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How gentrification shrunk a historic Toronto neighbourhood

It was what we would call gentrification today and four decades ago, it was changing life in a historic Toronto neighbourhood.

Influx of wealthy new residents drove up prices and the overall population down

Gentrification in Cabbagetown

43 years ago
3:06
The National takes a look at how gentrification has changed Toronto's Cabbagetown neighbourhood during the 1970s. 3:06

It was what we would call gentrification today and four decades ago, it was changing life in a historic Toronto neighbourhood.

Cabbagetown, an area where working-class people had lived for decades, was seeing much more affluent people move in.

"Money pervades Cabbagetown now — big money," reporter Russ Patrick told viewers on The National in August of 1978.

That incoming wealth was driving up housing prices, giving opportunity to those who had bought homes there in the past to sell.

And it was also pushing out those who rented.

Far less 'cheap accommodation'

Cabbagetown had been home to many working class people for decades. But in the 1970s, more wealthy residents had begun buying up properties in the neighbourhood. (The National/CBC Archives)

In fact, this overall change in circumstances in Cabbagetown was causing a sharp drop in the population there.

"Ten thousand fewer people live in Cabbagetown now than did six years ago," said Patrick. 

"That's because so many houses that used to provide cheap accommodation for 10 or 20 people now are homes for singles, or working couples or small families."

Will it 'work out'?

In 1978, The National's Russ Patrick was reporting on the changing fortunes of Cabbagetown, a historic Toronto neighbourhood that was seeing an influx of wealthier residents move in during the decade. (The National/CBC Archives)

David Morley, a professor at York University, studied population shifts in Canadian cities, such as what had been occurring in Cabbagetown.

He believed it was necessary to consider the long-term effects of such changes in population.

"It's all too easy for us ... to assume that it's all going to work out alright, that the big city like Toronto or like other large cities in Canada can absorb new people moving around in them, without really recognizing there's a profound social change going on, behind all this," Morley told The National.

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