Urban Social Change

Tuesday May 17 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm (Eastern Daylight Time)
Virtual Platform

Session Code: URS1
Session Format: Regular Session
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Urban Sociology
Session Categories: Regular Session

Cities have always been dynamic spaces that have grown, declined and remade themselves through the everyday practices of their citizens. However, today, these processes have taken on unprecedented dimensions with the advent of communications technology, international capital flows, financialized real estate markets, climate change, new social movements, gentrification, and urban development. This session will explore a wide range of social issues related to race and immigration, urban marginality, gender and sexuality, class, among many others, as they relate to new forms of urban change and patterns of inclusion and exclusion in the city. Tags: Communities, Environment, Housing, Rural And Urban

Organizers: Daniel Kudla, Memorial University, Zachary Hyde, University of Toronto; Chair: Daniel Kudla, Memorial University

Presentations

Andrew Crosby, Carleton University

A "Framework for Social Destruction": Tenant Organizing and Housing Justice in Heron Gate, Ottawa

The paper 'A “Framework for Social Destruction”: Community Well-being and Domicide in the Liveable City.” has been selected by the Urban Sociology Research Cluster for their Best Student Paper Award.


Two years have passed since the City of Ottawa declared a housing and homelessness emergency on January 29, 2020; yet very little progress has been made toward building more affordable housing. One of the epicentres of local debate around affordable housing and urban social change has been the Heron Gate neighbourhood, a racialized, working-class community just south of the downtown core. In September 2021, Ottawa city council approved an Official Plan Amendment (OPA), submitted by property owner Hazelview Investments (a financialized real estate firm), to demolish 559 (more) dwellings and build over 50 new apartment buildings in Heron Gate. In 2016 and 2018, the landlord demolished over 150 townhouses, displacing hundreds of racialized families, including over 200 children. The OPA included a community benefits agreement based on the Conference Board of Canada’s community wellbeing framework. It offers affordable units in the new apartment as well as a commitment to not displace any more people from the neighbourhood. The agreement is championed as a first-of-its-kind agreement in Canada, in the absence of any legal mechanisms compelling the landlord-developer to do so. While different politicians, planners, and community groups have taken credit for negotiating the agreement, it was the organizing efforts against mass eviction by the Herongate Tenant Coalition in 2018 that caused the landlord to pivot, rebrand, and rethink its approach to redeveloping the neighbourhood. The Coalition opposes the agreement, deeming it a “framework for social destruction.” Rather than engage at the municipal level, the Coalition is seeking justice at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), including a right to return for those displaced from the neighbourhood, with the ultimate aim of halting future evictions. Using a political activist ethnographic approach, this research examines strategies over housing justice and tenant organizing through an examination of the OPA and HRTO cases.

Yang Li, University of Toronto

Representing Our Town: Theorizing National Endowments for the Art's Urban Placemaking Strategies

Urban community development through culture became predominant over the past few decades as the concept of “creative placemaking” gained popularity around the world. The publication of 2010 white paper “Creative Placemaking” by the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA), along with the launch of the organization’s national placemaking project “Our Town” in the same year, marked the peak of a national movement in reconstructing the cities’ images through arts and culture. While cities around the world have engaged in various forms of creative placemaking processes in the past decades, the concept of creative placemaking has been fuzzy in definition and often controversial in practice. This analysis investigates the applications from 570 awardees of the “Our Town” project in the ten-year period from 2011 to 2020 to examine how this national level project envisions the concept of creative placemaking, and how such vision have changed over the course of the decade. I find that creative placemaking as envisioned through Our Town has significantly departed from the earlier economic-centered and exogenously powered creative placemaking models. Instead, it turned to a more grassroot-oriented, endogenous model of creative placemaking by fostering the growth of local enterpreneurial ecosystems. Our Town project concentrated on smaller, locally focused arts project that fosters a double pronged growth of both economic and community growths. These projects are often smaller in size and scope, drawing greater emphasis on smaller communities instead of major metropolitan areas, are more geared towards localized culture creation and consumption, and seek to inspire systematic changes in the community.

Devan Hunter, University of Guelph; Mervyn Horgan, University of Guelph; Saara Liinamaa, University of Guelph; Amanda Dakin, University of Guelph; Sofia Meligrana, University of Guelph; Edith Wilson, University of Guelph; Meng Xu, University of Guelph

Sidestepping our way to a new normal: How strangers improvise the use of urban public space during the pandemic

Urban public spaces are vital for fostering sociability in cities. The onset of the pandemic disrupted this. What were once taken-for-granted practices of everyday life (a leisurely walk with a neighbour, a trip to the grocery store, dropping by the local café) suddenly entailed risk. One that necessitated physical distancing, mandated mask use, and a reconsideration of how and when to use public space. In this new context, strangers had to negotiate their movements and improvise new ways to share space. And, this is the crux of our research. In this study, we explored interactions between strangers in public spaces throughout the pandemic. We conducted virtual interviews with a sample (n=72) of individuals living in Canada in two waves; June/July in 2020 and January/February in 2021. In these interviews, we primarily focused on participants’ recent positive encounters with strangers in both functional spaces (e.g. public transit, pharmacies, and food stores) and instrumental spaces (e.g. public parks, sidewalks, and recreational areas). Findings from our study shed light on three main areas: (i) experiences in different types of public space, (ii) navigating encounters with strangers, and (iii) communications with strangers. Most importantly though, what emerged from our data, which undergirds these three main areas, is the complex meaning-making inherent in processes of negotiating the use of urban public space.