This neighbourhood, as with most urban neighbourhoods in the western world, has of course been impacted by the immigration waves that sweep through.
Urban, because of access: Most immigrants on arrival have not been wealthy, and need to access services that tend to be more available in the urban core – public transit; government assistance; and in the olden days, inexpensive housing.
After World War I, Toronto replaced Winnipeg as the main center of Polish immigration, with Roncesvalles Village becoming the neighbourhood most identified with Polish “ethnicity”. This in turn is changing, as Polish-Canadians, like many previous waves, shift to the suburbs.
My previous neighbourhood had been dominated by Italian and Portuguese immigrants, who tended to eliminate antique woodwork (“old”) and replace old materials with modern, easy-to-clean ones, often adding “angel stone” to the brick exterior, making a home more solid – and changing the character of the neighbourhood.
This “Polish” community tended instead to renew and maintain the original features of the home, thus preserving their ‘antique value’ for a time when that would be popular – which describes our current era. And now the “supply and demand” situation means that this neighbourhood with its big, old, architecturally-interesting homes and large lots, has become very popular and expensive.
While this means our homes are more valuable, it also means there are few affordable rental units in the neighbourhood. In turn, this means fewer artists, writers, and in general, people whose incomes are just not high enough to pay higher and higher rental costs. The basic arithmetic of “supply and demand” translates into fewer homes, and higher per-unit prices.
The historical response has been that people gradually give in to the pressure to sell at very tempting prices, and move to a much more affordable location, thus ending up with money in the bank.
But it took me a long time to find this community, and while it is changing, it still has many of the characteristics that made me feel at home. And I can’t imagine how long it might take to find a lower-priced neighbourhood I could gradually bond to. So I find myself wondering, for the first time in my life, what I could do – if anything – to prevent this community from becoming uncomfortable to me.
I’ll be doing a lot of exploring around this idea, learning what the “new urbanism” has to say, and hoping for a modern miracle.