Neighbourhood Change

Who Lived Where in 2006: A Neighbourhood Typology of Eight Canadian Metropolitan Areas

As part of a research project on neighbourhood change in cities across Canada we have developed a typology of neighbourhoods for eight Canadian Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs): Calgary, Halifax, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.

We created this typology using 2006 census data for 3,139 census tracts in the eight CMAs. We focused on 30 variables related to economic status, age, family, and household status, immigrant and ethnic status, migrant status, and housing status.

By analysing the relationships among these variables using component analysis and undertaking a cluster analysis of the component scores we were able to identify 15 clusters of  census tracts that  characterize distinct urban neighbourhoods. We have organized these 15 clusters into six larger groups: Older Working Class, Urban/Suburban Homeowner, Old City Establishment, Disadvantaged Groups, and Family Ethnoburbs.

Not all clusters appear in all CMAs. Toronto includes all 15 clusters, while Halifax (the smallest city in the study) has only nine. Larger and more socially complex CMAs exhibit the largest number of clusters.

Neighbourhood Change… Reason to Leave?

Urban Studies 46(10) 2103–2122, September 2009. Little attention has been paid to date to the role of a changing neighbourhood as a factor influencing the residential choice process. Processes of neighbourhood change are often beyond residents’ sphere of influence and if a changing neighbourhood
causes residential stress, the only way to improve one’s neighbourhood is to move to a better one. This study aims to get more insight into the effect of neighbourhood change on residential stress by studying residents’ wish to leave their neighbourhood. Using data from The Netherlands, we show that there is no effect of a change in the socioeconomic status of the neighbourhood on moving wishes. A high level
of population turnover and an increase in the proportion of non-Western ethnic minorities in the neighbourhood increase the probability that residents want to leave their neighbourhood. The latter effect disappears when controlled for residents’ subjective opinion about neighbourhood change.

Managing Neighborhood Change A Framework for Sustainable and Equitable Revitalization


U.S. National Housing Institute, 2008.  This publication offers CDCs, local officials, and other stakeholders, including local institutional, business, and community leaders, a new way to look at how they can manage neighborhood change in order to bring about sustainable and equitable revitalization. It is based on a simple idea: The most powerful lever for neighborhood change is change in the demand for housing in the neighborhood. Change in the residential real estate market can lead to a stronger, healthier neighborhood. At the same time, market change can take problematic forms, leading to undesirable outcomes. It can be driven by speculation, triggering little or no improvement in the community’s quality of life, or it can disrupt established communities, displacing long-time low- and moderate-income residents.

Higher house prices without improvement to neighborhood vitality and quality of life is neither
positive nor sustainable, while change that leads to displacement of an area’s lower-income residents is not equitable. This proposition defines the central question for all those struggling with the task of revitalizing urban neighborhoods: how to build both a stronger housing market and a healthier neighborhood while ensuring that the community’s lower-income residents benefit from the neighborhood’s revitalization?

Theories of Neighborhood Change: Implications for Community Development Policy and Practice


In order to fully grasp the history of urban community development and its implications for urban planning and policy, it is important to first understand the dynamics of neighborhood change. Why do neighborhoods decline, improve, or remain stable over time? Following the taxonomy of Temkin and Rohe (1996), this paper surveys three major schools of thought with regard to theoretical understanding of how and why neighborhoods change – ecological, subcultural, and political economy – reflecting on their implications for neighborhood development policy.

Models of Neighborhood Change


Ann. Review of Sociology, 1983. 9:83-102. This review presents an analysis of current sociology and human ecology dealing with neighborhood change. The review is organized in four major sections. The first deals with the concept of neighborhood. The second discusses the classic models of neighborhood change-invasion-succession and life cycle. The third deals with the current perspectives on neighborhood change: demographic/ecological, sociocultural/organizational, political economy, and social movements. The final section focuses on urban revitalization and gentrification.

The Dynamics of Neighbourhood Change and Decline, 1983

Neighborhood policy is invariably based upon some “theory of the problem.” Plainly, if that theory is inaccurate or incomplete, as we think current theories are, it may lead to “solutions” that are unavailing or worse. Currently, public intervention to arrest neighborhood decline assumes that it is premature or unnecessary. However, if as some persons feel, neighborhood decline — like the decline of living organisms is the inevitable consequence of advancing age, it is not a problem that can be prevented or corrected. Similarly, if neighborhood decline involves no more than an inevitable transfer of obsolescing structures to ever-lower income groups, one might view the phenomenon as simply an occurrence having neither positive nor negative connotations. The problem for policy in this situation would have to do, instead, with the distribution of income in society. Finally, to the extent that decline of individual neighborhoods is the consequence of rising living standards and the concomitant rejection of marginal segments of the housing inventory by those who can afford to maintain homes ingood-as-new condition, one can regard decline in a generally positive light. Depending on the situation, therefore, neighborhood policies either could seek to prevent and reverse decline or could focus on techniques that would help neighborhoods adjust downward and prevent the effects of decline from influencing surrounding areas. This essay examines the meaning and causes of neighborhood succession, and the relationships between succession and decline. Its purpose is to cut through the conceptual morass of definitions and assumptions about neighborhood change and in this way to clarify the “theory of the problem.” The essay has six substantive parts.

Neighbourhood Inequality, Diversity & Change: A Symposium on Research Challenges. June 2011

A one-day invitational symposium with the SSHRC Partnership Grant proposal team, June 23, 2011, Neighbourhood Change Research Group, University of Toronto. Much has occurred in the broader socio-economic context that requires new ways of thinking about how and why urban neighbourhoods change, and how we should study neighbourhood change. Little consideration has been given to how traditional ideas about neighborhood change affect analyses of urban areas. We need to move forward to new ways of thinking, researching, and offering policy advice about the often dramatic changes that are taking place in urban socio-spatial patterns.

The presentations of six of the speakers are posted here.

1.  How should we study neighbourhood change today?

2.  Socio-spatial Inequality: What to Focus Research on and Why?

3.  Population Groups: Defining Priorities for Cross-Disciplinary Thematic Neighbourhood Research

4.  From the Field: Emerging Issues & Research Needs

Local Government

  • Mike Buda, Director, Policy & Research, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
  • Harvey Low, Social Policy Analysis & Research, City of Toronto

Low-income Neighbourhoods

  • Social Planning Toronto, Community development planners who work in Toronto’s “City #3”

Impacts of Social Mix: Crime, Tenure Diversification and Assisted Mobility

This report is part one in a series each of which focuses on different thematic aspects of empirical research on social diversity. In this report focus is on: crime and social diversity and studies of tenure diversification and household mobility. We also detail at the start of this report a broader policy analysis literature which has looked at aspects of social diversity.

Does Gentrification Help or Harm Urban Neighbourhoods? An Assessment of the Evidence-Base in the Context of the New Urban Agenda

There has been a renewed interest in ways of encouraging the middle classes back to the cities that many have left. Gentrification describes an interest in working class and cheaper neighbourhoods by middle class and professional households. The image of trendy Islington has done much to aid the greater currency of the term but gives us some idea of the outcome if little idea of the social costs involved. Recent research for the ESRC Centre for Neighbourhood Research sought to evaluate the relative value of gentrification as a possible route towards an urban renaissance by reviewing all empirical research on the topic for the last thirty years. The review covered more than a hundred pieces of research, predominantly from North America and the UK.

Reflexivity and post-colonial critique: Toward an ethics of accountability in planning praxis

Planning Theory, 9(3) 181–199, 2010.  In her important essay ‘Praxis in the time of empire’, Ananya Roy (2006) calls for planning theory to confront imperialism and colonialism as the constitutive ‘present history’ of planning and to substitute a liberal ‘responsibility for’ others with a postcolonial ‘accountability to’ them. This article takes up Roy’s appeal with reference to the disciplines of anthropology, critical development studies and feminist studies. It argues that in order to move beyond the limits of ‘liberal benevolence’, planners need an ethics of accountability that recognizes the conditions of postcoloniality, to be sure, but that can also foreground the relational subjectivities of planners and beneficiaries more generally with an eye to broaching the normative terrain of ‘what is to be done?’. Through a review of literature at the juncture of planning and critical development studies, and reflections on the author’s own cross-disciplinary travels, the article identifies four theoretical concepts that planning needs to recognize and engage in order to strengthen both its critical and normative orientations: the structures of imperialism, agency and resistance among the ‘beneficiaries’ of planning action, the subjectivity of planers and the conditions of collective action. The article argues that, cumulatively, these concepts can inform an ethics of accountability that encompasses both postcolonial critique and a ‘reflexive relationality’.

Critical development studies and the praxis of planning

CITY, Vol. 13  (2–3), 2009.  In this paper, Rankin seeks to  develop normative orientations in planning theory by drawing on theoretical resources in the cognate field of critical development studies. The professional practices which both critical development studies and planning theory take as their object of study share a duplicitous relationship to processes of capitalist accumulation and liberal notions of benevolent trusteeship. Yet, critical development studies has clearly done a better job of tracing the entanglements of projects of improvement with projects of empire. When such theorizations about development are brought to bear on the more subtle object of urban planning, here too the flagrancies of liberal benevolence can be exposed and challenged. The paper is organized into three sections: (a) the relationship of planning to imperialism and globalization, (b) resistance and the cultural politics of agency, and (c) the contributions of transnational feminism to a praxis of solidarity and collaboration.

Understanding Neighbourhood Dynamics: A Review of the Contributions of William G. Grigsby

This paper summarises William G. Grigsby’ s contribution to our understanding of neighbourhood change. We discuss seven contributions among Grigsby’ s most-lasting. First, he staked out the boundaries of the still-nascent field very early in his career. Secondly, he situated the subject within the broader framework of metropolitan housing market dynamics. Thirdly, he developed a theoretical framework for investig ating the subject that featured the analysis of housing sub-markets, the market process of neighbourhood succession, and residential segregation. Fourthly, he identified the economic, social, institutional and demographic forces that create neighbourhood change. Fifthly, he linked neighbourhood decline and deteriora tion to the spatial concentration of poverty. Sixthly, he underscore d the significance of this understanding for formulating public policies to deal with deteriora ted neighbourhoods. And seventhly, he provided a remarkably complete and robust framework for analysing neighbourhood change. This last-mentioned contribution is the culmination of his lifetime work and will prove perhaps to be his most significant. It provides a road map to future research on neighbourhood dynamics that others may wish to follow.


What We Know About Neighbourhood Change (2004 Literature Review)

Our starting point was to understand how people conceptualise neighbourhood change, and how concepts of neighbourhood and of change can be operationalised in research designs. We identified four key issues of debate: the concept of neighbourhood itself; issues of space and time; issues about the interpretation of change and the need to take on board different perspectives, arising both because people have different levels of involvement in and stake in their neighbourhoods; and the question of whether relative or absolute change is most relevant to measure.  Reviewing these debates leads us to conclude that neighbourhood research needs to:

  • find a balance between using composite indicators in order to be able to identify patterns and generalise about neighbourhood types and trajectories, and illuminating the nuances of change within these overall patterns.
  • be underpinned by a theoretical understanding of which changes should be measured at which spatial levels and over which timescales, and to incorporate different tiers of measurement of space and time.
  • evaluate changes and outcomes for different groups of people within neighbourhoods, and also ensure that different perspectives are considered in making evaluative judgments of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ change.
  • be clear about whether absolute or relative change is being measured and why.

Who Cares About Neighbourhoods?

The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the current revival of interest in ‘community’ and ‘neighbourhood’ in much of the western academic and policy literature and to explore some of the different ways in which the idea of the neighbourhood continues to have resonance with the contemporary world. In other words, why should we care about neighbourhood and in what ways? The paper approaches the neighbourhood from different angles: as community, as commodity, as consumption niche and as context. The idea of the neighbourhood is a necessarily fluid concept and for the purposes of research its definition must vary according to the questions being addressed. The paper is concerned as much with the ways in which neighbourhoods are packaged and sold as with their social construction over time. It is also impossible to discuss neighbourhoods without some reference to debates around the concept of globalisation. Finally, there is the need to consider the continuing relevance of the neighbourhood cross culturally. There is a strong element of ethno or Eurocentrism in conceptions of the neighbourhood and its role in contemporary urban society. The literature on neighbourhood derives in the main from US or European studies.

Theories of neighbourhood change and neighbourhood decline: Their significance for post-WWII large housing estates

In the 1920s, researchers of the Chicago School developed what is often considered as the first theories and models designed to explain neighbourhood change. Subsequent research into neighbourhood change has been carried out in many different ways and has focused on different fields. The early researchers considered neighbourhood change as a more or less inevitable result of a filtering process that causes changes in areas with an ageing housing supply. Others have paid more attention to the importance of a strong neighbourhood attachment, while again others have referred to the impact of larger economic and social transformations on neighbourhoods. Researchers have also aimed to capture the process of neighbourhood change, and of decay in particular, in all-embracing models in which several variables and developments are linked. Despite the comprehensiveness of many models, we think none of them is all-embracing; there is still room for improvement and addition. This paper sets out an approach, which combines crucial elements of different theories, approaches and models. The aim is to find out how we can use the existing theories in the case of the post-WWII large housing estates in Europe. Especially in these areas significant physical, economic and social changes have emerged in the past two decades. The central questions to be addressed in this paper are therefore: To what extent can models and theories explaining neighbourhood change, and decay in particular, be applied to post-WWII large housing estates in European cities? And how can the useful elements of these models and theories be combined to explain the development of European post-WWII housing estates?