Action for Whom? Placing Community-Based Organizations’ Roles Within Gentrification Processes in Hamilton, Ontario

Authors: Margaret Ellis-Young*, University of Waterloo
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: gentrification, displacement, resistance, community-based organizations, revitalization
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Grand Couteau, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Revitalization strategies aimed at the urban core of Hamilton, Ontario, a mid-sized city 70 km west of Toronto, have introduced concerns about gentrification and displacement of various forms. As a historic hub of steel manufacturing impacted by deindustrialization, Hamilton has, until very recently, been positioned as a center of decline. This paper explores community-based organizations as actors within Hamilton’s revitalization narrative, which uses decline as a rationale for facilitating private investment and redefining place identities. More specifically, the paper examines the ways in which the organizations shape, perceive and respond to processes and impacts of gentrification within the city’s “revitalizing” central neighbourhoods. The actions of the community-based organizations are discussed in the context of local revitalization policies and framed by consideration of the power dynamics of neighbourhood-level decision-making. The study relies on meeting observations, document review and key informant interviews with representatives from community organizations and neighbourhood associations in Hamilton, as well as with local planners and policymakers, to gain insight into these matters. The research contributes to expanding knowledge on the variety of roles community-based organizations play within gentrification processes, including with regard to resistance to displacement, as well as on tensions between perspectives of revitalization and gentrification in a mid-sized city context. In highlighting the complexity of community-based action and its beneficiaries within gentrifying neighbourhoods, the paper provides a basis to reconceptualize the ways in which neighbourhoods are valued and the drivers of neighbourhood-level change in search of more equitable outcomes.

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