Life Stories of Displacement

Turning Up the Volume of Life Stories of Displacement

Affordable and Accessible Housing - The Only Choice 1/4

The Wicked Proposal:  Building cheap and non-profitable housing seems to be an impossible scenario, especially in the urban core along major transit lines - except for all other conceivable scenarios.

Inspired by Jared Diamond’s "Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed".

The Life Stories project started recording the history of our community told by persons who live on low income and have experienced marginalization in its many forms. Their voices were not represented in the long sequence of decisions that brought us to the present moment of reshaping urban development in the region. 

We hope you would consider the current life scenarios in Kitchener and Waterloo describing housing unaffordability and displacement in the gentrification process spurred by the construction of LRT. The change was experienced by many residents, neighbours, friends and family members and in their own words, this is what they live: homelessness and tent cities, illegal and substandard rentals, harassment and evictions of legacy tenants, pressure on the municipal property standards enforcement, discrimination and exclusion, forced downsizing, fear of displacement, poverty, lack of dignity & isolation of marginalized groups (LGBTQ+, seniors, persons with disabilities, immigrants, racialized and faith minorities, etc.), lack of safety, drug trafficking and prostitution, mental health and addictions, suicide and overdose, disempowerment, cultural exclusion, class division and social isolation. 

This is the first in a series of posts that allows us to read and listen to the voices of people among us who have suffered and whose voices have been silenced. Turning up the volume of their stories can help us work collectively towards more humane and more sustainable solutions to the unaffordable housing crisis in our communities. Hopefully, the non-profitable housing options will be seen as a necessary and important part of developent of our cities.

 

Low Rental Housing and its Disappearance

Renovictions

I’ve seen a lot of our people that had big buildings that they turn them into apartments to people that had welfare and give them a cheap place to live, and they got altogether booted out because they renovated the place and moved people in,... and they’re high-class people. And they build them up just looking real modern and everything.

 

Read more quotes from the interviews describing living without truly affordable housing - Part  1/4

 

Experiencing Displacement and Gentrification  2/4 

As we continue to publish stories of displacement and resilience, we will bring to light the invisible narratives beneath the ‘investment opportunities and the construction boom’.  We wish to stress the point that residents living on low income are a highly diverse population, and in a limited number of interviews, we encountered people who have post secondary education and are in precarious employment, homeowners, businessowners and low income earners, social assistance recipients and recipients of the Canada Disability Pension. Some of the participants have children and grand children, some live alone or with a number of their peers in boarding houses, shared rentals or shelters. 

“Prejudice about folks with low incomes as being substandard human beings are unpleasant reminders of the ugly underbelly of a public sentiment that actually believes these things.”, written by Mark Holmgren, anti-poverty and affordable housing advocate, (Anticipate! September 15, 2019).

This part of the series tells us more about the experience of gentrification and displacement from varied points of view. It should come as no surprise that regardless of their socio-economic standing, education or employment status, low income Kitchener-Waterloo residents have thought long and hard about the construction happening along the Central Transit Corridor. Some have reflected on the changes dating back to their childhood and connected them to the recent transformation of the cities. We need to hear about what is being lost in the process of urban core redevelopment, about unaffordability and the feeling of not being wanted or being pushed out through many forms of displacement.  We need to listen to all the people impacted to be able to counter the dominant narrative and build understanding and awareness to work together on affordable housing strategies moving forward. 

 

Gentrification & LRT Construction

Well, I'm looking at this billion dollar project that just flew by us... There's a wonderful train that I can't live on. 

The LRT is actually coming right down by Conestoga Mall where my ex lives and I used to live. And I at first was looking forward to this until I saw people that were, you know, sort of displaced with the condos, all the condos. 

Read more quotes from the interviews describing many faces of displacement in KW - Part  2/4

How Did We Get Here?  3/4

The conditions for the current affordable housing crisis have been building up for decades. Many policy changes in Canada and Ontario since the 90’s could be named, such as the interruption of the federal investment in social and non-market housing, provincial cuts to social assistance programs, or downloading of social service costs to municipalities. The list would go on. The point here is not to unpack the policy changes. The focus is on shedding light on the mindset that created those policies or that failed to anticipate and respond to the crisis in the making. It is the same mindset that has been shaping the course of the urban development and gentrification in cities around the world, as well as in Waterloo Region. 

Decision-makers were seen as people “living in a parallel universe”, distant and detached, not experiencing the harsh realities lived by low income residents. By being removed from the consequences of their decisions, they justify their actions as seemingly ‘rational’ in economic terms. Some of the people interviewed also tried to understand and explain this logic that is detrimental to their lives and wellbeing. What also seems rational is that educated and resourced professionals can make the right decisions for the wellbeing of marginalized groups. Many residents can only lament their lack of representation when decisions impacting their lives are being made, as there is not much they can do about it. 

Ultimately, the behaviour of influencers and policy-makers is irrational when the market tools are used to justify inaction or to maximize profit-making regardless of the consequences it has on growing numbers of people in the community. Including the so called middle class. The price of such “persistence in error” (Diamond, 2018) leaves the burden on the shoulders of the whole society. No one is sheltered from the consequences of short-term thinking and erosion of the common good.    

The growing inequalities in our cities deepen the ‘us and them’ mentality despite many residents recognizing that discriminating and placing blame on other marginalized groups is wrong. Residents in Kitchener-Waterloo interviewed this summer expressed their lack of trust in institutions and lack of representation in places of influence. They testified of discrimination, and the erosion of the common good. We need to hear their stories, honest as they are, just as many of them are trying to see the other points of view.

 

Failure to Respond to the Building Crisis

Discrimination

“And it's sad. We all deserve a place to be, to feel safe and to have a roof over her head. I mean, I walked down the street and I see guys lying in the street. It's just, I can't believe it. You know, that this is Canada you know. And when I was struggling, I lived at the House of Friendship for, for about a month as well. And it's really a, you know, you're, you're kind of that we seem to be a society of labels where you, we're all, everybody has a label. Like here, you're homeless and you're, you know, you're mentally challenged and you're, you know, you might as well wear it on your forehead, you know, and uh, you know, that's when I found too that people really don't know who you are, they only know what you are.”

“I guess there are some further out but I’m not even looking at those because I don’t have a vehicle either, so ... another thing, and I’m not sure how they get away with this. In Waterloo in particular there’s all kinds of places for students, but that’s all they will take is students. Like I don’t know how they can discriminate against people like that but they get away with it, so.”

“When I was working, I worked with the mentally handicapped and I worked in a group home and I experienced this firsthand, but we just moved into this new home in the, in a subdivision like we, that's the goal of the of...it was to get people within the community not sticking to the same institution and leaving there that they can learn it. But anyways, when we moved in, I had four people come to the door and tell me they didn't want us there because their property values were going to go down...I said, excuse me? I said, no. He said, we don't want you here. We don't want you here.”

Income Insecurity

“Even the working poor, people are just working to make ends meet. You know, I work and I’m on disability too, and now, I’m going to be getting more hours, like another job come July. You know, like I want to get out of being on disability, but I have to be on it, right.”

“And everything is more expensive when you live in poverty because the instant you don’t pay your phone bill on time they’ll cut it off and charge you another $50 to put it back on. And during that time you’re in a panic because you can’t use your phone. So if something happens you can’t call anyone. If you’re waiting to hear back from a job opportunity you’re not going to get that call.” 

“I think with people that are on low income should be allowed to get a little bit more income than what they already have, you know, so that they can afford a place. Like, some of these people that live outside, you know, they need to be in where it's nice and warm, you know, like especially in the wintertime. I hate to see anybody out in the cold.”

“I think, yeah, that the city looks nicer cosmetically a little, the buildings look nicer. Um, but again, these nicer looking buildings, I can't afford to live in them right now. Like I'm working part time, you know, I'm trying to pay off debt to go to school and I, that's a whole other thing. But I mean, I, I can't afford to live in one of these big condominiums. Most of them look like they're barren. I don't know who's living there…”

“Well what I’ve noticed just in the last two years, like at the soup kitchen the crowds there have almost doubled in the last two years. So people are paying. They’re using what should be their food budget to pay for rent because they – the shelter allowance on social assistance doesn’t cover their rent. So people’s standard of living and their dignity is just going – every year it gets hammered down a little bit more. The crowds there at the kitchen, they’ve almost doubled. And no one would eat there if they didn’t have to.”

Inadequate social assistance rates

Well, what I think needs to happen but I’m convinced that it won’t happen, is [to] start, the social assistance rates, they need to be at least doubled. What happened, this goes back to I think about 1995 with Mike Harris. He rolled back OW by 22% and he froze ODSP. Well they stayed frozen for 11 years, and during that time we had about 3 or 4% inflation, and then the Liberals came in. They started giving increases of 1% and 2% a year, which were actually less than the rate of inflation. So all the Liberals did for the 13 years that they’ve in power is they basically maintained their freeze. 

Oh it is, it is. It’s just incredibly challenging and this is where again, the system is not working in the sense that even for myself when my bills are paid, I’m left with X amount of dollars, that’s like way, way, beyond the poverty level for someone to live comfortably. And same with being on social assistance, same thing. I mean it’s increased quite a bit but still now everything else is increasing but the money aspect isn’t. Like I mean when we get like a percentage increase, it’s like 1 percent. So that amounts to maybe like $10 a month. Where’s $10 a month going to get you? This has been going on for years. 

Due to circumstances I'm currently on financial assistance through Ontario works and it's not a lot to live on. It's actually very difficult to live on the amount they give you. I receive about $743 a month. My rent is $600 a month, doesn't leave a lot for food, personal need products, et cetera, et cetera. But I'm doing my best, you know, to make this work. I do know some resources to help me, to assist me to live and I'm grateful for them.

Disappearance of manufacturing jobs

But there’s not factory jobs like that anymore now. Yeah, but the way I look at it, you know they get a job from now until years to come for the younger generation. They’re going to need the high education, like technology jobs, think university, you know ... for them to get any work. So therefore they’re going to have to make big money in order to support finding a place to live, because everything’s going to be high. So the kids today that have no education from now on that don’t go to school, they’re not going to go very far the way I look at it. But the way the technology is, if a lot of them go to the self-start education – like my grandson, he’s in Grade 11 going to Grade 12. He wants to be a bank manager. Well that’s enough but you’ve got to build more education. He wants to keep going. But it’s a lot that – not to have the education, thinking that well, we don’t need to go out all the way to university and all the way to this and that, they don’t realize how much it’s grown, technology and stuff, that they need all this education in order to get ahead in the years to come. Because there’s no cheap jobs anymore, like in a factory or lots of factory jobs.

The other thing too is when I look back, you look at all the factories that have come and left. They used to be part of our community. They’ve all left, they’ve gone to Mexico, they’ve gone here, they’ve gone to the States and all those were well paying jobs and everything was good. You had nice high end paying jobs. You could afford it but that’s all been taken away. They’ve moved on. Now you have all this—where are people getting jobs if they’re not getting them out of town, they’re not getting them. So what are they going to do?

 

Distant Decision-makers

Parallel Universes

The advantaged own everything. And they’re being pandered to.Your Googles, your Communitechs, your Desire2Learns. All those folks. I know somebody that owns a company... that lives in a nice house in Waterloo. The reason is that they have a couple of investments. An advantaged person who made it through high school, made it through university, got a good job, was able to retire early, went on to city council, bought a couple of investments, making decisions for everybody else, including the disadvantaged and not having a clue of what it’s like to be disadvantaged. And that person, apparently, worked in the social service industry. But in a totally different zone. Presumably, in an ivory tower. Because I was surprised that that person who came across as a businessperson was – but their hands don’t get dirty. They don’t touch and they don’t mingle with the – so, there’s – oh yeah. There’s – in fact, I was thinking of writing a play, and maybe I will, on just that sort of interaction that I encountered, you know, and broaden that out.

It’s just untenable. This is why. And the – and the division between the populace. So, because I ride a bike and dress the way that I do, I’m treated like a lesser citizen. You get to know it. You get to feel it. And I was being treated like I was less than. So, I understand what it must be like to be indigenous and being impacted – or homeless or otherwise, because I’m dressing like it. I’m wearing, you know. I’m not – you can see the way that the people with the high-tech area, the people in the lofts and stuff like that. Well, it’s gentrified, and it’s polarized, big time. You can see that, you know. And it’s like you’ve got people that are walking the same streets that have totally different realities. And the people that have got the advantages and the people that have got the ear of the decision makers, have no awareness whatsoever of these other people. Or other than there are people that are just in the way.

See, I think one of the main issues here is all these buildings that are being sold and developed and turned into these big pretty buildings and different things. I mean, nobody really thinks about where everyone's going to go. Nobody knows where everyone's going to go. They're just in it to make their money. Right. And they're doing their jobs. Okay, fine. But what do we do with all these other people right here in this empty lot 

That a simple just crossing the street before is now so complex that I choose not to do  certain things or go certain places because of it. I know that nobody in charge of making changes to the Grand River Transit actually rides the transit for work or for social life or just for life in general. If they would, they would not put up with the amount of time that we have to wait. They would not put up with things such as there are no maps, if that’s what you call a diagram, of – so, where the bus terminal is, there is no map showing what platforms have which buses…. Walking extra far is problematic. Walking with a bicycle – how am I going to – how am I going to go into your elevator area or your stair area, carry a bike up and then go over and then down again? These aren’t considerations. Or these aren’t things that have been taken into consideration.

Lack of Representation

Like, with more wealthier people coming in, like I'm hoping they won't be stuck-up with what Kitchener is, or has been. And, not to be afraid to get to know their neighbours. Because, the lower class people contribute to a lot in Kitchener, even though the wealthy don't see it.

None of which is represented or connected to the community at large. None of them are directly – what’s the word? What is the word? Accountable. That’s the word I want. Centre Block committee, some businessmen, the board, a separate – developer, separate.

Lack of Trust in Institutions 

Not really. I mean talking about it is one time, but is anything ever going to get done about it? I mean here you and I are sitting here talking about like basically affordability. I mean it’s not going anywhere soon. I mean it’s unfortunate. They’re just not doing enough for people that are living on the street. 

So, I go back, literally, some 55, 56-7 years, with the connection to downtown. And have seen it literally gutted. And the powers that be, not only allowing it, but accelerating it. That was bad. ...Now, it’s not cynical, this the reality check. This is like – yeah, they work hand in glove with the developers.

We get more affordable housing. Mm-hmm. But, I don't see the government spending good earned tax money on that, while they can blow it on other crap, right, which they seem to do that a lot too, so. I don't know, we're never happy with our politicians.

The downtown sector. I mean I go to the soup kitchen every day, right? And so I basically see a lot of it. So I don’t really know, like I know of people that it’s just the way it is. You look around, you got crane after crane after crane building these phenomenal condominiums. And I don’t see any—I mean they’ve been talking about, for about at least five years now about low income people but nothing hasn’t been done. Nothing’s being done. 

That would be great because I mean again, like I said earlier, the city and the councillor, I mean they are doing a little bit here, little bit there but there’s just not enough being done and then there’s the red tape that they have to go over. And again, it’s like these property owners are getting the green light to build these freaking monster condominiums and stuff like that. 

Yeah, but see, where does the buck stop? I mean the city, you watch the news and you see all this, how concerned the city is with the homelessness but what are they doing about it? Nothing. There’s just giving licences to more developers, more developers and where does it end? They’re not looking out for the little Joe, they’re looking out for the big Joe. It’s unfortunate. I mean it’s reality, it really is, unfortunate reality. I mean I wish I could do something more, you know, honest to God. My hands are tied. 

So it depends on who's running the country… You know, affordable housing is not a priority right now. It's, you know, I don't know what his taxes or whatever we're paying off the debt or stuff like that, you know, so, so I think it's going to be a, a, a struggle all the way. I don't think it's going to be an easy road to, I don't see that in the near future any solution coming up.

I mean I could talk about this until I turn blue but it’s not going to change anything. The reason I’m not optimistic is because politicians don't care. Student Housing doesn't accommodate others and are not pet friendly... 

 

Rational Behaviour 

Speculations in real estate investment

Yeah. So on Erb – from Dietz to Erb, Westmount on Erb, there’s some houses that have been boarded up and they’ve been boarded up for years now. They were student housing. So I guess the people who used to own Sun Life Financial probably knew at some point they would be developing it and just didn’t want to deal with students all the time. So the new developers came in. They bought the plaza and the land up to Erb and then they just tacked on our area last year. 

See, this is just it though, you know? I mean again, I’ve been here for a long time and I’ve seen all the changes over the years progress. And I mean you look at the Mayfair, for instance. It used to be a hotel right at the corner of King and Yonge Street and that city owned it from about 2001 on before it had to get demolished because the upkeep wasn’t there and he sold it to a guy. What the city paid to get the elevator fixed, that’s what they sold it to the guy as a property. But then they had to tear it down because of structural damage and I’ve seen other buildings that the city has owned that have gone tits up because there’s no one really looking after them. But if we were to do what you’re thinking, you have all this city owned property, instead of selling it to greedy developers who build these high-end condos, why not sell it to—make something where people can afford it? 

I remember being young and, uh, Zappers was burned down and it might be a few different stories about. It was an arcade, but you know, for years now this, this empty vacant lot. It's just been sitting here. I mean, they, they haven't done anything with it. I don't, I don't know if they have plans for it, but it's sort of just sat here doing nothing. I mean behind it's just a bunch of gravel and rocks. Um, probably some garbage, but I mean, this could be turned into something. This could be turned into an affordable apartment building, some sort of resource center, but it's just kind of sat here the past couple of years, which is odd to me. Uh Hm.

So it’s the real estate market, in general, is going up. A lot of it also has to do with people buying places and then putting it on Airbnb because they can get more money that way than by actually renting it to somebody. I don’t know how prevalent it is in this area where people buy condos and then rent them out either through Airbnb or just through regular – you know, they basically become a landlord and start – and all the prices just start keep on going up. Because where I go to tutor that woman that one seems full, but all these luxury units always seem to have vacancies. And when that’s happening that should be an indication to developers in the city that maybe they’re going in the wrong direction.

Imperative of Profit Making

I always think of Kitchener as a mini Toronto. Kitchener-Waterloo I always thought of us becoming like a mini Toronto and with the condos going up and that, it’s more and more becoming true, we’re like a miniature Toronto. The richness and the city wanting more rich people coming in, rich people with money.

Well, they bought up all of the more run-down properties, tore them down and that’s where they built the market, among other things. And then on all the streets just behind there, it’s kind of like a little boutique area for businesses.  It means ... if you want to get the highest return on your investment you could build a condominium or an apartment where you might rent it out for $2,000.00 a month. That would be a far better investment than building much cheaper apartments, because say you rented a place out for $700.00 a month. It wouldn’t cost you twice as much to build a place that you could rent out for $2,000 a month. It might cost you a little bit more but not double; but your return is going to be double.

Often the elevator isn’t working or they’ve had hot water off and there’s lots and lots of issues with that building because I was once told that the running theory is developers don’t want to put money into projects that won’t get them the absolute highest amount back.

So developers don’t want to put money into a project that would have that middle-class affordable housing range when they could potentially make it higher and … 

Landscape Amnesia 

So, I'd say – I might notice the changes because living there, it might – I can see the changes happening. But, let's say I lived in Kitchener and I was away for about five years, and I came back again – then I probably wouldn't recognize it anymore.

I’m all for development. I know the construction of the LRT was annoying, especially for people who had to cross certain intersections... they were under construction for like two years. But I also feel that you know, once the LRT is up and going a few years from now, we will forget what it was like beforehand. 

People who have been here all these years, if you grew up with it and you don’t know any better, you accept whatever you get, because if somebody says every morning when you get up, you should put this piece of wood in this hole, and that means good luck, if you're taught – whatever you're taught from birth, you’ll do it, not because you know why, but because you were told to do it. 

There was a time even in the ‘60s if you wanted to have a conversation on King street you either had to go into a store front or stand between the parking meters because there were so many people on the street. The people on the street going back and forth were a cross section of people - they were going to the various stores (watch repair, groceries) have since gone out to the malls.

I think it becomes more noticeable to me when I drive down King Street and I see all the high rise buildings around because I know those high rise buildings probably went on top of buildings like mine. And there is just so many more of those towers around. Like the skyline is completely changing and that’s the sense because it’s almost like you don’t even notice them going up because you don’t go by that area or something and then suddenly you’re driving down King Street and you just realize the street’s getting darker because of all these high rises. 

Irrational Behaviour & Persistence in Error 

I can see that certain people are trying to make a lot of money off of a situation where it’s supposed to be a beneficial thing for the people. ...So that’s what I think. And now, aren’t people that make decisions of a billion dollars supposed to do it wisely and in consent with the population that pays it? 

Just, it bugs me that we spent all these billions of dollars on this ION when we so need affordable housing and we need our city officials to push for it. You know, I don’t – condominiums, sure it brings in people and money but you’re forgetting about the marginalized people too, right.

But at some point they’re going to run out of market because even right now there’s the big condo complex that went up five years or so ago on the corner of Erb and Westmount and I’m pretty sure they’ve never removed the banner where it says you can move in now because all these buildings are going up. There’s so many high rise apartment buildings and they can’t all be filled all the time. And instead of offering it to maybe to make it affordable housing they just are left vacant. 

Well I’m a homeless advocate, so you know what I mean, I see it, I live it and the fact that we need more affordable housing and stuff like that, and now we’re getting the city to let all these rich people come in and build condos without any zoning by law to allow affordable housing in those units, like that’s not fair, where are the marginalized people going to live, you know.

 

Erosion of the Common Good 

See, I used to hang out downtown. I very rarely go downtown. I mean I see what I see. I mean I don’t know how people really interact with each other especially the people that are the well paid from the tech sector and what not. And I mean they’ve taken away even a lot of space for the seniors. I mean there’s no grocery store anymore like there used to be. I mean it’s all catered and this is what annoys me. 

Again, it could be another building that could be built for affordable housing, but I don't know why nobody wants to invest in affordable housing. I mean, maybe you get less money from your tenants, but you are helping people. I mean, I mean the book of Matthew says do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You know treat people how you want to be treated, but it seems like everyone's just out for themselves. You don't see a lot of just nice people trying to do things these days. How no perfect person or any scene. But I mean, I can see past what's going on right now.

What these developers are doing, they’ll buy up two, three or four older houses that are perfectly good but they just – you know, and they tear them down, clear the lot and they put up a condo.

I see more property conversions from tearing down houses and adjoining lots and building up small apartment buildings. I see perhaps more condo development coming down the road and Roger Street's an example. I don't know if the city can afford to have that many more condos. The services that the city has to provide for condos has to be incredible. People see the services as electricity and water but sewage is a big thing. You drop a small town into a community that doesn't have sewage capacity, that's a major undertaking. All of those houses is a small town.

So the fact that the city is allowing – sure we need the economy to bring up, you know, like money into the city and stuff like that, we need people, but we’re forgetting about the marginalized people too. You can’t just have the rich folk come in and let them do what they want and forget about the marginalized people, it’s there’s no fairness in it.

And it feels like it’s a very capitalistic thing that they’re trying to do where it’s just the bottom line is the money, how much money can they make. And the city officials and other people are tending to forget that there are people. You know, it’s about community. Cities should be a community and they’re trying to break up these communities to make money.

In a country like Canada, this shouldn’t have to be an issue. This is a wealthy country. Nobody should be living on the streets. Nobody should be making those sacrifices with their apartments, you know, especially if they are working full time, if they’re giving back to the community because yeah, they deserve it. They’ve earned it. And to suddenly start saying to people you’re no longer worth that, why in this country are we doing that? It’s like you’re no longer worth having a place to call home. 

It’s a cultural shift that we need to be doing. It’s capitalism has run amuck. People’s salaries have stayed down while everything has gone up in price and it’s that has to be fixed where people are paid living wages for their areas so that they can afford to stay because it’s reaching a breaking point. There’s places there’s just nowhere else to go and then we’re supposed to be grateful when the government then says oh, we’re doing this thing where we’re helping house owners if they want to convert their basements into an apartment. And what middle-aged person who has a full-time job really wants to then just move into somebody’s basement after living in their own place? 

 

‘Us and Them’ Divides

Who’s benefiting from it? The advantage – or basically, advantaging the advantaged. So, now, I do understand that by having some of those other corporations and the like in there, there is more money that turns into the tax base, but I don’t know to what extent that is, really. Building, you know, condos going up where there used to be storefronts with people living in more affordable housing. As that gets evaporated – and as, you know, you must be aware of the, you know, that that’s been happening.

I can understand that the people – we used to call them Yuppies – the new generation. I don't know what they call the new generation. Yeah. But I can see them, you know, in their nice condos, nice, brand-new condos, that they don't want people, scraggy people. 

I mean you look at myself because I’m 60, I’ve lived here well pretty much since I was a teenager from probably the age of 12-13. I’ve seen like the city go from being old school to now like high tech. And again, what I was saying earlier like even people that are in their like senior years and stuff, they’re even getting pushed out because of the fact that it’s just like a downtown technical hub. People are just being bounced around. It’s unfortunate.

The rents for the businesses that they frequent are going to be such that they’re no longer there. So, there’s no reason for them to be there, one. Another is that the advantaged own everything.

… I know that if I had – if I had spent money on a really nice condo and I was more educated or whatever, going to school, had a good job, whatever, I would prefer not to have a lot – have to walk through a lot of homeless people downtown, or you know,... but those are the people that don't have anywhere to go. And it doesn't look so very nice. 

It’s all catered to the tech industry and people that have lived here all their lives, all that has been taken away from. They have no way to go to the grocery store, that used to be like two steps from their door. Now they have to take a bus to go grocery shopping, that kind of thing. 

I mean it’s increased quite a bit but still now everything else is increasing but the money aspect isn’t. Like I mean when we get like a percentage increase, it’s like 1 percent. So that amounts to maybe like $10 a month. Where’s $10 a month going to get you? This has been going on for years. And you have people that are on the top of the ladder, they’re getting like 10-15 percent. 

I've even heard from people that it's happening to them and they're not okay with it. Like they don't like being displaced. And just because of the wealthier people wanting better looking places to stay. And, with that kind of displacement, it more often than not, leads to homelessness. And there's been a rise of that, because of the displacement with these expensive condos and whatnot. And, not having the zoning for low income people in those buildings, kind of makes it difficult for people to find homes that they could actually afford.

No… I never heard talk about [gentrification] anybody because I don’t hang around that kind of middle class or whatever you want to call it, or high class. I just stick to my own class. And if I don’t see it then it doesn’t bother me. But there is probably – it is probably happening here too. I wouldn’t doubt it. And some people need to be pushed out and moved on and, you know, to change things.

And I’ve heard from other people too, the people who would live in these buildings and pay full rent how they would feel it’s not right if in some apartments they were subsidized. So if they’re paying full rent how dare another person come in and get away with paying half the rent.

I find there’s a lot of people moving in, but they brought a lot of immigrants, Muslims and everything in, eh? Well they help put the population up too. But I find that they come in but they find houses a lot quicker for them, and even the ones that have low rentals that can’t find a place on the bottom of the list. Why’s that, you know?

And I had applied probably within that year over at the housing, Ontario Housing, and my name’s been on the application, been on the application, been on the application. And so long short of the story is that Justin Trudeau, he started letting Syrians in. So the Syrians were getting all the low-income housing, which was not fair to the average Canadian citizen. So he decided to create a subsidy for people that were on the waiting list for a period of over five years, and I qualified.

I’m far from racist or whatever but when Trudeau two, three years ago when he let that 25,000 refugees into Canada, that’s taking away a lot of space for Canadian born citizens. That’s why there’s no more spaces anywhere because we have to—the province is subsidized their well-being but what about the everyday ordinary born Canadian? That’s gone down the toilet. Refugees have more rights than we do. It’s unfortunate to sit here and say that but it’s the truth. I mean okay, on one hand it’s nice to have someone from a war-torn country to come into our place but yet what about … help the people that are living here already instead of making, creating more havoc on the situation. 

Saving the Social Commons  4/4

To be published on November 13th 2019.

Life Stories of Displacement Podcast

Podcast: Life Stories of Displacement 

Episode 1: Pay attention more to the people on the streets

Episode 2: I’m seeing all those changes, but none of them are for me

Episode 3: People are moving to the periphery, people are moving out of the city

Episode 4: You cannot put all the poor people in one building

Episode 5: These are the sort of stories: They have accidents, they get ill, they move away.

Episode 6: The only way things are going to change, or people are going to see differently, is by hearing people that have lived it.

Social Development Centre Waterloo Region has supported the recruitment of participants who have experienced or observed displacement in Kitchener-Waterloo urban core to turn up the volume of their voices in the ‘Neighbourhood Change along LRT’ research project  in partnership with Professor Brian Doucet, Canada Chair of Planning at the University of Waterloo. These interviews were collected during the summer of 2019, with the support of the staff at St John Kitchen, and are testimonies of the history that would not otherwise be recorded.