Monday, August 04, 2008

Escaping the slums

On Sunday I was walking up to my house when a middle-aged couple standing on the sidewalk nearby stopped me to talk. They were Vietnamese, and have lived on Selkirk Ave. E., a few blocks away from me, since 1989. Now, after 25 years in the neighborhood, they are selling their house and moving to a brand new house in East Kildonan near Concordia Hospital. They were out on this afternoon killing time while their house is shown at an open house.

The man exited our conversation to knock on the door of some friends of theirs, but the woman stayed to talk with me. The house they have lived in is listed at $102,900, she said. A year ago I was bowled over when a house sold for $80,000. Now its nearly impossible to find any house in Point Douglas for less than $100k.

The woman recalled my street 15 years ago as a place very bad, dangerous and run-down. The large house where Premier Norquay resided in the 1880s--restored by its owner-occupant who rents out parts of the massive house to newly-arrived Ukrainians--was a decrepit rooming house that hosted many loud and violent parties. The house next to mine--where its new owner, an established local artist could be heard renovating the place as we spoke--was also a seedy slum house. When my neighbor on the corner and her son, immigrants from Romania, waved to me from down the street, the woman told me that was another house that was trouble. "So many owners now."

Asking my background, she was a little surprised to learn that the son of second and fourth generation Canadians would be living in Point Douglas. "I thought you'd live around McPhillips," she remarked, rather oddly given the neighborhoods around McPhillips' marked cosmopolitanism.

This is a neighborhood where one's life in Canada begins, and for Aboriginal Canadians, the place where life in urban Canada begins. And more than seeing people move in and give the neighborhood extra hipster points, it has been exciting to see people escaping the bonds of tribalism--from Burundi to Northern Manitoba--around the world, and thrive in a neighborhood they feel safe and proud to live in.

For the couple moving from Selkirk E., it was clear it wasn't a matter of fleeing--she told me they liked it here--but seemed to be more about pursuing what for most people is the Canadian Dream. It was the increase in local real estate values that has made this move 'up' possible for these people, and for the many other old-timers who in recent years have been selling. A move to a new house in the suburbs would have been impossible ten, or even five years ago, but thanks to the so-called "gentrification" the poverty racket decries, house-owners have newfound leverage and an actual chance to find a buyer for their property. There is increasingly more Canadians--new immigrants, native-born, or Aboriginal--who are happy to move here with dreams of their own.


Anonymous Ken said...

That gentrification benefits some people doesn't make it a good thing.

The "poverty racket"? Goodness, that sounds like you denying poverty exists! Or do you believe it's self-imposed?

11:01 AM  
Anonymous mr. anonymous said...

Poverty exists, but do we need umpteen "agencies" and "departments" to "combat" it? Industriousness & frugality works for anyone who tries it.

Incidentally, there are no "gentrified" neighborhoods in Winnipeg. When Armani Exchange, Crate & Barrel or even a damn Starbucks opens up in Point Douglas (or West Broadway or even Wolseley for that matter), then you can start dropping the G-word, but as it stands you're way premature.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous nauticaman said...

Speaking of gentrification, is that a Nissan 350Z parked on Hallet?

7:37 PM  
Blogger The Rise and Sprawl said...

Nautica--that is a 350Z. Belonged the boyfriend of a girl living at the Norquay House. Her family drove VWs when we moved in, now they've switched to Toyotas.

Ken--By poverty racket, I don't mean poor people themselves, but people who "advocate" for them, ie- CCPA, etc. Poverty does exist--I witness it every day

If gentrification (by the peculiar local definition of it) only benefits some, does decline benefit all? Right now Point Douglas is becoming less ridden by crime, drugs, and physical decline, thanks not only to people moving in from elsewhere, but to successful efforts by "community groups" to improve the quality of life for everyone that lives here. An inevitable consequence of this is that property values have risen. What should have been done instead? Nothing?

8:26 PM  
Blogger Louis Riel said...

I like that phrase: "Poverty racket". There are indeed many organizations in this city whose work, while well-intentioned, merely serves to continue to ghetto-ize neighbourhoods.

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where are poor people supposed to go?

Point Douglas was a place they could afford to live and now it is being filled with yuppies that are making the houses worth more.

The government should step in and make sure property values do not rise any more.

1:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couple of lil hottie blondies living in that rooming house.

Possibly the best thing Point Douglas has going for itself : )

2:13 AM  
Anonymous Come On Now said...

The government should step in and make sure property values stay at slum levels in neighbourhoods like Point Douglas?

I know Gary Doer hates the innter city (evidence being Waverly West, Rapid transit etc.) but how on earth would he legislate that property values stay low?

P.S If you can't afford a house in Point Douglas now that property levels are rising I suggest some education and a better job.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous unclebob said...

"The government should step in and make sure property values do not rise any more."

Please be careful about posting something like this in public.

One of those poverty industry groups is going to take this seriously and get a few hundred thousand for a study that will be implemented on a pilot basis in Point Douglas.

All they would actually have to do is put a 90% tax on any house sales in excess of $80,000 That should work fairly nicely ....shudder!

Don't put it past them. Look at rent control and what it has done to apartment stock, property upkeep and condo conversion to say nothing of forcing the government into being the biggest and possibly most despised landlord.

Point Douglas.....RUN FOR COVER!

9:00 AM  

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