Canada’s New Federal Mortgage Regulations: Warranted and Fair?

This research bulletin reviews and analyzes the changes that have been made to mortgage lending regulations. Instead of examining their effect on housing values or the Canadian economy more broadly, the objective is to ascertain their impact on borrowers. In particular, this analysis considers whether the new rules are socially warranted, given differential access to credit and the current distribution of household debt among different socio-economic groups, and whether the new rules make mortgage lending in Canada more fair or less fair. In short, it seeks to determine whether the new regulations represent a net social benefit to Canadian society.


Anything But Scattered: The Proposed Sale of Toronto Community Housing’s Standalone Scattered-Site Housing and Implications for Building an Inclusive Toronto

by Alan Walks, PhD, Associate Professor, Cities Centre and Department of Geography, University of Toronto

Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership Policy Brief #2, August 2012

Research conducted has found that maintaining non-market affordable housing is one of the best ways of building and encouraging inclusive communities and preventing the negative aspects of gentrification. Selling TCHC properties into the private market will only exacerbate polarizing trends and work against the goal of building inclusive communities. We thus recommend that these properties not be sold into the private market.

Download Map #1 (PDF) Download Map #2 (PDF)Read the Brief (PDF)

The City-Suburban Cleavage in Canadian Federal Politics

Despite increasing speculation and attention, as of yet insufficient empirical research has been conducted on the possibility of a political cleavage based on differences between Canadian inner cities and suburbs. This article sheds light on the potential existence of such differences by analyzing federal elections at the level of the constituency from 1945 to 1997. Results show that city-suburban differences in federal party voting did not become significant until the 1980s, and increased after this point, with inner-city residents remaining to the left of the rest of Canada in their party preferences while suburbanites shifted increasingly to the right in their voting patterns. The results obtained from regression analysis suggest that such a divergence cannot be reduced solely to differences in social composition, housing tenure, or region, and thus confirm that it constitutes a ‘true’ political cleavage. It is argued that intra-urban geography needs to taken into account in future analyses of Canadian political behaviour.

The boundaries of suburban discontent? Urban definitions and neighbourhood political effects

Residents of city and suburban neighbourhoods have diverged in the way they vote, with inner-city dwellers preferring political parties on the left while suburbanites increasingly vote for parties on the right. Yet it is not clear whether such a division is more evident between residents of central and suburban municipalities (the jurisdictional hypothesis), or between residents of neighbourhoods differentiated by urban form and, by assumption, lifestyle (the morphological hypothesis). While there are clear reasons for the predominant reliance on municipal differences in research based in the U.S. and other countries, it is not evident that these reasons apply in the Canadian context. This article examines how urban boundaries articulate electoral differences between metropolitan residents in Canada’s three largest urban regions, using aggregate election data for federal elections between 1945 and 2000, survey data from the 2000 Canada election study and a series of indices developed by the author. It is found that while trends towards city–suburban polarization are similar regardless of the boundaries used to define the zones, in the
Canadian case the results are stronger and more significant when boundaries based on urban form (between pre-and post-war development) are employed. The implications of these results for the relationship between urban space and political values in Canadian cities are then discussed.

The urban in fragile, uncertain, neoliberal times: towards new geographies of social justice?

Canadian cities are at a crossroads. The neoliberalization of governance at multiple scales, inadequate re-investment in urban infrastructure, increasing reliance on continental and international trade, and the restructuring of the space economy have combined to weaken Canada’s cities just as the global economic system is undergoing transformation. Canadian urban geographic
scholarship has much to offer under current conditions, and is already making significant contributions in key areas. In particular, research on what might be called the contours and impacts of urban restructuring and the neoliberal city, immigration and cities of difference, and urban environmental justice show much promise and are likely to define the core of Canadian urban geography
into the future.

Ghettos in Canada’s cities? Racial segregation, ethnic enclaves and poverty concentration in Canadian urban areas

Recent literature suggests a growing relationship between the clustering of certain visible minority groups in urban neighbourhoods and the spatial concentration of poverty in Canadian cities, raising the spectre of ghettoization. This paper examines whether urban ghettos along the U.S. model are forming in Canadian cities, using census data for 1991 and 2001 and borrowing a neighbourhood classification system specifically designed for comparing neighbourhoods in other countries to the
U.S. situation. Ecological analysis is then performed in order to compare the importance of minority concentration, neighbourhood classification and housing stock attributes in improving our understanding of the spatial patterning of low-income populations in Canadian cities in 2001. The findings suggest that ghettoization along U.S. lines is not a factor in Canadian cities and that a high degree of racial concentration is not necessarily associated with greater neighbourhood poverty. On the other hand, the concentration of apartment housing, of visible minorities in general, and of a high level of racial diversity in particular, do help in accounting for the neighbourhood patterning of low income. The authors suggest that these findings result as much from growing income inequality within as between each visible minority group. This increases the odds of poor visible minorities of each group ending up in the lowest-cost, least-desirable neighbourhoods from which they cannot afford to escape (including social housing in the inner suburbs). By contrast, wealthier members of minority groups are more mobile and able to self-select into higher-status ‘ethnic communities’. This research thus reinforces pleas for a more nuanced interpretation of segregation, ghettoization and neighbourhood dynamics.

The Factors Inhibiting Gentrification in Areas with Little Non-market Housing: Policy Lessons from the Toronto Experience

Urban Studies, 45(12), November 2008. This paper examines the factors that have limited gentrification in two Toronto neighbourhoods which have below-average proportions of public housing and which have traditionally acted as immigrant reception areas. The first failed to gentrify despite the existence of gentrification nearby, whereas gentrification stalled in the second in the early 1980s. Analysis of the historical reasons behind this suggests ways in which policy could intervene to limit the spread of gentrification in the absence of support for local affordable housing. These include the maintenance of areas of working-class employment, different approaches to nuisance uses and environmental externalities, a housing stock not amenable to gentrifiers’ tastes and state encouragement of non-market and ethnic sources of housing finance. However, the Toronto experience also highlights the importance of policy in a negative way, as changes in municipal policy which run counter to these prescriptions are now resulting in the gentrification of these two neighbourhoods.

The Timing, Patterning, and Forms of Gentrification and Neighbourhood Change in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, 1961 to 2001

Research Paper 211, May 2008, viii, 109 pp.  This report presents a method for determining the timing, patterning, and forms of gentrification and residential neighbourhood upgrading between the 1960s and 2001 in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, using census data. The resulting maps show a clear geography of gentrification in each city, whereby the process starts in a few core areas and moves outwards into adjacent neighbourhoods, as well as a “gentrification frontier” in each city, where gentrification is likely to occur in future. The authors also identify the main forms of gentrification (deconversion of older housing stock, new construction, and the conversion of non-residential buildings to housing) and the way in which these forms combine to produce gentrified neighbourhoods in each city. They note that although new construction presents an opportunity to mitigate the problems caused by gentrification, this opportunity has not been seized. If present trends continue, the inner cities of Canada’s three largest cities will become the preserve of elites, while low-income households are forced to occupy less accessible fringe locations, a situation that contributes to social exclusion

Neighbourhood Gentrification and Upgrading in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver

Research Bulletin 43, September 2008. In this study of neighbourhood change, the researchers traced the attributes of a consistent sample of 1,130 census tracts in the central cities of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver between 1961 and 2001. For each tract in each decade, the authors looked at conversion from rental to owner-occupation; changes in social status; changes in relative land values and housing affordability; changes in income; and changes in the average monthly rent. They found that gentrification has affected more than 36 percent of prewar inner-city neighbourhoods, where affordable housing has traditionally been located. Gentrification appeared more prevalent in Vancouver, followed by Toronto, and then Montreal. The results suggest the continuing displacement of low-income households from the inner cities.