neighbourhood highs and lows


I love our neighbourhood. We have a small narrow house that we moved in to three weeks before Akka was born. I remember our real estate agent saying it would be big enough “for now” but we could move later if our family got bigger. I knew right then that it would always be big enough. We tore down some walls and painted the rest of them bright colours (so I complain that we live in a rubik’s cube). I’ve given birth to two babies in our bedroom. Our neighbours, with kids a little older than ours, noted that we had a tree with no swings while they had swings with no tree so we hung the swings and cut a door into the fence between our yards and now all four kids treat both houses like their own. And we’ve rocked out at the occasional spontaneous, roaring, wonderful back alley neighbourhood party, one of which manifested last night:


When we bought our house the prices were just getting into the ridiculous category and they’ve continued to rise. But when property values go up and homeowners smile that they’re “making money”, local businesses get the rug pulled out from under them. Our lovely, convenient, neighbourhood grocery store is closing down. I went in there today, pulling an empty wagon behind me to fill with the essentials, and they were taking down shelves and looking very glum. They told me the landlord has sold to someone who won’t renew the lease and wants to charge a fortune in rent and they have a month to clear out. This is the shop we go to every few days for milk, brocolli, bananas. Malli’s first trip out of the house after he was born was to this shop, snuggled in a wrap under his Granny’s coat because I wasn’t ready to carry him on the outside after carrying him so recently on the inside. When the glass bottles of milk are delivered they put some aside for regular customers who buy the same amount every week. When I go there with both kids they run up and down and play hide and seek in the aisles and I never worry that it will bother anyone. The shopkeepers chat with everyone in fluent Cantonese, Spanish and English. I’m really going to miss it and I’m a bit desperate at the thought that I’ll have to buckle two kids into carseats and drive for groceries or find ways to make dinner out of the things they sell at the drugstore.


6 responses to “neighbourhood highs and lows

  1. I am devastated to hear about the market. Devastated.

    What do planners say about this? How is it different from Dan-D-Pak on Broadway in Vancouver? Is Dan-D-Pak doomed?

    I can’t stand it. Fix it.

  2. It’s gentrification – that’s what it does. People like the part about well-groomed gardens and property values but it’s also a homogenizing force – we’ll have a Sobey’s or a Starbucks leasing that store-front until all the neighbourhoods start to look just the same. Independent folks won’t be able to afford the rent.

    Dan-D-Pak is doomed if they rent the space and if the landlord starts to price the rent out of their range. If they own it, they should be ok.

    What do planners say? Bad ones say let the market decide. Good ones say that public policy (like commercial tax rates, transit funding, road pricing, carbon taxes, lot size regulations) can help the little guys compete and protect the look and feel of neighbourhoods to preserve some uniqueness.

  3. Fie on soul-less gentrification. (No matter how I type “soul-less” [soulless?] it looks wrong to me. Fie on spelling, too!)

    I am struck by you writing that homeowners smile and say they are “making money” – they aren’t really. Their properties are appreciating passively…but there is no money to be made unless you actually, physically sell the house.

    “A rising tide lifts all boats” – yes, but a rising tide also washes out low-lying grounds all along the shore. It isn’t only boats that we should have our eyes on, you know?

  4. Exactly – they “say” they’re making money but it’s all fiction. And you only really make money if you sell and then leave the city (or any city).

  5. Pingback: grocery store update « Chapter Four: domesticity

  6. Pingback: cosmos « Chapter Four

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