and much higher levels of economic capital (Levy & Cybriwsky 1980; Pincon & Pincon-Charlot 2001: 69; see also Lees 1997). Still less studied are the lived experiences of social mix by the various parties when middle-class settlement takes place in sudden and 'in your face' ways through infill or conversion of non-residential buildings within the existing fabric of low-income and working-class neighbourhoods, rather than through incremental occupancy changes in the existing stock. This gap in research on such 'instant' gentrification needs addressing, since in many cities new construction seems to be overtaking renovation of the existing housing stock as the major vehicle for increasing the middle-class presence in inner cities (Lambert & Boddy 2002; De Sousa 2002; Lees 2003a; Seo 2002).

Discourses and experiences of social diversity in a gentrifying inner-city: a case study of first-time buyers of new infill housing in central Montreal

In light of this academic and policy context, this paper will now explore the discourses and experiences of neighbourhood-scale social mix as represented in qualitative interviews conducted between February and April 2002 with 50 resident owners of new non-luxury condominiums built as small-scale infill in pre- 1946 inner-city neighbourhoods in Montreal in the mid-to-late 1990s. (4) These interviewees, all of them first-time home-buyers, are a sub-sample of respondents to a questionnaire survey carried out a year earlier, which was designed to build a holistic portrait of the characteristics of the infill condo purchasers, their motivations and the ways they used their neighbourhood. (5) Within a semi-structured interview format, all 50 interviewees were asked to give their points of view about the social composition of their neighbourhood--how they felt about its diversity or its homogeneity. They were also explicitly asked about the presence of social housing in their neighbourhood (without specifying what type of social housing i.e. municipal public housing, coop housing or non-profit housing with services for 'special needs' groups) and about how they would feel if new social housing units were created close by. It was felt that posing such a direct question would be more likely to elicit the full range of perspectives among the interviewees sampled, compared to the fairly unstructured approach used in the Caulfield study (1994) from which we only glean the viewpoints of respondents who spontaneously raised the question of social and affordable housing in the course of the interview.

The housing supply context: the municipal role

The condominium units in which the survey participants lived were built and marketed under the auspices of a proactive City of Montreal policy dating from the late 1970s. Intended to reverse the secular trend toward population decline in the City and to stabilize the property tax base--which became more urgent with the 'fiscal downloading' of the mid-1990s--the policy was incarnated in a succession and variety of programs using both supply-side (lowering costs and underwriting some of the risks for developers; see Hackworth & Smith 2001) and demand-side incentives (lowering the entry cost for purchasers) (Montreal 2000). At the same time, through various neighbourhood revitalization programs, the City aimed to make inner-city districts more attractive to residential-sector investors and middle-income clienteles. In particular, these programs have set out to create more opportunities for home-ownership in what has always been a 'city of tenants' (Charbonneau & Parenteau 1991; Rose & Germain 2000: Ch. 6). Tenure mix was seen as a means of attenuating the gap between household incomes in the core city and the suburbs; by the mid-1990s this size of this gap (Figure 1) (6) was giving rise to a discourse of decline in which the City of Montreal was evocatively termed 'the hole in the doughnut' (Senecal 1997).


Many of the new housing units purchased by interviewees in our study were developed on land or were in converted institutional or industrial buildings held by the City in its inventory and sold to developers at advantageous rates. In return, the latter had to meet strict architectural requirements (e.g environmental fit vis-a-vis the streetscape; units no smaller than 60[m.sup.2]). Additional supply-side assistance (subsidies of $5 000 or even $10 000 to offset construction costs) from a joint provincial-municipal neighbourhood revitalization program was available in sectors meeting certain criteria: 80% or more in rental tenure, and with at least 40% of their households below Statistics Canada's low-income threshold. New construction was included in the latter program specifically in order to consolidate the streetscape through infill and to increase the variety of housing types and tenure options (Ducheny 2002). In all cases, the first purchasers of the new housing units had their property taxes drastically reduced for three years, a subsidy the City fully expected to recoup in a few years through increased property tax revenues (Montreal 2000). Finally, the City underwrote some of developers' advertising costs by including lists of new projects in an annual series of leaflets promoting city living.

These programs targeted several different segments of potential purchasers. Suburbanites (from other municipalities) were encouraged to move 'back to the city', especially 'empty nesters' with considerable disposable income. Marketing campaigns emphasized the urbanity and prestige of the City's flagship developments, as well as the time and stress that could be saved by avoiding commuting (especially on the congested bridges linking the Island of Montreal to Laval and the North and South Shore suburbs; see Figure 1). For first-time buyers, the City mounted a sophisticated 'lifestyle marketing' campaign focussing on the distinctive character and image of different neighbourhoods. Reasonably priced condominiums in 'hip' areas were targeted to young people living alone, encouraging them to become homeowners rather than staying in the rental market. Evaluations of previous programs and the demographics of Montreal Island led to this segment being seen as more important than family households, a perception later borne out by the City's own statistics on purchasers (Montreal 2000). Nevertheless, some of the marketing was aimed at young couples, encouraging them to stay in the inner city rather than moving to the suburbs once they were ready to make the proverbial leap into homeownership.

Arguably, the focus on increasing the tenure mix in the inner city does amount to what Slater (2004) sees as municipal promotion of gentrification. (7) However, upwardly mobile working-class households were also targeted, promoting the opportunity for them to become homeowners without having to move to the suburbs, including the option of staying in their neighbourhood of origin. Moreover, the Montreal policies can scarcely by cast in terms of a neo-liberal agenda. Neo-liberal influences in the Quebec welfare state have been relatively muted compared to certain other jurisdictions in Canada and much of the United States (Gauthier 2001), and Montreal has shown few signs of the 'revanchist' tendencies that emerged in Toronto during the 1995-2003 Progressive Conservative regime in Ontario (Keil 2002). The City's regeneration initiatives have never excluded building new social housing or low end of market rental housing, and have at times actively facilitated it (Montreal 1989). Indeed, Montreal has a long tradition, rare among Canadian municipalities, of major financial commitment to affordable housing initiatives within cost-shared programs (Pomeroy 1999). The second half of the 1990s saw new social housing activity reduced to a trickle in Montreal as elsewhere, due to the federal withdrawal (Carroll 2002). However, at the very time the qualitative interview guide was being developed for this research project, Montreal was about to benefit from the first significant infusion of funds for social and affordable housing in many years with the signing of a federal-provincial social and affordable housing agreement in December 2001, which enabled the province to expand its existing social and affordable housing programs (Societe d'habitation du Quebec 2003) and led to the setting-up of a new City of Montreal program, Operation Solidarite 5000 logements. With this program, the City committed to a substantial contribution and a renewed emphasis on making infill sites available for social and affordable housing, both in inner-city and suburban areas (Canadian Housing 2003; Montreal, Cabinet du comite executif 2002; Montreal, Direction de l'habitation 2002). (8) The City was by now officially advocating social mix as a key component of its housing policy, simultaneously invoking all of the reasons outlined in the first section of this paper (Montreal 2002: 44)! Well aware of the debates and evidence about different strategies of planned social mix, the City was also preparing to deal with the eventuality of NIMBY-type opposition to some projects. In this context, the question to interviewees in our study as to how they would feel about new social housing in their neighbourhood took on a heightened interest.

Characteristics of interviewees

Among the 50 interviewees, there were 27 women and 23 men. The predominant household type (33) comprised people living alone (18 women, 15 men). Only 14 participants lived as part of a couple, including 10 (8 women, two men) in opposite sex couples and four in gay male couples. One interviewee (female) headed a single-parent family. Finally, two (male) interviewees formed a household with a relative or unrelated person. With respect to age, the modal age group was 35-44 (21 interviewees). There were 14 participants aged 2534, 10 in the 45-54 category and five aged 55 or over. The interviewees were a highly educated group, with 28 having a bachelor's degree or higher. Almost all were fully employed. While about half the sample held a professional or managerial occupation, white-collar workers and even service workers were present in the sample. As to household incomes, the modal categories were $30 000-$49 999 for one-person households and $50 000-$69 999 for two-adult households. While these household incomes are much higher than the corresponding figures for all households in the City of Montreal and in the census tracts they lived in (see Figure 2), they do not evoke the stereotypical 'Yuppie' image. (9) Most had moved into newly constructed infill units (see Figure 3 for a typical example), while some had opted for a building recycled from a non-residential use. The median assessed value of their condominium, according to the September 2000 evaluation roll, was $92 700. When they bought their condominium, a large majority of interviewees were already living in inner-city neighbourhoods of the City of Montreal. Some came from on-island suburbs, and very few from outer-suburban areas.


Participants in the intensive interviews, like those in the wider survey, lived in neighbourhoods presently in different stages of gentrification, as can be inferred from Figure 2, which superimposes the location of the interviewees in relation to the average household income, in 2000, of the census tracts in which they reside. These neighbourhoods included parts of the Plateau Mont-Royal--which by the 1990s had become the 'trendiest' district of the inner city, with more extensive gentrification than anywhere else in Montreal (Ley 1996; Rose 1996). The high concentration of interviewees ill the blocks close to the boulevard Saint-Laurent (the storied 'Main', the city's traditional multi-ethnic 'corridor'), which cuts through the Saint-Louis and Mile End neighbourhoods on the western fringes of the Plateau, reflects an intense flinty of infill condominium development on numerous small sites that became available in the mid-1990s. Further to the north, several interviewees had settled in Petite-Patrie or the older sectors of Rosemont, traditional working-class districts that began to experience gentrification in the 1990s, as part of an 'overspill' effect from the Plateau (Ley 1996: 100). A good number of interviewees lived in the Centre-Sud district, where, gentrification--much, but not all, of it associated with the expansion of Montreal's Gay Village, which is located there (Ray & Rose 2000)--has been a gradual but sustained process that has received a major boost with infill development. It nevertheless remains, on the whole, a very low-income neighbourhood (Ley 2000), and includes several hundred units of public and other forms of social housing for families and 'special needs' groups. Finally, a cluster of interviewees lived in the Lachine Canal sector, comprising parts of the old working-class neighbourhoods of Pointe-Saint-Charles ('The Point') and Saint-Henri. This very poor area--the birthplace of industrial Canada--has been undergoing a major transformation since the mid-1990s, with conversions of abandoned industrial buildings to residential use (mostly condominiums), considerable infill housing and a joint City of Montreal/Parks Canada project to create a major recreational corridor (Germain & Rose 2000: Ch. 6) (the canal was opened to pleasure craft in 2002). This area, especially the Point, was the arena of Montreal's most trenchant anti-gentrification struggles in an earlier phase of infill development (Ruddick 1990; Senecal 1992); today, although militant opposition to condominiums is still present, the area's largest housing-related community group considers new condo development less problematic than conversions of rental housing, and is mainly concerned with ensuring an adequate place for social housing amidst a residential and commercial gentrification perceived as unstoppable (Comite Habitation Sud-Ouest 2002).

Condo owners' experiences and discourses on neighbourhood social diversity

When asked to describe the social mix or diversity in their neighbourhood and their opinion of it, a number of the interviewees--all of them Plateau residents--spontaneously interpreted social mix as referring to people with a diversity of cultural origins and occupations within the middle class; some waxed enthusiastically about how this cosmopolitanism enriched the quality of their social interactions and neighbourhood life in general. Some participants interpreted social diversity in terms of openness to different sexual orientations. Only when prompted did these interviewees begin to reflect on the social class diversity of their neighbourhood. This underlines the need for researchers to clarify what 'gentrifiers' and policymakers actually mean by 'social mix' (Lees 2003b; Robson & Butler 2001). However, the majority of study participants realised immediately that we wanted to hear their thoughts about social class diversity. Their observations were varied, and often rich and nuanced. What follows is an attempt to render justice to their discourses, while of necessity reducing them into analytic categories so as to create a typology synthesising the range of perspectives of this group of residents of infill condos in gentrifying neighbourhoods of Montreal's inner city.

Tensions associated with 'spatial proximity and social distance'

By definition, since this study targeted small infill developments, most of the interviewees lived on streets where many if not most of their neighbours on the same or facing block were renters, often low income households in older non-renovated units. Some of the interviewees lived very close to buildings or developments of social housing, catering for anywhere from a dozen to a hundred or more low-income families and managed either municipally or by a community-based non-profit organization (Figures 3 and 4). When asked to give their impressions of the neighbourhood in terms of its social diversity, several of the interviewees spoke without any interviewer prompting of the day-to-day tensions and palpable resentment they experienced from being middle-class in a poor neighbourhood undergoing gentrification. The interviewees who recounted such experiences were not numerous but, tellingly, were found in all the neighbourhoods except the Plateau Mont-Royal (where gentrification is most advanced). Explicitly or tacitly, they acknowledge the point made in some of the French literature--namely that the appreciation of socio-economic diversity is a luxury granted to those who can choose to experience it as part of their personal trajectory of upward social mobility.

Some of those who live in the 'Point' are well aware of its anti-gentrification tradition. "Michele Raymond' (10) (interviewee 881, age 35-44, TV producer) relates that there is always anti-gentrification graffiti on the walls of their building: "we're treated as though we're super-rich, as though because we live in this building we're displacing the poor" [translation]. "Gwen" (interviewee 852, aged 25-34, technical writer), who lives near "Michele Raymond" and is a member of a fairly high income dual-earner couple, jokes ironically, "I often think that our heads will be the first to roll when the revolution comes, and I wouldn't quite blame them either, 'You with your big two-storey condominium, die'." She nevertheless feels that her household has some common interests with the area's low income residents, and is frustrated that her motives would be impugned were she to denounce publicly the price-gouging of the local supermarket: "they'd just look at me--you know 1 parachuted into the neighbourhood." Meanwhile, "Ginette Caron" (interviewee 814, administrative assistant, age 45-54), a divorced woman experiencing home-ownership for the first time, appreciates both the new leisure-oriented developments along the Canal and the diversity of the area. She wants to develop cordial neighbouring relations but is well aware of the barriers: she tells of how it took three years of riding the same bus most days with a woman living in the public housing development opposite her before she could, by her own gestures, induce the other woman to make eye contact with her.

In the Petite-Patrie district, "Andre-Alain Etienne-Raymond" (interviewee 075, age 35-44, municipal white-collar worker) moved with his partner onto a very traditional working-class street; they had forsaken the Gay Village in order to "integrate into a normal world," and did not want to live in a neighbourhood with "too much social consensus" [translation]. Yet being in the only condominium building on the block they sense a big social gulf between them and their neighbours, and also sense that their neighbours find it more difficult to approach them than vice versa. A more stark account--bringing to mind the metaphor of 'social tectonics' used by Butler and Robson (2001) to describe the experience of gentrifiers in the multiethnic Brixton district of South London, England--is offered by "Richard Despres" (interviewee 226, aged 35-44, administrative professional in the federal government), who lives in the Centre-Sud district. He and his partner relate together (completing each other's sentences) how they sense the "huge disparity." "There are more and more whole city blocks of condos, and at the same time there's a housing crisis," and the people in the social housing across the street "make sure that you feel it" [...]; "you can't react, you can't"; "there's nothing you can say; it's a malaise" [translation].

A few other interviewees who evoked the issue of spatial proximity and social distance did so in much more positive terms. These were residents of the Saint-Louis district, who told of how they appreciated their working-class Portuguese neighbours. While admitting that there was little communication between the two groups, these interviewees see the Portuguese as having the same cultural values as themselves with respect to maintaining one's property and keeping the streets clean. Under these circumstances, neighbouring relations correspond to the model of 'distant but peaceful coexistence' identified in research on multiethnic neighbourhoods in Montreal (Germain et al. 1995).

Typology of discursive practices concerning social diversity and low-cost housing

How did interview participants position themselves discursively with respect to the existing social diversity in their neighbourhood and the prospect of new social housing being located close by? A typology of four types of positions emerged from the analysis, although within each there are considerable internal variations, and it was not always easy to categorize the interviewees' discourses, fraught as they often were with inconsistencies and contradictions.

1. Ignorance or indifference to social class diversity and the question of affordable housing

A first category of interviewees (only two) professed a complete lack of knowledge about the presence of low-income groups and social housing in their neighbourhood, and expressed such indifference about the question--though not accompanied by any trace of concern or hostility against social housing-that it was difficult for the interviewers to probe further. These participants seem to correspond to Simon's (1997) category of "transplantes" who opt to live in a socially-mixed area for totally utilitarian reasons and are indifferent to the diversity surrounding them.

2. 'NIMBY'-type reactions

Twelve of the interviewees expressed sentiments that one might characterize as 'NIMBY'-type reactions to the prospect of new social housing in their vicinity. These reactions vary considerably not only in terms of their intensity but also concerning the groups whose presence in their immediate neighbourhood is or would be a concern to them. Some express unease with the current presence of marginalized groups (street people of various ilks, street prostitutes ...), and/ or with the presence of existing public housing in their immediate neighbourhood. They react at best with great circumspection and at worst with hostility to the hypothetical prospect of new social housing. Or sometimes very strict conditions are attached to their tolerance for social housing; "Louise Tremblay", a single parent living in Rosemont (interviewee no 060, project manager in telecommunications, age 25-34) would only accept it if it was virtually invisible by virtue of a very dispersed and low density format. As much of the literature on the NIMBY syndrome has found (Dansereau et al. 2003: 95-109), this subset of interviewees tends to associate public housing in particular with a failure to keep the local environment clean, which they interpret in terms of a lack of sense of responsibility on the part of the tenants. As to the acceptability of prospective new social housing in the vicinity, there are echoes in some interviewees' comments of the classic 19th century dichotomy of the 'deserving' and the 'undeserving' poor, revived by neo-liberalism, in that distinctions are made between the 'people like us' who just happen to have fallen on hard times, and the long-term welfare recipients who, it is implied, are responsible for their own problems. The discourse of the harsher NIMBY-ites among the interviewees is well-represented by this resident of the St-Louis district ("Sarah", interviewee 666, primary school teacher, aged 25-34, lives with spouse):

"Sarah": "It [nearby public housing building] doesn't? have public housing written all over it. But you can see it."

Interviewer. By what characteristics?

"Sarah": "In terms of the people. By the people."

Interviewer." Not by the housing type?

"Sarah": (...) When you look in the windows ... I know I'm not supposed to look but, well. You can clearly see, there are two TVs, and they're always home all the time.

Interviewer. And would it bother you if there was more social housing?

"Sarah": Ha! Yes. It would bother me. Yes. That, that would bother me.

Interviewer: For what reason?

"Sarah": I would feel my sector was devalued. [translation]

The more muted response of "Francine Saint-Pierre", a resident of Centre-Sud (interviewee 349, secretary in the provincial government, age 35-44, lives alone) also encapsulates a number of the reactions of interviewees characterized in this analysis as being of the NIMBY-type. Although the literature has shown that 'transitional' housing for special needs groups is generally what elicits the strongest NIMBY reactions (Bordone 2003; Dear & Wolch 1987; Takahashi 1997) this interviewee has come to realise that the special needs housing for youth in difficulty located near her, poses no threat. However, her point of view on the hypothetical arrival of social housing for "welfare types" (11) is quite different; it reflects both her assimilation of aspects of neo-liberal discourse and a point made in the literature, namely that fear of the unknown exacerbates NIMBY reactions:

However, not all of the interviewees were as transparent in their discourse as the two quoted above. As some authors have pointed out, a very attentive reading of interviewee discourses is necessary because of the increasing 'technical' sophistication of arguments marshalled by NIMBY-ites (Takahashi 1997). For example, one Saint-Louis resident (an urban planner by training) insisted that his strong opposition to a plan to create a 100-unit social housing project on his block was strictly and only due to the inappropriate density proposed for the site. Only toward the very end of a long outpouring to the interviewer on this matter did he acknowledge that what he was really worried about was what the strong social contrasts would do to his comfort level in the immediate neighbourhood: "I don't want to find myself in a neighbourhood where you'll have confrontation and then there'll be big problems, ugh, ugh, social problems in the community" ("Simon Lavoie", interviewee 645, telecom professional, age 25-34, lives alone). (12)

3. Tolerant, but with caveats, and no critical reflection on gentrification / displacement and affordable housing

Sixteen of the interviewees were grouped into a third category, more accepting of social diversity than the NIMBY types, while still expressing some reservations about new social housing coming to their neighbourhood. Because these reservations were frequently couched in terms of architecture and design more broadly, it was not always easy to distinguish these types of comments from the more polished among the NIMBY-type discourses. Interviewees classified into this group were distinct from the 'Nimbies' in that they made comments to the effect that: "it's not the people themselves that live there that bug me." For a good number of these interviewees, any social housing, even low-rent public housing, is acceptable as long as it fits in to the streetscape architecturally and is well maintained. (13) This viewpoint contrasts with that of NIMBY-ite "Sarah", quoted above, who was bothered by the presence of the public housing near her home even though it blended well into the streetscape. Others made a distinction between housing cooperatives and 'HLM' ('habitations a loyer modique', the French term for state/municipal public housing), the former being seen as more desirable in that resident management of the building promotes a sense of pride of ownership, leading to better maintenance.

The somewhat hesitant comments of Centre-Sud resident "Marie-France Perron" (interviewee 334, insurance counsellor, age 25-34, lives alone) exemplify the 'tolerant' perspective:

Here, it is telling that this resident recognizes a certain social responsibility to ensure that the neighbourhood remains available as a resource for 'local' people, while drawing the line at another common facet of inner-city life and frequent target of NIMBY-ism by middle-class and working-class residents alike--the presence of street prostitutes, whom, it is implied, are not part of the local community. (14) Also, and quite disturbingly, for two interviewees their tolerance of social housing was contingent on it being for "our own" working-class or underprivileged--a cross-class solidarity that did not extend to immigrants....

This subset of interviewees stated that new condominiums would bother them as much as new social housing if they reduced ambient light levels or did not blend in with the streetscape. But responses to this question also revealed, among participants grouped here into the 'tolerant' category, a lack of critical reflection about gentrification and the shortage of affordable housing. Many of these interviewees would welcome further condominium development because it would increase property values and improve the overall physical and social fabric of the area; none of them paused to consider the impact of such upgrading on the accessibility of the neighbourhood for less-well-off groups.

4. Egalitarian perspectives: "On ne fait pas d'omelette sans casser d'oeuf"

The fourth group of interviewees, 19 in number, is comprised of those who--much like their counterparts in the Toronto neighbourhood studied by Caulfield (1994) over a decade earlier--articulate an egalitarian vision of the inner city while grappling openly with the paradoxes of personally being beneficiaries of the economic and social dynamics of gentrification. These interviewees believe that a certain amount of condominium development and commercial gentrification contributes to the overall revitalization of a neighbourhood, and that they have a right to live there, rather than having to move to the suburbs in order to become a home-owner. For some interviewees, knowing that they did not displace anyone because they bought into a new building or into a converted building that had stood empty for years helps them resolve the paradoxes of their position. Saint-Louis resident "Mika" (interviewee 607, professional in an international NGO, aged 35-44, lives alone) espouses this point of view, while arguing strongly that because of the increasing economic inequality created by globalization, new social housing should be a priority for Montreal, including its inner city. These interviewees insist that they accept the idea of new social housing 'in their backyard' as well as elsewhere. Nevertheless, several of them share with some of the tolerant category concerns that this social housing not be 'ghettoizing' or 'demoralizing', and many of them also stress the importance of architectural fit (especially, that there be no loss of light coming into their condo) for the acceptability of further infill development, be it condominiums or social housing.

This subset of interviewees fully recognize that indirect displacement is taking place as a result of condominium developments for people like them. "Michele Raymond", owner of a condo in a former factory in the Lachine Canal sector (interviewee 881) explains how there is social mix in the neighbourhood right now, but that low-income residents know perfectly well that displacement will take place because of gentrification:

In her view (shared by a few other interviewees), residential property developers should be taxed on a percentage of their profits, with the money being used to pay for social housing for the people displaced. "In any case," she concludes, "that was the Maoist part of my discourse!"

Many in this group are emphatic about their appreciation of the neighbourhood's current social class diversity and state that they wouldn't want to live there if a gentrified 'sameness' set in due to the arrival of many more people like them! Mile End resident "Julianna" (interviewee 479, professional in a crown corporation, age 25-34, lives alone) puts it this way: "At a certain point, I think you shouldn't live in a closed circle where everybody has the same [middle-class] social standing, where everything is rose-coloured. That's not the way it is [...] [translation]."

In sum, this group of interviewees articulate discourses of cosmopolitanism and urbanity that, while superficial and aestheticized--much like the "multiculturels" identified by Simon (1997) in the Paris district of Belleville--and no doubt practised only 'in the mind', seem nevertheless central to their identity constructions. It is arguably because of the need to be consistent with this self-image that they say they are open to the development of new affordable housing and claim to reject NIMBY-ism. Some, while admitting that they at times have difficulty coping with the regular presence of street people or aggressive panhandlers at the corner of their street, say that if one opts to live in the city one can't pick and choose which parts of urbanity to accept or reject; as "Julianna" put it: "The attraction of a city in general is that it's where things happen. And, everyone has the right to be there and to express themselves [translation]."


The semi-structured interview strategy used in this research to explore the perspectives of residents of non-luxury in fill condominiums in Montreal's inner city with respect to social diversity and social housing elicited discourses and viewpoints running the gamut from 'egalitarian' through 'tolerant' to 'NIMBY', as well as 'ignorant/indifferent'. Although the qualitative nature of the study prevents generalization as to the actual frequency of each viewpoint among residents of this part of the condominium sector, the findings show that neither 'emancipatory' nor 'revanchist' readings of gentrification are adequate to an understanding of the discursive practices of this particular group of 'gentrifiers'.

This raises the question of what characteristics distinguish the three main groups (leaving aside the first category containing only two interviewees). (15) There were no discernible differences by age group, living arrangements, gender, income, occupation or public versus private sector employment. The latter contrasts with the strong association made in the gentrification literature between a 'progressive' social outlook (the Egalitarian group in this study) and employment in the public or para-public sector. It is not clear why this public/private sector distinction is not discernible from our study, but it is interesting that none of the respondents in the NIMBY category were employed in the cultural or 'creative' industries; this finding is compatible with Florida's thesis (2003) of a synergistic relationship between a city's success in the 'new economy' and its 'cosmopolitan' character.

Within the qualitative interview sample, NIMBY-types, tolerants and egalitarians were to be found in all neighbourhoods. Even in the Saint-Louis sector of the Plateau, a neighbourhood evocative of Iris Young's notion of 'unassimilated otherness' (Podmore 2001), several interviewees (who lived near to small-scale public housing) espoused more or less strong forms of NIMBY-ism. Conversely, several egalitarian types were encountered in the Lachine Canal sector, where they experienced, via graffiti, the stereotypical representations of 'Yuppies' that have long been used to mobilize opposition to gentrification (Blomley 1998). No doubt the small scale of the City of Montreal and its relatively limited gentrification have impeded the establishment of geographically distinct landscapes of gentrification--each associated with a different new middle class fractions with its own set of practices of mobilization of economic, cultural and social capital such as those identified in London, England (Butler & Robson 2004). In our case study, the personal residential trajectories that led to the decision to buy a new condominium in one neighbourhood rather than another were many and varied. While attributes of a specific neighbourhood tromped housing attributes in a number of cases--and seemingly more so among the egalitarians--the desire for an affordable, low-maintenance home giving access to both use and symbolic values associated with centrality predominated in other cases.

Finally, some differences in the relationship to neighbourhood emerged depending on whether interviewees expressed egalitarian, tolerant or NIMBY tendencies. In the postal questionnaire respondents had been asked to indicate how important each of 14 suggested factors had been to their choice of neighbourhood when buying their condominium (two write-in categories were also allowed). There seemed to be no differences between the three groups of qualitative interview participants in terms of the importance they had placed on more utilitarian versus more symbolic attributes of the neighbourhood or those concerning personal relationships when they answered the survey questionnaire a year earlier. Moreover, the neighbourhood's social, cultural or ethnic diversity was rarely deemed a very important criterion, not even by the egalitarians (only 4 out of 19), but curiously it was not totally absent even in the NIMBY group! (16) However, the questionnaire responses of the interview participants seem to indicate that the egalitarians have a greater investment in the 'idea' of neighbourhood, or at least that they expect more from the neighbourhood. The egalitarian group were almost unanimous in rating the factor "a neighbourhood where I would be able to find all the services and stores I need" as "very important," whereas this factor was more likely to be only "quite important" among the other two groups. Moreover, the egalitarians as a group seemed to intend to have a more intense relationship with their neighbourhood, in that more of them responded "very important" to more factors (among the 16 possibilities) than either the tolerants or the Nimbies (the average number of "very importants" per respondent was respectively 5.37, 5.13 and 4.38). The egalitarians also appeared to place greater importance on neighbourhood-related factors in their overall residential satisfaction, judging by responses to an open-ended question on the survey questionnaire about the characteristic they most appreciated about their dwelling: here, the egalitarians were more likely to identify a characteristic of the neighbourhood (7 out of 19) rather than of the dwelling or building (compared to four out of the 15 tolerants and two of the 13 Nimbies). While great caution is needed in interpreting analysis resulting from such matching of quantitative and qualitative data sets, this finding is congruent with Caufield's (1994) analysis of the importance these 'egalitarian' gentrifiers place on a discursive construction of neighbourhood as a holistic urban 'lifeworld', even when a major part of the respondents' daily lives is oriented outside the neighbourhood and articulated around non-local social networks (as tends to be the case among gentrifiers; see Bridge 1994). (17)

As to the observations made by some interviewees concerning their unease at the social gulf separating them from existing residents, such comments are suggestive of a negative unintended consequence of the municipal policy favouring infill development. One should not exaggerate their significance, since those who wanted to establish some kind of neighbouring relations, based on the 'weak ties' of cordial exchanges, were doubtless atypical among condominium purchasers. (18) The perspective presented here is, of course, entirely one-sided; in order to gain a full understanding of the impact of such 'readymade' pockets of gentrification on neighbourhood social dynamics, we would need interview-based case studies exploring the perspectives of existing low-income residents. A fragmentary but telling glimpse emerges from a consultation about mixed-tenure infill organized in 2001 by a community-based planning group in Montreal's deindustrialized Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district: a majority of participants either equated 'condos' with luxury housing or with an architectural form inappropriate for the neighbourhood (Collectif en amenagement urbain Hochelaga-Maisonneuve 2002).

Finally, what pertinence might these findings have for municipalities and other local actors involved in creating new social and affordable housing through infill in major metropolitan areas (under the auspices of programs developed under the new federal-provincial agreements or other cost-shared programs)? Belying some of the more linear conceptualizations of gentrification dynamics, opportunities can and do still arise for low-to-moderate cost infill housing development, not only in relatively peripheral locations but also in neighbourhoods that have already undergone considerable gentrification. This has to do with the historical legacies of diversity of land uses at a fine-grained scale in some Canadian cities coupled with the ongoing dynamics of industrial and institutional relocation and restructuring. The Montreal case is certainly not unique in this respect.

Although the research reported here makes no claims to statistical representativity, it is quite striking that among this group of inner-city purchasers of non-luxury condominiums, NIMBY sentiments with respect to social housing, though present to some degree in about one-quarter of cases, were far from predominant. It could be that their self-image as cosmopolitan inhibited them from admitting to 'closet' NIMBY-ism in the interview context. Yet such desires to be viewed as cosmopolitan (or conversely the fear of being labelled as 'parochial') could also deter them from giving voice in public, i.e. at a consultation meeting, to their individual concerns about the impacts of new social housing on their own immediate environment--especially in the face of strong lobbying by community groups claiming to represent a broader interest (Flety 2004). Moreover, the major concern raised among those characterized here as 'tolerant' was that of the 'architectural' fit of potential further infill development (regardless of tenure), a concern also widely shared by the 'egalitarians'. (19) As the example in Figure 4 illustrates, this is the most tractable among the factors generating opposition or anxiety to new social housing. In a strictly legal sense, the consent or opposition of existing residents to proposals for new social housing may be immaterial to whether it will actually get built, since provinces can and sometimes do authorize municipalities to bypass the normal public consultation procedures so as to pre-empt opposition to social housing projects requiring a zoning change or modifications to the urban plan. (20) Nevertheless, municipalities--even ones that are proactive in the affordable housing field--generally prefer to avoid such heavy-handed approaches that fly in the face of their desire to forge consensus by creating discursive spaces for 'local democracy' (Senecal 2002). Finally, bearing in mind that case studies of the NIMBY phenomenon stress that the most intransigent NIMBY reactions are typically couched in terms of 'defence of community' (see e.g. British Columbia, Housing Ministry 1996), might one not expect less opposition to new social housing amidst the 'unassimilated otherness' that characterizes some gentrifying inner-city districts than in established and more homogeneous (working-class or middle-class) suburban neighbourhoods? Interestingly, a study based on the large-scale Canada Election Studies finds that neo-liberal perspectives on social policy in the year 2000 were significantly more prevalent in outer suburbs than in inner cities, and suggests that residents of the latter, including new middle-class elements associated with gentrification, still strongly support state intervention in, and subsidization of the provision of collective consumption services (Walks 2004). Yet it is in suburban areas where new and pressing needs for low-cost housing and supportive services for 'special needs' groups are increasingly arising.


This is a revised version of a paper first presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers, Victoria, May 2003. In 2004, a version was published as INRS working paper 2004-02. My thanks to those present and to three anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions. I wish to acknowledge the significant contribution of student assistant Stephane Charbonneau to the design of the research instruments and to the management of the various phases of field work. Interviews were conducted by student assistants Stephane Charbonneau, Emma Garrard and Greta Marini. Marie Ducheny, a summer internship student from the ENTPE, Lyon, France, researched pertinent aspects of the provincial/municipal neighbourhood revitalization program. Jael Mongeau, research officer, INRS-Urbanisation, Culture et Societe, was responsible for the coding and organization of the quantitative component of the survey database. Martin Wexler and Suzanne Chantal of the Direction de l'habitation, Ville de Montreal, provided project listings for our sampling frame. The research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, standard research grant no. 410-99-0266.


(1) The term "gentrification" has generated definitional debates for a generation (good recent reviews include Atkinson 2003; Bidou-Zachariasen 2003; Hamnett 2000), but most scholars today employ it as a shorthand for a set of processes (operating at various scales and involving individual, corporate or state actors) generating wholesale or partial transformations of working-class neighbourhoods into spaces and places that appeal to various fractions of the 'new urban middle class' and foster new types of consumption and social reproduction practices associated with 'urbanity' and 'centrality' (Harvey 1987: Zukin 1998). This middle-class settlement takes place not only through renovation, but also through new construction and adaptive reuse of industrial or institutional buildings. These transformations are closely linked to economic restructuring in advanced tertiary or 'post-industrial' cities, which has increased the size of these class fractions relative to the traditional urban working class.

(2) E.g. renovation grants available to developers or owner-occupiers regardless of income or property value, or permissive approaches to conversions from rental to condominium tenure (Ley 1085: Ley 1996).

(3) In the United States, there has been some blurring of policy objectives between 'endogenous' revitalization of public housing projects and 'exogenous' promotion of gentrification when such public housing is on the fringes of already-gentrified districts (Wyly & Hammel 2000), fuelling the scepticism with which low-cost housing activists view social mix discourse (Clump 2002). A broader critique of these types of social mix measures is that they distract attention from more fundamental causes of poverty, deflecting resources that could be used for entrenching rights and access to affordable housing for the most needy (Chanal & Uhry 2003; Lees 2003a; Simon et al. 2001). Community-based planning organizations may nevertheless cautiously endorse mixed-tenure development fostering 'endogenous' social mix even though more militant housing rights lobbies see this as opening the door to 'creeping gentrification' (see e.g Collectif en amenagement urbain Hochelaga-Maisonneuve 2002).

(4) The 'non-luxury' segment was operationalized from the Sept. 2000 Montreal Urban Community tax roll as those condominiums evaluated at less than $150 000, a threshold corresponding to market conditions at that time. The evaluation is based on the market value in July 1999. Since the units sampled were built between 1995 and 1998, and since the recent inflationary trend in Montreal property values did not begin until 2000, the evaluation is likely to correspond closely to the sale price paid by survey participants. 'Inner-city' was defined as being within about 20 minutes from downtown by public transit.

(5) The questionnaire survey was conducted by postal mail in March 2001 using a sampling frame derived from City of Montreal lists of new housing developments, combined with the Montreal Urban Community tax roll. New developments covering more than one city-block were eliminated, because of the study's focus on the social dynamics associated with infill at a scale where new residents are confronted with an existing streetscape and social landscape rather than a new one (such as that studied by Dansereau et al. 1997). Responses were received from 45% of the valid addresses, amounting to 423 respondents. Of these, 132 indicated that they might be willing to participate in a personal interview. In order to obtain a more homogenous sample for the qualitative research, it was decided not to interview repeat home-buyers (who comprised one-third of the original sample and of those willing to be interviewed). Attempts were made to contact the remaining 78 potential interviewees, resulting in the completion of 50 interviews yielding 49 verbatim transcripts (43 in French, 6 in English). (In one case, a problem with the tape-recording prevented transcription).

(6) The income gap between inner and outer city referred to earlier in this paper has persistently been greater in Montreal than in other major Canadian cities (Bourne 1993: 1301).

(7) Indeed, City housing department officials do not shy away from using the term 'gentrification' in the context of these infill housing developments (see e.g. La Presse 2003). They believe that in addition to the tax base consolidation and multiplier effects associated with this form of residential intensification, there is a 'filtering down' effect in that rental housing units are freed up, since the City's administrative data show that over two-thirds of beneficiaries of the tax credit program for purchasing new units were first-time buyers moving out of rental units in city neighbourhoods (Montreal 2000).

(8) Further details about this program and its progress are available (in English and French) at http://www.habitermontreal.com/en/log/scm/index.html. Another new program, Programme Renovation Quebec, announced in March 2003 and jointly financed by the provincial government and the City, revamps its predecessor, the Programme de revitalisation des vieux quartiers, and includes components that will lower the cost of creating new social or private-sector affordable housing either through renovation or infill (Montreal, Cabinet du maire et du comite executif and Societe d'habitation du Quebec 2003).

(9) The dangers of using the perhaps too-convenient shorthand of 'gentrifiers' to embrace diverse fractions within the 'new urban middle class' have been amply debated (see e.g. Rose 1984; Warde 1991; Bondi 1999; Hamnett 2000). Nevertheless, to define 'gentrifiers' narrowly in terms of occupation and income would be to obscure the presence of 'new urban middle class' values not only among underemployed professionals (Rose 1996), but also among those with somewhat lower occupational and educational standing, drawn to the central city for what it can offer to people living alone or for its openness to diverse gender and sexuality regimes (Bondi 1999; Moss 1997; Wynne & O"Connor 1998). Ultimately it should perhaps be both their self-identification and the actual consumption and social reproduction practices of these people as being 'different' from those of existing or 'traditional' residents that should be our guide in assimilating them--or not, as the case may be--into our conceptualizations of gentrification as a set of enmeshed economic, social and cultural practices associated with 'new middle class' settlement of working-class areas and embedded in a broader context of post-industrial urbanism.

(10) All names are fictitious. Interviewees were asked to supply a pseudonym for use in the transcripts; if they declined to do so, one was invented for them.

(11) This is my translation of "les B.S.", a highly pejorative and stigmatizing Quebecois expression for long-term social assistance recipients.

(12) Tellingly, an almost identical argument about an 'excessive' income contrast was used by residents of the Montreal's suburban Pointe-aux-Trembles district to oppose construction of a 75-unit social housing development for very low-income families (Le Devoir 2002b).

(13) So as to better discern to what extent opposition to new housing development really was based on design issues (architectural fit being a major element of resistance to housing intensification, irrespective of tenure, according to existing research; see Dansereau et al. 2003), all interviewees were also asked how they would feel about new condominium development close by.

(14) Anxiety about prostitution was raised by many interviewees, especially in Centre-Sud, where a proposal to create a decriminalized zone for soliciting had generated very widespread and intense opposition, not limited to gentrifiers, in the months before our research project began (Senecal, Germain & Benard 2002; Le Devoir 2002a).

(15) For this part of the analysis, findings from the postal questionnaire survey were matched with the interview transcripts by importing a spreadsheet table into the Nud*ist[TM] 4 data base used for manipulating the interview data.

(16) In the larger questionnaire survey, only one in five respondents indicated that social diversity was a very important factor in their choice of neighbourhood--a lower proportion than the 25% who stated that being "among people like me" was very important. Diversity was very important to 35% of those choosing the Saint-Louis district but to only 11% choosing the Lachine Canal district.

(17) Comparative work on five gentrifying neighbourhoods in French cities (Authier 2002) also emphasizes the importance of these constructions of the local, both in discursive terms and in terms of the intensive use made of neighbourhood services--although this work does not explore the relationships, if any, between such investments in the 'local' and orientations toward social diversity.

(18) An earlier questionnaire survey conducted among infill condo residents in the Saint-Louis and Mile-End districts found that close to 80% of them had no "relations with residents of the neighbourhood living in old housing" (Duff 2000:41); unfortunately, the response is difficult to interpret since respondents were given no guidance as to how to interpret the notion of "relations".

(19) This finding has since been borne out frequently at local consultation meetings held concerning infill social housing under the Solidarite 5000 logements program, including one in the Saint-Louis neighbourhood (Flety 2004).

(20) Bordone (2003) gives examples in the case of siting special needs housing in Toronto and other southern Ontario municipalities. In the Montreal case, the Quebec government agreed in late 2002 to amend the City's charter so as to enable social housing construction under the Operation Solidarite 5000 logements program even if residents or the borough authorities concerned tried to block any zoning changes required. This measure was taken because of persistent local opposition to some of the first social housing developments proposed under the new scheme; these were located not in the inner city but in middle-class suburban districts.


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Damaris Rose

INRS-Urbanisation, Culture et Societe

Institut national de la recherche scientifique
"Uh, I'd be less keen on that [social housing nearby],
   because that brings in a type, a class that's less ... that
   I'm less keen on being near (...), I feel less safe with
   those types. Although there are some houses (...) that
   come to the aid of youth (...), that bothers me less (...)
   and I didn't even know they were there, fact is those
   aren't the noisiest ones (...) but the welfare types, that
   bothers me a bit more [translation]."

Interviewer: If there was more social housing, subsidized housing
   [around here], would it bother you?

   "Marie-France Perron": Not personally [a few seconds' silence].
   No, no, but I'm not ... why could it bother me? For me, if it's a
   building that's aesthetic, that's well maintained, that helps the
   [people in the] neighbourhood to live there. It's certainly not
   going to increase the value of the condos. We want to have a
   neighbourhood social fabric, that's obvious. It bothers me less
   than seeing prostitutes in my neighbourhood, that really bothers
   me--and there are lots of them in the neighbourhood.

"Michele Raymond": "It's fine and nice that the [Canal] sector is
   being renovated but what are they going to do with the people
   being displaced? There's something inhuman about that."

   Interviewer: But are you in favour of more condos being built in
   this sector?

   "Michele Raymond": Yes, but you can't make an omelette without
   breaking eggs [translation of "On ne fair pas d'omelette sans casser
   d'oeuf," a popular Quebecois expression]
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