Residents need to fight gentrification together, community group says

University of the Streets Café is telling residents it's important to think about what can be done before people are forced out of their homes

University of the Streets Café wants people to think about what they can do collectively

Mary Antico, right, said that seeing people come together to talk about gentrification gives her hope. (CBC)

A community group is hoping to empower Montrealers to resist gentrification on their own terms — and without waiting for the government to step in.

University of the Streets Café, a public conversation series organized by Concordia University, held a event in Pointe-Saint-Charles Tuesday night, encouraging citizens to think about what they can do to combat gentrification in their neighbourhoods.

It's important to think about what can be done before people are forced out of their homes, said Alex Megalas, an organizer with the group.

"On an individual basis there can be hopelessness or frustration," he said. "But when we look at what collective resistance look like, there's a broad range of actions."

For example, Megalas is encouraging people to speak to their neighbours about creating a housing co-op, which is when a community comes together to buy a building and manage it, in order to keep the property out of the hands of developers.

"Ultimately, fundamental and meaningful community organizing happens around kitchen tables. It happens in alleyways," Megalas said. "It doesn't need to be led by professionals."

Mary Antico, one of the speakers at the event Tuesday, said she has felt the effects of gentrification first-hand.

She was served a repossession notice in April. As a single mother of two with a developmentally disabled child, she said finding housing in Parc-Extension, where her son's services are, was a priority.

"I was panic-stricken at more than a few points," she said.

Antico said that finding something she could afford was "so difficult." Now, she is hoping people will get involved in the fight against gentrification.

"If there's anything that gives me hope, it's this," she said, motioning to the roughly 50 people in the room.

University of the Streets Café will be holding an event to discuss co-operative ownership on Dec. 10.

with files from Antoni Nerestant