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."pointdouglas.com
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.